WVU degree scandal lawsuit dismissed
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A federal judge has dismissed the latest lawsuit against West Virginia University over a 6-year-old master's degree scandal involving the daughter of Sen. Joe Manchin.
U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey issued an order Wednesday dismissing all three counts against WVU's former academic integrity officer, various administration officials and the school's Board of Governors.
Former business school dean Stephen Sears and former associate dean Cyril Logar had argued that WVU ignored its obligation to repair their tarnished reputations since an academic-misconduct investigation ended. They accused WVU of breach of contract and denial of their due-process rights.
The lawsuit was the third that Sears and Logar have filed in four years. All have failed.
"We are pleased with the court's decision, which speaks for itself," said WVU spokesman John Bolt.
Last summer, WVU said there would be no further action against anyone involved in altering transcripts, creating grades and awarding an executive master of business administration degree to Heather Bresch. Bresch is chief executive officer of Pennsylvania-based generic drug maker Mylan Inc. Manchin, D-W.Va., was governor when the scandal was unearthed.
An independent investigation revealed that Bresch hadn't earned the degree and that administrators added courses and grades to her transcript. The investigators ruled that former provost Gerald Lang, Sears, Logar and others "showed seriously flawed judgment."
The investigation concluded that Bresch did nothing wrong in trying to establish if she'd earned the degree. Instead, it cited a failure of leadership at high levels in the WVU administration and suggested there was pressure from Lang and "representatives of the president's office" to accommodate Bresch.
WVU's president at the time, Mike Garrison, was a friend of Bresch.
WVU eventually rescinded the degree, but the scandal ended some academic careers and redirected others. Garrison and some of his leadership team resigned, and Lang gave up his title.
Sears stepped down and took a job as dean of Texas A&M International University's A.R. Sanchez School of Business.
Logar resigned his administrative position and remains a WVU professor. However, he contends that he has lost potential research and consulting opportunities and has become "an outcast in the WVU community."
The lawsuit had accused WVU of behaving "arbitrarily and capriciously" and of depriving the former deans of their constitutional right to fair treatment. However, Bailey ruled that the rights outlined in WVU's academic-integrity policy are not constitutional matters.
"It certainly is not a fundamental right," he wrote, "such as relating to marriage, family, procreation and the right to bodily integrity."
The second count of the lawsuit alleged that Sears and Lang were denied procedural due process. Bailey, however, said the plaintiffs failed to identify any defamatory statements and failed to prove that any statements made about them were false.
"Perhaps most important," the judge wrote, "the failure to remediate reputational damage does not appear to be a sufficient liberty interest to support a claim for the violation of due process."
Bailey also said federal court lacks jurisdiction to hear Logar and Sears' breach-of-contract claim.