The West Virginia University Board of Governors today (April 23) voted to accept the recommendations of the independent panel of educators that was charged with investigating WVU s recent decision regarding a retroactively issued degree to Heather Bresch.
The panel concluded that academic officials acted too quickly in making the decision to award the degree and that University records do not support the assertion that she holds an executive MBA . The changes that were made in University records in October, 2007, will be rescinded.
Board Chair Stephen Goodwin presented the President with the following charge:
After having received and reviewed the report, I have been instructed by the Board of Governors to outline for you the position of the Board regarding this matter.
First and foremost, it is important that you appreciate the Board of Governors accepts, in principle, the report of the panel.
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.
Further, you are to inform Ms. Bresch of the panels 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.
Finally, the Board directs you to develop a plan and/or policies to see that a situation such as this does not ever occur again. You are also directed to review the recommendations of the panel and the actions of the Administrations personnel relative to this matter.
Thereafter, you are to present to the Board at its regular June 2008 meeting a plan of implementation of the policies and procedures you have determined necessary to correct any shortcomings which have been highlighted by this situation.
The panels report, which is available online at WVU s Faculty Senate websitehttp://www.facultysenate.wvu.edu/, criticizes the Universitys Provost and the leadership of the College of Business and Economics for the changes made to Breschs academic record, citing a hasty process and concluding that academic administrators improperly decided, based on conflicting information, that her official records were incomplete. The panel said that the College of Business and Economics created course records and grades to support this conclusion without sufficient supporting evidence.
University President Mike Garrison accepted the Boards charge to implement the changes recommended by the panel.
I have had the opportunity to listen to the Board of Governors response to this report, and I concur with them in accepting the decision of the panel and their entire set of recommendations,Garrison said.I deeply regret that the West Virginia University community, here on campus and around the state and the world, has had to endure the lengthy process that led to this day. West Virginia University is strong, and we will be stronger for this. Our honest response to it as a University will define us as an institution whose governance is open and shared.( STATEMENT FROM WVU PRESIDENT MIKE GARRISON )
The panel did not find that any political or external pressure was exerted by anyone to affect the academic decision. But it surmised thatunvoicedpressure, felt by some participants on account of Breschs prominent position, hindered participants from objecting to the process. The panel also felt that those administrators were too eager to respond to news media pressure for an answer about Breschs degree, a factor that added to the speed at which the 2007 decisions were reached.
The panel did not recommend censure or any other actions regarding any individuals. But the panelists unanimously concluded that actions in October 2007 by academic administrators to determine if she had earned her degree, and to modify her transcript, wereseriously flawed and reflected poor judgment.
The report contains a series of recommendations for improvement to the process by which the University handles record-keeping and inquiries about student records.
May 5, 2008 statement from WVU President Mike Garrison
April 28, 2008 statement from WVU President Mike Garrison
April 28, 2008 statement from WVU Board of Governors
April 28, 2008 statement from Student Body President
Report of the Special Investigative Panel and meeting notes