WVU president to resign Sept. 1
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University President Mike Garrison announced his resignation today after weeks of pressure from faculty, alumni, donors and students who said he could no longer govern the state's flagship university in the wake of a degree-granting scandal involving the daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin.
He will stay at the university until Sept. 1 to aid in the transition.
Earlier today we asked post-gazette.com readers what they thought the the latest developments. Read a sampling of their comments.
Mr. Garrison called his decision "by far the most difficult decision I have ever faced. But it is a clear decision with a clear outcome."
Steve Goodwin, chairman of the university board of governors, thanked Mr. Garrison for "his extraordinary service" and said that the resignation demonstrates "he has the best interests of the university at heart."
Mr. Garrison's announcement came at a meeting of the board. It capped six months of turmoil sparked by the revelation that top WVU administrators falsified records to retroactively grant a master's of business administration degree to Mr. Manchin's daughter, Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch.
Ms. Bresch is a longtime friend of Mr. Garrison, who at one time reported to her as a lobbyist for Mylan, a Cecil-based generic drug maker. Mylan Chairman Milan Puskar is WVU's biggest benefactor. His contributions have put Mr. Puskar's name on WVU's football stadium and the deanship of the business school that administers the M.B.A. program.
An investigative panel found that Ms. Bresch did not earn the degree in December 1998 as she had claimed. They concluded university officials falsified records in October by adding 22 credits to Ms. Bresch's transcript to reflect courses she did not register for, pay for or complete. She was given grades "pulled from thin air."
Mr. Garrison, who said he was not involved in the decision, is the fifth member of his administration to suffer the consequences from the fallout. Provost Gerald Lang and business school dean R. Stephen Sears resigned their administrative posts shortly after the panel's report was released April 23. Both intend to continue teaching at the school.
Last week, vice president of legal affairs Alex Macia lost his job as the university's general counsel and Bill Case, Mr. Garrison's communications officer, was transferred to WVU's Health Sciences Center, where an ongoing restructuring and vacancies in the executive ranks have created anxiety among the staff of the university's hospitals and medical school.
Mr. Garrison referred the falsification of Ms. Bresch's transcript to WVU's Office of Academic Integrity.
His critics said Mr. Garrison should be held accountable because the panel put his top aides at the center of the degree-granting decision
Since the panel's report, the faculty has voted twice for his resignation by landslide margins, alumni have called for his ouster, and donors have said their checkbooks are closed until Mr. Garrison leaves. Yesterday, a majority of the tenured faculty of WVU's law school, where Mr. Garrison earned his law degree, asked him to step down.
Mr. Garrison's critics expressed relief today.
WVU physics professor Boyd Edwards, the chairman of a grassroots group whose goals included Mr. Garrison's departure, said he was relieved and grateful that the president had "the courage to do what he thinks is right for the university." The group, Mountaineers for Integrity and Responsibility, also wants to improve the way West Virginia's state universities are governed and to assure a search for a new president is more open, transparent and national than the one that resulted in the appointment of Mr. Garrison last spring.
"The university has suffered too much for that not to happen," Dr. Edwards said.
One board of governors member told former head football coach Rich Rodriguez as early as December 2006 that Mr. Garrison would be the next WVU president according to a deposition given in WVU's lawsuit against Mr. Rodriguez. Mr. Garrison's appointment was announced the following April.
WVU faculty senate chair Virginia Kleist thanked Mr. Garrison for resigning and said she looked forward to working with the board in looking for his successor.
"We hope we're going to see a president who has academic credentials and great breadth and depth of experience in running a research public university," said Dr. Kleist, a business school professor. "I do think we'll be able to attract great candidates. The fundamentals of WVU are very strong."
The leader of a student group that wanted Mr. Garrison to be removed said he was pleased by today's news.
"It shows a willingness in the governing forces of the university to take significant action to move forward," said Timothy Cooper, a music student and leader of Mountaineers for a New Administration.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published June 6, 2008 9:34 am