Message for WVU: The board of governors must restore credibility
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On Wednesday the faculty of West Virginia University sent a message. It was loud. It was clear. It was embarrassing.
The message was not so much to the university's embattled president, Mike Garrison. He has shown himself to be tone-deaf on academic integrity and institutional credibility-- exactly what the message was about.
The message was sent to Hank Barnette, Ellen Cappellanti, Thomas Clark, James Dailey, Linda Dickirson, Steve Farmer, Steve Goodwin, Steve Kite, Carolyn Long, Paul Martinelli, Ted Mattern, William Nutting, Jason Parsons, Drew Payne, Parry Petroplus, Ed Robinson, Sally Smith and Robert Wells.
They are the university's board of governors, the group responsible to the public for the sound operation, educational quality and national reputation of West Virginia University. These Mountaineers will tell you they bleed blue and gold for WVU.
In an unprecedented moment in the university's history, about a third of its 1,800 faculty statewide convened in Morgantown to deliver the message. After a procession of public statements on the corrupting power of cronyism on WVU's leadership, they voted 565 to 39, with 11 abstentions, to call for the resignation or firing of Mr. Garrison. The issue, of course, is his administration's concoction of a phony transcript to support a master's degree in business administration for Heather Bresch.
As everyone knows, Ms. Bresch is not the average WVU alumna. She is the friend and former business associate of Mr. Garrison. She is the chief operating officer of generic drug giant Mylan Inc., whose chairman is the largest donor to WVU. She is the daughter of Joe Manchin, the governor of West Virginia.
The case surfaced when a Post-Gazette story in December raised questions about how administrators awarded an M.B.A. retroactively to Ms. Bresch almost 10 years after she left the program and with university records showing she was 22 credits shy of completing the necessary 48.
An investigative panel concluded last month that administrators created a transcript in October that gave the Mylan executive credit for courses she did not take or pay for, work she did not do and grades she never earned. The grades themselves were "simply pulled from thin air."
It's easy to understand why a faculty that strives to instill in students a respect for the facts and a zest for inquiry would vote 14-1 for the president's ouster. It is not as if Mr. Garrison was uninvolved. He and his chief of staff took calls from Ms. Bresch at the start of the case, and his chief of staff was present at the meeting with the provost, business school dean and others where the decision was made to draft the phony transcript.
The provost and business dean promptly resigned their administrative posts, but Mr. Garrison said as recently as Wednesday he does not intend to step down.
That's an affront to the state's taxpayers, the families who pay the tuition bills and, yes, the professors who must work under a cloud of suspicion over the legitimacy of a WVU transcript and the worth of a WVU degree.
That's why the faculty sent a message to Hank Barnette, Ellen Cappellanti, Thomas Clark, James Dailey, Linda Dickirson, Steve Farmer, Steve Goodwin, Steve Kite, Carolyn Long, Paul Martinelli, Ted Mattern, William Nutting, Jason Parsons, Drew Payne, Parry Petroplus, Ed Robinson, Sally Smith and Robert Wells.
The message is this is your issue, not Mike Garrison's, and the people of West Virginia are counting on you. For the sake of the university and the state, do the right thing -- not the good ol' boy thing.
First Published May 16, 2008 12:00 am