Law Schools

Urged By Law Profs to Resign, W. Va. U Prez, Michael Garrison, Will Step Down

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The president of West Virginia University has agreed to step down after a controversy over an award of an MBA degree to the daughter of the state governor even though she had not completed enough credits. The situation came to light after a newspaper reporter made a routine inquiry about her credentials when she was named chief operating officer of Mylan Inc. and a university official could not verify the degree.

An audit has determined that as many as 70 degrees may have been improperly awarded by the business school during approximately the past decade, reports the New York Times. However, Michael Garrison, 39, an attorney and former lobbyist and state government employee, has only been president since September. The situation has been controversial from the start—the faculty gave him a no-confidence vote before he was even officially appointed.

Although relatively young and lacking in academic credentials and experience, Garrison was controversial for another reason, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was his ties to statehouse politics in Charleston, W.Va., and a resulting perception that his candidacy for the job amounted to a political coronation.”

Garrison had been urged to resign in the aftermath of the degree dispute by a group of 11 tenured professors at the university’s law school, where Garrison also teaches, according to the Associated Press.

But his announcement in a university press release today that he will serve as president until September, confirmed by the Times as a decision to step down, is not a resignation, the newspaper notes.

“During the last six weeks, we have found the university at the center of controversy and clamor,” Garrison says in the press release. “I have made a decision to continue to serve as president of WVU. until September, because it is what a leader in this particular situation must do.”

Garrison maintained he had no role in the decision to award a master’s degree in business administration to Heather Bresch, who is the daughter of West Virginia’s current governor, writes the Chronicle of Higher Education. However, Bresch is a close friend of his, Mylan’s chairman is a major university donor, and Garrison’s “prior relationship with Ms. Bresch lent a suspicion that was hard to overcome,” the article states.

“Mr. Garrison worked directly with Ms. Bresch when he served as a lobbyist for Mylan Inc. from 2004 to 2007, and Ms. Bresch had called Mr. Garrison repeatedly the day the Post-Gazette first inquired about her degree,” the article continues. “Mr. Garrison had also approached Ms. Bresch about serving in a fund-raising capacity for the university’s foundation.”

Additional coverage:

West Virginia MetroNews: “With Dignity”

Charleston Daily Mail: “Read statement by Board of Governors”

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