Nearly five years after an unearned-degree scandal rocked West Virginia University and forced its president and others to resign, the case is officially closed.
Special Academic Integrity Officer Nigel Clark said there will be no further action against anyone involved in altering transcripts, creating grades and awarding an executive master of business administration degree to Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch. She’s the daughter of former Gov. Joe Manchin and was a friend of the school’s president at the time, Mike Garrison.
In an Aug. 8 letter to professor Matthew Vester, one of several faculty members who filed misconduct complaints in 2008, Clark cited unreasonable delays in investigating the complaints. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained a copy of the letter, which said those involved in the Bresch decisions have a right to due process and a timely resolution of the allegations.
The decision to drop the investigation, Clark wrote, shouldn’t be seen as a comment on the validity of the underlying accusations.
WVU eventually rescinded the degree, while Bresch was promoted to chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania-based generic drug maker. 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. Former business school dean Stephen Sears stepped down and took a job at Texas A&M, while associate dean Cyril Logar also resigned his administrative position but remained a professor.
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.”
Though 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.
In various court filings since, Sears and Logar claimed they were coerced into awarding the degree 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 federal lawsuit they filed. It was later dismissed.
In Monongalia County Circuit Court, a judge agreed with their assertions that there were conflicts of interest internally and halted the misconduct proceedings. But she also ruled WVU could start new hearings if it eliminated those conflicts.
Vester said that’s what should have happened.
“Why was there a delay? Because the university did not perform its duty,” he said. “I just in good faith assumed the university would take the complaint seriously and follow through.”
Clark said he was put in charge in November and could not address efforts made before that.
School spokeswoman Becky Lofstead declined comment.