WVU President Michael Garrison Announces Planned Resignation
Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Updated: Monday, October 12, 2009 00:10
After a surge of demands for resignation during a West Virginia University academic crisis, University President Michael S. Garrison has announced that he will step down by September 1.
During a meeting of the WVU Board of Governors Friday morning, Garrison said he would resign from his position as University president by the fall semester. Students, faculty and alumni have called for his resignation for weeks.
Garrison's administration has been scrutinized for an Executive Masters of Business Administration degree wrongly awarded to the governor's daughter, Heather Bresch. The calls for Garrison's resignation were primarily concerned with the damage the erroneous degree had done to the University's academic integrity.
The BOG never asked Garrison to step down, but respected that his resignation needed to happen in order for the University to move forward after the eMBA scandal.
"Sometimes this great University and the public trust are far more important than any one individual or any one issue. Mike Garrison demonstrated that by his unselfish action," said Steve Goodwin, the chairman of the BOG, in a statement.
The independent panel who found that Bresch's degree was several credits short of being complete charged Garrison to formulate ways to implement changes to the University by the June 6 meeting. The president presented his solutions a week earlier during an emergency BOG meeting, but did not mention at that point that he would step down.
Goodwin said he had only been informed of Garrison's intentions within 24 hours prior to Friday's meeting.
During last week's BOG meeting, the Board voiced its approval of the president's solutions to the University's problems and stated further that he had no involvement whatsoever in the initial awarding of the flawed eMBA degree.
Garrison felt that despite the Board's support, it was necessary for him to step down so the University could begin to heal after the scandal.
"In the last several weeks, there has been far too much talk about this issue. And far too much talk about my own future at this University. And, after careful reflection, I have determined I am the one person who is uniquely situated to stop this dialogue with my decision," Garrison said.
Before he announced his plans to resign in the fall, Garrison outlined other pressing matters at the BOG meeting, including the largest salary raise in WVU's recent history.
"I can tell you that our president has worked with us not once, not twice, but multiple times and has taken the time to listen to our opinions. Our classified staff will be so pleased that we finally have a president who has worked so extremely hard for them," said Paul Martinelli, the representative of the classified staff on the BOG.
The seven percent salary increase will be especially important for WVU's classified staff, which has lost roughly $82 million since the last time its salary schedule was changed in 2001. Advocates for the classified staff expressed dismay at the meeting, citing the president's successes and the way some faculty have handled themselves in recent weeks.
"Once upon a time West Virginia was ruled by the law and not the mob, I am disappointed that the faculty has decided to use mob rule. We should let the Commission of Special Investigations do their job and use our own logic and reason," said Terry Nebel, the chair of the WVU staff council.
The Board went into executive session to discuss personnel issues shortly after Garrison's announcement. When it returned it allowed several members of the faculty to voice their feelings about the Bresch matter.
Originally, Michael Perone, vice-chair of The Mountaineers for Integrity and Responsibility was planning to call for the president's resignation at the meeting. Instead he commended Garrison for stepping down.
"We (MIR) would like to thank Mr. Garrison for his courageous decision . He wanted to lead his alma mater to brighter days and it must have been distressing for himself and the Board to watch his presidency unravel," Perone said.
BOG vice chair Robert Wells fired back at Perone stating that if faculty members wished to participate in governance issues they first needed to know the whole story.
"It was distressing to see people actively working to unravel Garrison's presidency," Wells said.
Parry Petroplus, another Board member, said he thought Garrison was making decent progress during his administration and called the faculty out for not being more involved and expecting there to be more of a choice for a president to begin with.
"There is a discontent with the faculty not stepping up to the plate and I think that needs to end, Parry made a very valid criticism of faculty behavior," Perone said.
Some faculty spoke in defense of Garrison and said that the Board should refuse to accept his resignation.
Over the course of the past few weeks, several petitions have circulated, some calling for Garrison's resignation, others supporting Garrison.
Several people who spoke Friday were sick of the weight being put on the petitions and called for a better way to calculate accurate faculty opinions.
"There are many of us who support President Garrison, this is not a contest of winning with a list of the most signatures but rather a counter-balance that not all faculty feel one way or another about this," said Dallas Branch, an associate professor of sports management.
Though Garrison has said he will step down from his post, the BOG has not announced any plans as of yet in regards to candidates for the new interim president. The previous search for a president, which resulted in Garrison's appointment, has been questioned by some faculty for the past year.
Some BOG members suspect that last year's presidential search probably sparked resentment for Garrison long before the eMBA scandal.
"It all ended up at the end being about that (Garrison's appointment), when it is all said and done," Goodwin said.