MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ The West Virginia University Board of Governors is giving its full support to President Mike Garrison, who says he takes responsibility for "failures" that led to a master's degree scandal involving the governor's daughter.
"The Board of Governors is fully confident in the abilities of the President to implement these revisions so as to ensure this situation does not occur again," the board wrote in a statement.
Garrison said at a news conference later Monday that he has no plans to resign, and said he was not involved in last year's decision to retroactively award Heather Bresch her EMBA degree.
"This is a very serious issue," he said. "I don't want to minimalize it. I will not trivialize it. But I'll tell you, we will move forward."
Garrison did not rule out further disciplinary action, saying that is something he will take up with the board.
Yet that may not satisfy all critics. At Monday's meeting of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Sherman Riemenschneider said he decided in January to resign as chairman of the math department in protest of the administration's handling of the situation.
Riemenschneider called for the senate to censure Garrison and said he will not be satisfied with anything short of the president's resignation.
"I will not be part of an administration that includes Garrison, Lang and Goodwin," he said. "I want to disassociate myself from that." Stephen Goodwin is the chairman of the Board of Governors.
Other members of the senate committee, though, urged a different strategy.
Political science Professor Kevin Leyden urged the senate to create panels to study university policies and make recommendations.
"Act on the evidence, not hearsay, not speculation, not revenge of any sort," he urged.
The committee agreed to convene a special meeting of the full Faculty Senate on May 5 to discuss the situation.
Earlier Monday, Garrison accepted the resignations of R. Stephen Sears, dean of West Virginia University's College of Business and Economics, and Provost Gerald Lang.
Lang announced his resignation Sunday. Sears, dean since 2005, then told Lang he also will step down. WVU announced Sears' decision Monday. Both men will resign June 30.
Last week, an investigating panel issued a critical, 95-page report that concluded Lang and Sears were among several administrators who acted inappropriately and applied "severely flawed" judgment in awarding the Mylan Inc. executive a degree the panel said she did not earn. The degree was awarded after records discrepancies were discovered.
The panel concluded there was no academic foundation for concluding she had earned the degree in 1998. Administrators relied too heavily on verbal assertions and caved to political pressure, whether real or perceived, the panel said.
Bresch, daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin, works for one of the university's key donors, Milan Puskar, and is longtime friends with Garrison.
Before coming to WVU, Sears was senior executive associate dean of Rawls College of Business Administration at Texas Tech University, where he taught finance. He has also worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Sears did not immediately issue a personal statement about his decision or respond to an e-mail.
Lang issued a statement over the weekend.
"I am very sorry that my one action in ratifying a dean's decision in a single situation has had a negative impact on the institution," Lang wrote.
Faculty Senate Chairman Steve Kite said earlier Monday that Lang and Sears "did the right thing." Many faculty members have been disturbed by their insistence that their action was "a judgment call" they would likely have made again.
"Their opinion disagrees with the MBA panel and it disagrees with every faculty member I've spoken to," he said.
Kite praised Lang's leadership and single-mindedness over the 32 years Lang has been with the university but said his strength ultimately became his flaw.
"His whole body of work may have had as much impact on West Virginia University as anyone in the history of the school," Kite said, citing numerous construction projects, a strengthening of research programs and consistently climbing enrollment.
"But the downside of the single-mindedness is that sometimes he wasn't open to faculty input."
Whether the resignations go far enough may be up to the faculty and its 114-member senate. While some professors have said they'll bring a motion at a regular meeting May 12 for a vote of no confidence in Garrison, Kite said "some very pro-Garrison" motions also are circulating.
Kite said it's important to note the panel's report found no systemic flaws at WVU and the Bresch matter appears to be an isolated incident. Still, WVU will hire an outside consultant to help it design new systems that ensure a similar scandal never occurs again.
Garrison, a politically connected attorney who worked for former Democratic Gov. Bob Wise, was appointed to his position in April 2007 over the objections of some faculty. The Faculty Senate endorsed the other finalist, former dean and current Kansas State University Provost M. Duane Nellis.
Pressure for Garrison to respond decisively to the panel's report had mounted in recent days with newspaper editorials, letters to the editor and more.
"No matter how WVU officials try to spin it, they gave preferential treatment and awarded a degree to a well-connected person who provided no proof she had earned it," wrote The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington. "That's not what a major state university is supposed to be about, but WVU has succumbed to the same disease that has infected the rest of West Virginia and prevented real progress for generations."
On Monday, Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney and GOP gubernatorial candidate Russ Weeks echoed the call for all eight who attended the key Oct. 15 decision-making meeting to resign. They took particular aim at Garrison, though the report did not accuse him of any direct interference or wrongdoing.
"When you fill the presidency of the state's major university with a purely political appointment, it is not surprising when political scandals are the result," said McKinney, a WVU graduate. "The only way to put this behind us and begin to heal is for a clean sweep of everyone involved in this travesty."
Garrison said Monday he never asked anyone to award "any credit, grades or degree in this case or in any other case."
"Like every member of the University community, I reject the idea that we should award any degree or credit not earned by the student."
Kite said similar scandals have occurred at other universities without the same level of media coverage or public outrage.
In 2005, Yale mistakenly confirmed that it had awarded an art history doctorate to Shin Jeong-ah, a professor at a South Korean university. Last winter, Yale expressed regrets for what it called an administrative error.
"I think this whole situation we're in points up why there are problems with a nontraditional president," Kite said. "The moment anything surfaces, it becomes easy to make it political, whereas that did not happen at Yale.
"This sort of thing happens at many universities," he said. "The real issue to a large degree here is who the individual is."
Lang, meanwhile, said he hopes his departure will be enough to end the furor.
For 13 years, he has been the university's top academic officer, earning total compensation in 2007 of $243,448, according to the state auditor's office. For 19 years before that, he was a dean, assistant dean and faculty member.
Associated Press Writer Tom Breen contributed to this report from Charleston, W.Va.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.