WVU Professors Want Officials to Resign over Bresch Affair

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.

Days after a panel’s damning report about West Virginia University‘s handling of a degree improperly awarded to the governor’s daughter, members of the faculty are debating what should come next.

Math department Chairman Sherman Riemenschneider told The Dominion-Post Friday he will make a motion at the May 12 Faculty Senate meeting calling for the censure of WVU President Mike Garrison and Provost Gerald Lang.

The motion will also call on the Senate to offer a vote of no confidence in the two men.

Some members of the faculty, though, think that won’t be enough. They argue that Garrison, Lang and R. Stephen Sears, dean of the College of Business and Economics, should resign.

“If you remain in office, things may eventually appear to return to normal, but they would not be,” reads a letter by physics professor Boyd Edwards, which was addressed to Garrison, Lang and Sears and has been circulated widely among faculty members.

“The damage caused is simply too great,” the letter reads. “Under the surface, wounds would remain unhealed. Even after the media attention fades, people inside and outside the university would remember that WVU lacks the courage to select new leadership when needed. Confidence in the leadership may never fully return. Private donations and federal funding may flag. The teaching, research and service missions of the university would suffer.”

Statistics department Chairman Jim Harner has also called on the three officials to resign, and English professor Gwen Bergner, a member of the Faculty Senate, said she is leaning in that direction.

“I also know that others in the Faculty Senate leadership, beyond Riemenschneider and his second, are planning to move in that direction,” she said. “I am increasingly convinced that this is the right decision.”

A phone message left for WVU spokeswoman Amy Neil were not immediately returned Sunday.

Last week, a five-member panel led by two WVU faculty members issued a report saying high-ranking academic officers and administration officials showed “seriously flawed” judgment last fall in revising the academic records of Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch, who is Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter. The result was to award her an executive master’s of business administration degree she had not earned.

Those administrators lacked documentation to prove her claims that she’d finished her final semester with work experience credits, relying too heavily on verbal assertions and caving to political pressure, whether real or perceived, the panel said.

The harshest words fell on Lang, the school’s chief academic officer, and Sears, who the report said “should have treated Ms. Bresch like they would or should have treated any other student.”

Faculty Senate Chairman Steve Kite plans to raise the matter at an Executive Committee meeting Monday, but believes that group will wait to see what corrective measures are proposed by Garrison before issuing demands for disciplinary action.

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