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Degree Scandal at West Virginia Fells Provost

April 28, 2008

The provost of West Virginia University told deans Sunday that he would resign because of his role in the improper awarding of a master's degree to the governor's daughter, saying in a letter to the campus that he regretted that "my one action in ratifying a Dean’s decision in a single situation has had a negative impact on the institution."

The resignation of Gerald Lang, provost and vice president for academic affairs, was reported first by the Associated Press and is expected to be announced on the campus this morning. Lang and the university's business dean, R. Stephen Sears, came in for the harshest criticism in the report of an independent panel charged with investigating the university's decision to hastily award a degree to Heather Bresch without clear or sufficient evidence that she had earned it.

The report found that the provost had delegated the decision to retroactively award the degree to Sears, and that the two men and others at a crucial meeting where the situation was discussed “cherry picked” evidence without sufficient regard for contrary information. “Inexplicably, the participants at the meeting did not discuss the specifics of Ms. Bresch’s actual courses or course work during the meeting,” the panel noted.

In his letter, Lang said: "I love this place and would never intentionally take an action that would reflect negatively upon it. Even though the panel looking into the Bresch case did not find any willful misconduct, their conclusion that the result was flawed and erroneous has convinced me to resign as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research. I hope this decision will begin the healing process and focus attention onto the future."

As more people have read the investigative report since its release on Wednesday, pressure has been building for high-level resignations, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, and it is uncertain whether Lang's resignation will quell the uproar.

The calls for resignations are even appearing in comments on the blog of Mike Garrison, the university's president. While he wrote that he took "full responsibility" for carrying out recommendations in the report, some reading his blog are suggesting that taking full responsibility -- in another sense -- would be more appropriate.

Wrote one alumnus: "After reading the findings of the panel charged with investigating the recent M.B.A. scandal, I have come to only one conclusion … you must resign. As a graduate of WVU, I already fight with stereotypes and questions about the quality of my education and degree. At this point, you and your administration have tarnished our reputation almost to a point where it can no longer be salvaged. Please do the right thing for the university and its alumni and resign your position immediately."

 

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