Correction to This Article
Due to an editing error, an article in Thursday's newspaper on West Virginia University misidentified the faculty organization that had approved a resolution of no-confidence in WVU President Michael Garrison.It is the Faculty Senate, not the Faulty Senate.

WVU President Clings to Job After Faculty Vote

Garrison received a no-confidence vote.
Garrison received a no-confidence vote. (By Dale Sparks -- Associated Press)
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By Robin Shulman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008

When he became president of West Virginia University last year, Michael Garrison seemed poised to use his political experience to help build the institution's national reputation.

Less than a year after taking office, Garrison is struggling to hold on to his job and contain a scandal, after the university granted an unearned degree to a longtime friend, the daughter of the West Virginia governor. On Monday, the Faculty Senate voted 77 to 19 in favor of a resolution of no-confidence in Garrison and demanded his resignation.

"A lot of the sentiment had more to do with the absolute importance of academic integrity and the fact that the president is responsible for whatever goes on in his administration, rather than anything that he did specifically or did not do," said Steve Kite, a geology and geography professor and chairman of the Faculty Senate.

The move is largely symbolic, because the senate has a mostly advisory role to the Board of Governors, which has expressed support for Garrison. And he has said he will not step down.

"We've got a lot of work left to do at the university," he told the Associated Press after the vote. "I intend to keep moving forward."

But a major donor has revoked an offer of gifts worth $2 million. The provost of the university and the dean of the business school have resigned their administrative posts. The university -- with more then 27,000 students, in a state where people are proud to "bleed blue and gold" -- has been deeply divided.

A panel of independent investigators released a report last month saying university officials showed "seriously flawed judgment" in retroactively granting the master's degree to Heather Bresch, the daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin III (D), because she had not earned it.

It's the kind of debacle that strikes at the core of a university's mission, said Thomas Morawetz, a professor of ethics at the University of Connecticut Law School.

"It goes to the whole purpose for which a university exists, to certify that a person has gone through a certain process to merit a degree," he said.

Garrison's critics note that he is a former classmate of Bresch's. He once worked as a lobbyist for Mylan Inc., where Bresch is an executive and whose chairman is one of WVU's biggest donors. They also note that Garrison was chief of staff for former West Virginia governor Bob Wise (D).

But Bill Case, Garrison's spokesman, dismisses suggestions of impropriety.

"This is all smoke and mirrors that people are drawing conclusions from," Case said. "Because Mike personally knew this person, he withdrew himself from any contact or knowledge about the case."


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