(03/13/2008)
Bresh completed only 26 of the 48 credit hours need to graduate

By Veronica Nett
Staff Writer Charleston Gazette
www.wvgazette.com

A torrent of documents released by West Virginia University over an investigation into a degree for Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter reveals bad recordkeeping, outrage from some alumni and recollection from at least one of Heather Bresch's former classmates.

The investigation should be finished in the next few weeks, according to the head of the panel making the inquiry.

Among the commenters was one of Bresch's classmates, alleging that Bresch did not attend classes to obtain her executive MBA degree and that she expected the college to give her credit for experience out of the classroom.

"She told us she was traveling for the Mylan hearings at the time. She joked and laughed about being able to write a paper about her experience in the case and would be given credit for that," Barb Shaw said in a January e-mail to WVU officials.

Her comments and more than a thousand other pages of e-mails and phone records were released after requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Gazette and other media outlets.

Bresch is chief operating officer of pharmaceuticals giant Mylan Inc., which is based in Canonsburg, Pa., and has a lab in Morgantown. The company's chairman, Milan Puskar, is a Manchin benefactor and donated $20 million to WVU in 2003 for its athletic department and scholarships.

In October, WVU's College of Business and Economics retroactively awarded Bresch a master's degree in business administration even though WVU's official records showed she had completed only half of the credits needed.

WVU officials and Bresch maintain that she did complete the necessary credits in 1998, but the degree was not granted earlier because of a series of clerical errors. Neither has been willing to provide Bresch's transcripts.

"I was in that class and am extremely upset that WVU would give her credits she did not earn. She sat behind me in the class so I was very aware that she was not there most of the time and she did not attend graduation," Shaw, Bresch's former classmate, said in an e-mail to Michael Lastinger, a member of the panel investigating the degree.

In another e-mail, associate business dean Cyril Logar wrote to business dean Steve Sears that student records have had errors, but "they have happened on rare occasions because the students follow up."

WVU released a statement in October saying Bresch did not pay the $50 graduation fee and as a result the Office of Admissions and Records did not record her as a graduate. WVU also said other students in the program had similar experiences.

Documents from Paul Speaker, a finance professor who headed the executive MBA program through 1998, list at least seven other students who completed the course but had their course of study disrupted or were given credit for classes that had previously been listed as incomplete or not recorded.

"In our internal audit a number of student records have been found in which the student was certified to graduate but had fewer (three or four credit hours) than the 48 credit hours need for graduation.

The remaining hours were listed as incompletes or not reported. Apparently the grade modifications were never processed for some reason," according to Speaker.

The names of the students were not released because of privacy laws.

Bresch completed only 26 of the 48 credit hours need to graduate. The College of Business and Economics added six classes, including grades, to her transcript and changed two classes that had been marked "incomplete" to show letter grades.

Among the documents released, one suggests a faculty member released student records to the media, which are typically protected by privacy laws.

"This faculty member was seen in the Westover McDonalds in October of 2007 talking with 2 individuals who - after overhearing parts of the conversation - were obviously reporters," an anonymous person wrote in letters mail to Provost Gerald Lang and to Sears.

The letter included a picture of the faculty member. WVU withheld the picture to protect the faculty member's privacy.

The letter said the faculty member gave detailed information that could be found in Bresch's transcript.

"One of the reporters asked this man if he could get them a copy of the actual transcript, and he replied 'yes'," the letter said.

Some people were just upset about the way the situation made WVU look.

"Although Ms. Bresch portrays herself as the victim in this matter, I doubt she has any notion of the damage she has caused by her carelessness and her failure to be clear and accurate about her education credentials," Ann Strader said in an e-mail to WVU officials.

"The result is that the reputation of the WVU and the validity of every degree conferred by WVU, past, present, and future is now suspect, to say nothing of being held up to ridicule," Strader said in the e-mail.

Roy Nutter, chairman of the panel investigating whether WVU manufactured Bresch's degree, said the panel should wrap up its investigation within the next few weeks.

"I see the end in sight. I don't have a date yet, though," Nutter said in an interview last week.

Read more   www.wvgazette.com


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