WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee on Wednesday joked about the university’s growing budget shortfall that has led to the controversial proposal to cut 32 majors, and 7% of faculty and staff.

This happened at the West Virginia Chamber’s 87th Annual Meeting and Business Summit, which is being held at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs and is hosted by Marshall University. The summit is a three-day event that is considered the “largest statewide business leaders event of the year.”

Two of the featured speakers included Gee and Marshall University President Brad Smith. Elizabeth Vitullo, Assistant Vice President of Economic Innovation for the Office of the President and the Assistant Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, moderated the chat.

When Vitullo asks Gee about WVU’s land-grant mission, he starts by saying, “This is the first time I’ve seen a friendly crowd in a while.”

Gee, who has said he will step down in 2025 when his contract expires, later said he used to joke about building a wall around the state and having Ohio pay for it to keep people in West Virginia, but this time, saying Smith would pay for it. Smith is the richest person in West Virginia, according to Forbes.

Gee goes on to say, “I always love asking Brad for money. He’s a lovely man. I could use about $45 million,” referring to the university’s budget shortfall that has led to the controversial plan to cut 12 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs, and 7% of the total faculty. The changes would lead to 169 potential faculty line reductions, according to the university.

Among the proposed program cuts are all world language degrees, and a variety of other liberal arts and fine arts degrees, both undergraduate and graduate. You can view all the proposed program cuts by clicking here.

Officials say the university’s budget shortfall could balloon to $75 million in the next five years.

West Virginia University’s Board of Governors will have a final decision by mid-September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.