BOG orders Garrison to take responsibility for Bresch's degree
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2008
Updated: Monday, October 12, 2009 00:10
On Wednesday, West Virginia University President Michael S. Garrison was instructed to take responsibility for the retroactive degree awarded to the governor's daughter last year.
The Board of Governors informed Garrison of the next steps in response to the report issued by the panel investigating the illegitimate Executive Master's in Business Administration degree given to Heather Bresch.
The BOG met to review the report and come up with a charge for Garrison. After 45 minutes in executive session, the board informed Garrison of his responsibilities for granting an illegitimate degree.
"It is the recommendation of the Board that you as President of West Virginia University accept responsibility for errors in judgment and procedures relative to this matter made by members of, and personnel affiliated with, the Administration," said Stephen Goodwin, chair of the BOG. "Further, you are to inform Ms. Bresch of the panel's recommendation and of the decision that her degree was inappropriately granted. You should also inform her of her rights to be heard on this matter if she so desires."
The board also recommended that Garrison come up with policies or a plan to ensure a similar situation doesn't happen again. He is charged to present the BOG with the implementation plan at its June meeting.
Bresch has the right to take any contestation to the WVU Student Records Hearing Committee. The committee, which is usually made up of four faculty members and three students, will hear her case and determine an outcome, said Alex Macia, general counsel to Garrison. If they deny her requests, she will be able to appeal up to the level of President Garrison. When asked if he believed Bresch will sue the University because of the panel's decision, Macia said, "One could sue, I guess."
While she said she respects the panel's conclusion, Bresch said she believes she did what she needed to do to earn her eMBA.
"The administration allowed me to take an unconventional approach as part of what was then a program in its infancy," Bresch said.
She said while she still does not want to reveal transcript information, she does not plan to contest the panel's findings.
"I deeply regret that the West Virginia University community, here on campus and around the state and world, has had to endure the lengthy process that led to this day," Garrison said as he addressed the press after the meeting.
He also said he would take "full responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the panel as required by the board."
When asked what the degree situation said about his administration, Garrison responded by saying, "We will take the recommendations from the panel as they come."
As far as disciplining anyone at fault for hastily awarding the degree or leaking information to the media, Garrison said any "personnel matters within will be handled as personnel."
Provost Gerald Lang also answered media inquiries.
He said he hadn't thought about it when a reporter asked him if he was going to resign if asked by faculty.
When asked if he pressured others to reward her of her degree, he said it was Business and Economics Dean R. Stephen Sears' decision and administrators went along with his decision. Lang said that the administration had made a decision in October 2007, but the panel came up with a different decision and would have to "accept" it.
Sears issued a statement that supported the findings of the investigative panel, which was made up by two University professors and three outside academics.
"This has been a long and stressful process for all involved," the statement read. "Now, we will focus on rebuilding the reputation of our program as we have many fine alumni across the nation who worked so hard to earn their eMBA degree."
Sears also said after the meeting the business school has already taken precautions to avoid any future situations similar to Bresch's.
The business school is in the process of hiring a records assistant for the graduate programs. A system will be put in place that provides documental verification to change incomplete grades once they are final. Students who want to receive credit for independent study or work experience will also have to get a signature from the instructor and the dean's office. Bresch claimed she received permission before her final semester from Professor Paul Speaker, who was head of the eMBA program at the time Bresch was there, to receive credit for work experience.
Macia said Bresch would be notified about the board's charge and her rights. He said he did not know, however, whether or not Bresch was formally informed about the panel's findings.
"I suspect she read it in the papers - the information that was leaked," Macia said.
"All I can hope for as a parent is that WVU's leaders will correct whatever problems that led to this situation so that no other student will have to go through this kind of ordeal in the future," Gov. Manchin said.
The panel's report was sent to Faculty Senate after the BOG meeting. It will discuss the 95-page report at its executive committee meeting on Monday. The panel members will also be adjourned at Monday's meeting.