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Not-so-joyful noise: WVU profs peg the needle in Garrison protest

By Staff | May 20, 2008

If you’re ever trolling AMC on a rainy Sunday and you happen upon “Network” — Hollywood’s histrionic send-up of the television industry, circa 1976 — hang in there at least until Howard Beale’s “mad as hell” speech.

The movie’s pivotal moment hits when Peter Finch as Beale unravels with a raw-throat soliloquy on live TV that ends with this call:

“… So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want all of you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, stick your head out and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’”

It appears a lot of West Virginia University professors, circa 2008, are sharing that same emotion.

They’re collectively mad as hell over the findings last month of the Heather Bresch panel, which said key WVU personnel scrambled after the fact to grant an advanced business degree to the high-profile alumna whose credit hours fell well short of the requirements for the program.

They’re mad as hell because the panel said Bresch got the treatment and attention that wouldn’t have been afforded any other student. Bresch is the daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin, and she’s chief operating officer of Mylan Inc., the pharmaceuticals giant whose co-founder and chairman Milan “Mike” Puskar has given millions to WVU over the years.

They’re mad as hell because that retroactive rush apparently included, as the panel said, “pulling grades out of thin air” to square the record for the two Pittsburgh newspaper reporters who dug in and wouldn’t let go of the story.

And they’re really mad as hell, because, unlike the character in “Network,” they have to take it, like it or not.

While saying he’s ultimately responsible for the fallout, WVU President Mike Garrison is still refusing to resign, despite that 77-19 no-confidence vote Faculty Senate delivered last week. And he has the full, public backing of the university’s overseeing Board of Governors — his bosses — on his stand to do so.

So how are the mad-as-hell profs managing their anger?

By doing what academics do. Organizing.

Several of them have formed a group they’re calling Mountaineers for Integrity and Responsibility, or MIR – which, as of this writing, was planning a series of “respectful” protests during graduation ceremonies May 17-18.

Physics professor Boyd Edwards is the group’s newly elected chairman.

The group’s long-term goal is to advance new policies and procedures for tapping future presidents and provosts at WVU.

Its immediate mission for now, though, is to simply stay mad as hell.

“MIR intends,” the group said in a statement, “to keep the pressure on Garrison to resign because of enormous, negative long-term impact of flawed and compromised leadership on everything from graduate student recruitment to fundraising to awarding of grants to hiring new, dynamic faculty.”

WASHINGTON POST REPORTER Robin Shulman, it’s safe to say, was probably mad as hell at the copy desk (and the feeling was probably mutual), over one misplaced “c” in her story, “WVU President Clings to Job After Faculty Vote,” in the Thursday, May 8 national edition.

Here’s the correction that topped the online version of the story:

“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.”

Nothing like a good, Freudian typo from Inside the Beltway.

Contact Jim at jbissett@graffitiwv.com