The Times West Virginian

May 16, 2013

WVU faces fresh lawsuit over degree scandal in ’07

Two former deans argue school has ignored obligation to repair their reputations

By Vicki Smith
Associated Press

MORGANTOWN — Two former business school deans caught up in a master’s degree scandal six years ago are suing West Virginia University again, arguing the school has ignored its obligation to repair their tarnished reputations.

Former dean Stephen Sears and former associate dean Cyril Logar filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg this week, accusing WVU of breach of contract and denial of their due-process rights. They’re demanding unspecified compensatory damages.

They say WVU officials never made good on an academic integrity policy that requires it to “undertake diligent efforts” to restore the reputations of people cleared of misconduct. The lawsuit targets the Board of Governors, President Jim Clements, Provost Michele Wheatly and other academic officers.

WVU spokeswoman Becky Lofstead declined comment Wednesday.

Last summer, Special Academic Integrity Officer Nigel Clark — now among the defendants — said there would be no further action against anyone involved in altering transcripts, creating grades and awarding an executive master of business administration degree to Heather Bresch.

She’s the chief executive officer of Pennsylvania-based generic drug maker Mylan Inc. and the daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Bresch was also a friend of the school’s president at the time, Mike Garrison.

An independent investigation revealed that Bresch hadn’t earned the degree and that administrators added courses and grades to her transcript. The investigators ruled that Lang, Sears, Logar and others “showed seriously flawed judgment.”

Although the investigation concluded Bresch did nothing wrong in trying to establish whether she’d earned the degree, it cited a failure of leadership at high levels in the administration and suggested there was pressure from Lang and “representatives of the president’s office” to accommodate Bresch.  

WVU eventually rescinded the degree, but the scandal ended some academic careers and redirected others.

Garrison and some of his leadership team resigned their posts, while former Provost Gerald Lang also gave up his title.

Sears stepped down and took a job as dean of Texas A&M International University’s A.R. Sanchez School of business, where he remains employed.

Logar resigned his administrative position and remains a WVU professor but says in the complaint he has lost potential research and consulting opportunities, and become “an outcast in the WVU community.”

In their lawsuit, Sears and Logar say there have been “thousands of articles, stories and other references” to the scandal in the media, many of which identify them by name.

In past court filings, they have claimed they were coerced into awarding the degree and then hung out to dry by various members of the general counsel’s office. They said members of that office first participated in the decision to help Bresch, then investigated them for misconduct.

Sears and Logar also accused WVU of “surreptitiously” negotiating a settlement with Lang to diminish liability in a separate federal lawsuit they filed. It was later dismissed.