WVU closes book on fraudulent awarding of MBA

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  • Memo from Nigel Clark

  • Nearly five years after West Virginia University officials falsified records and awarded an MBA degree to the daughter of the state's governor, the school's academic integrity officer has closed the book on the scandal, saying there will be no further action against those involved in the decision.

    Special Academic Integrity Officer Nigel Clark said "unreasonable delay" in investigating complaints of misconduct brought four years ago against the administrators involved in fraudulently awarding the degree raised questions of whether their due process rights had been violated.

    "This decision is based solely on the inability to reach [a] conclusion in a timely manner, and should not be construed as a determination on the merits of the underlying allegations," Mr. Clark, an engineering professor, wrote in an Aug. 8 letter to one of the faculty members who filed a misconduct complaint in June 2008.

    The complaint centered on WVU's October 2007 decision to award a degree retroactively to Mylan executive Heather Bresch, the daughter of then Gov. Joe Manchin and a close friend of Michael Garrison, WVU's president at the time.

    Six months later, an independent panel hired by WVU to investigate the incident concluded administrators falsified Ms. Bresch's transcript to back her claim that she had earned an MBA degree in 1998. Their actions included adding courses to her transcript that she did not take or pay for and entering grades "simply pulled from thin air," the panel said.

    The panel's investigation was triggered by a Post-Gazette story that questioned how the degree was awarded.

    WVU rescinded the degree it had issued to Ms. Bresch, who is now CEO of Mylan, a Cecil generic drug maker.

    Mr. Garrison, Provost Gerald E. Lang, and business school Dean R. Stephen Sears resigned their posts shortly after the panel's April 2008 report. Assistant business school dean Cyril Logar lost that post after the report was issued, but still teaches at the university.

    WVU initiated academic misconduct proceedings in 2008 against Mr. Lang, Mr. Sears, Mr. Logar and three others -- Mr. Garrison's chief of staff Craig Walker and business school professors Paul Speaker and Gerald Blakely.

    The misconduct hearings were halted a year later after Mr. Lang, who remains a vice president at the university, sued the school and several administrators involved in the disciplinary proceedings. Mr. Lang alleged those who would have heard charges against him were involved in meetings where the decision whether to award the degree to Ms. Bresch was discussed.

    A Monongalia County judge agreed that there were conflicts of interest and halted the proceedings. But the judge said the university could initiate new hearings that did not pose such conflicts.

    That's what the school should have done, said WVU history professor Matthew Vester, one of three faculty members who filed the academic misconduct complaint in 2008.

    "Why was there a delay? Because the university did not perform its duty," he said.

    "I just in good faith assumed the university would take the complaint seriously and follow through," said Mr. Vester, who received the Aug. 8 letter from Mr. Clark.

    "My guess is there was no one in charge of this," Mr. Vester said.

    Mr. Clark said he was put in charge of the investigation in November and could not describe what was done by those who handled the matter prior to that. WVU law professor Marjorie McDiarmid, the academic integrity officer at the time the complaint was filed, was among those Mr. Lang sued.

    WVU spokeswoman Becky Lofstead declined to answer questions about Mr. Clark's decision, saying in an email that "these are internal proceedings and I'm not at liberty to respond."

    Mr. Lang and WVU settled the lawsuit last year, with the university agreeing to drop misconduct charges against Mr. Lang and the former provost acknowledging his involvement in the decision to award the degree.

    Mr. Sears and Mr. Logar cited the same conflicts of interest in filing a federal lawsuit against the university. Their complaint was dismissed in September. A judge ruled it was filed after the two-year statute of limitations expired.

    Mr. Speaker said he learned of Mr. Clark's decision earlier this month. He said he had been pushing for a hearing on the complaint for four years.

    "I would have welcomed it," the faculty member said. "I wasn't involved in any of the stuff they did with the grades."

    education - region

    Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941. Patricia Sabatini:psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066


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