Calls mount for WVU officials to step down
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Calls for the resignations of those responsible for West Virginia University's decision to retroactively award an M.B.A. to Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch intensified yesterday, as a faculty senate member sought a vote of no confidence in WVU President Michael Garrison.
Mr. Garrison was being pressured to resign by alumni and others posting comments to his blog on the university's Web site.
"You and your administration have tarnished our reputation almost to a point where it can no longer be salvaged. Please do the right thing for the university and its alumni and resign your position immediately," Craig L. Dean, a 1984 chemical engineering grad, said in comment posted on the blog.
The outcry came two days after an investigative panel concluded that Ms. Bresch, daughter of West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and longtime friend and former business associate of Mr. Garrison, did not earn the master's in business administration degree in December 1998 as she had claimed. Ms. Bresch is chief operating officer of Mylan Inc., a generic drug company based in Cecil whose chairman, Milan Puskar, is WVU's biggest benefactor.
Panel members said Mr. Garrison's office "reacted immediately" in October after Ms. Bresch called Mr. Garrison and Craig Walker, his chief of staff, to dispute a statement by the registrar's office that she had not earned the degree.
"It is intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer what went on there," alum Richard L. Kesling of Ormond Beach, Fla., said in an interview. "He [Mr. Garrison] is there to keep Manchin's thumb on the university. He's there because of his political connections. ... I don't think he's qualified for the position."
Mr. Kesling, the holder of WVU bachelor's and master's degrees, said he could write WVU checks for more than $10,000 tomorrow but won't donate anything until Mr. Garrison is fired.
History professor Mark Tauger said the Board of Governors bears some responsibility for what the panel described as a "seriously flawed" decision. He said the board appointed Mr. Garrison president last year because of his political connections.
"He proceeded to act upon them and it exploded," said Mr. Tauger, a faculty senate member. "We as faculty were given to understand that he would use connections he had in state government to benefit WVU."
Mathematics professor Sherman Riemenschneider notified senate members yesterday that he wants a vote of no confidence in Mr. Garrison and Provost Gerald Lang taken at the senate's next meeting, May 12. The senate's executive committee meets Monday to set the agenda.
"The lack of contrition and the nonacceptance of responsibility by the participating individuals cannot be tolerated by the faculty," he wrote in an e-mail to senate members.
Mr. Riemenschneider was one of many senate members who opposed Mr. Garrison's appointment last year. He sponsored a motion in January that resulted in three outsiders being named to the panel Mr. Lang appointed to investigate whether Ms. Bresch earned the degree.
The panel was named after a Dec. 21 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story raised questions about how WVU officials awarded the degree retroactively in October. The decision was made despite official university records showing Ms. Bresch was 22 credits short of the 48 credits required to earn an M.B.A.
Mr. Riemenschneider called the panel's findings "clear and devastating."
"Their violation of the trust of the faculty, students and alumni of West Virginia University is not acceptable. [Mr. Garrison and Mr. Lang] should both resign or the Board of Governors should demand their resignations," he said.
On Mr. Garrison's blog, alum Bill Warnick said the character of the president, Mr. Lang and others involved "has been revealed by the actions you took in awarding a degree to Ms. Bresch when you thought no one was looking. Well the whole state and the rest of the nation are looking now. Are you going to do the right thing now?"
WVU law school graduate John T. Bonham II told Mr. Garrison "nothing short of a total house cleaning will even begin to undo the damage you and your cronies have done to my beloved university. Shame on you."
A Charleston Gazette editorial asked Monongalia County prosecutor Marcia Ashdown to investigate whether WVU officials violated laws against tampering with state records by modifying Ms. Bresch's transcripts to include courses she did not take or pay for.
Ms. Ashdown, the spouse of a WVU law professor, declined to comment on the editorial. She has been following the inquiry but said it is not ethical for a prosecutor to "telegraph any potential action or inaction."
Mr. Garrison also is under pressure from alumni angered over the departure of football coach Rich Rodriguez in December. So is Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, Mr. Manchin's college roommate.
Separately, WVU officials have agreed to preserve records that are the subject of a lawsuit the Post-Gazette filed April 15 against the university for failing to comply with the state's open records law. Mr. Garrison's e-mail, cell phone and land line records were among the documents improperly withheld, according to the complaint.
On Thursday, Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Robert Stone signed an order protecting the records subject to a series of requests the newspaper made under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Garrison's phone records were reviewed by the panel. Other documents they reviewed included phone records for Mr. Walker, phone records of the president's office and Mr. Garrison's and Mr. Walker's appointment calendars.
Records of Mr. Walker's phone calls provided by the university indicate he and Ms. Bresch exchanged nine calls between Oct. 11, when Ms. Bresch called to dispute the registrar's statement that she didn't have an M.B.A., and Oct. 15, when Mr. Lang approved the decision of business school Dean R. Stephen Sears to award the degree.
First Published April 26, 2008 12:00 am