West Virginia University said it will ask a panel of independent educators to investigate the university's actions in rewriting school records as it awarded a master's degree to a politically connected officer of Mylan Inc.
Provost Gerald Lang notified WVU President Mike Garrison of his intention to empanel the group, school spokeswoman Amy Neil said yesterday. "He [the provost] intends to appoint a three-person investigative committee to review the matter and report publicly on the findings," she said.
Membership had not been set as of last night, but Ms. Neil said one appointee will be a member of West Virginia's Higher Education Policy Commission, a body that oversees higher education institutions in the state.
Seven of the 10 commissioners are appointed by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, whose daughter, Heather Bresch, chief operating officer at Mylan, was awarded the WVU degree that will be a focus of the panel's review.
On Dec. 21, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the action taken by top university officials almost a decade after Ms. Bresch was a student. It said the university records that were rewritten originally showed she had completed only about half the credits needed to earn the master's degree in business administration.
The newspaper reported that the revision was triggered by a routine call from one of its reporters seeking to confirm the academic credentials of Ms. Bresch after her Oct. 2 promotion to chief operating officer at Mylan.
The Cecil-based company is chaired by Milan Puskar, WVU's largest benefactor. The company has issued a statement expressing support for Ms. Bresch.
At first, WVU told the Post-Gazette the 38-year-old Ms. Bresch did not have an M.B.A. but reversed itself days later after she insisted she earned the degree in December 1998. The school attributed the discrepancy to the business school's failure to transfer records for nearly half her course work to the Office of Admissions and Records, the university's official records keeper.
Information gathered over two months by the Post-Gazette -- culled from university records, sources inside the school and interviews with Ms. Bresch's former classmates and associates -- raised questions about how the university decided to grant Ms. Bresch her degree. The university has not answered those questions, citing privacy concerns.
The research -- which included school records indicating that Ms. Bresch stopped taking classes with 22 credits to go in the 48-credit-hour program -- suggested that high-ranking officials revised her university records despite a lack of solid evidence to support the reconstruction. Moreover, it suggested that officials did so in a way that violated WVU's internal procedures and those used by other accredited universities.
Word that Dr. Lang planned to assemble a panel to review the matter comes two weeks after he issued a brief e-mail statement saying errors had been "appropriately corrected" and that there was "no reason to pursue the matter further."
On Thursday, a staffer employed by the Higher Education Policy Commission, Chancellor Brian Noland, said he planned to discuss the matter with WVU officials, according to The Associated Press. His office yesterday said he was vacationing in rural Tennessee beyond cell phone range and could not be reached.
Dr. Noland was quoted in the AP story as indicating that a meeting would likely be set after the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl football game, in which No. 11 West Virginia will face No. 3 Oklahoma.
"Once the holiday and other events draw to a close, I do plan to sit down [with WVU's administration] and try to get a hand around the issue," Dr. Noland was quoted as saying. "At this point, it remains a question for WVU's board and WVU's administration."
Ms. Neil said WVU's board of governors would not participate in the review by the three-member panel being created. But the board does intend to discuss the matter at its next meeting, set for Feb. 15, Chairman Stephen Goodwin told the Post-Gazette yesterday.
"We're going to ask that we be given a full explanation of everything that's occurred, how this came up, what happened, what's been found, the procedures and so on," he said.
Mr. Goodwin said he hopes that will be the end of the matter. But he said the board is prepared to take corrective measures if necessary.
Bill Schackner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1977.