WHEELING – West Virginia University Board of Governors agreed to resolve and terminate academic integrity proceedings against former provost Gerald Lang, according to a confidential agreement that stayed secret less than a month.
On July 29, former business school dean Stephen Sears and former associate dean Cyril Logar filed the June 30 agreement as an exhibit in their federal suit against the university.
They seek to recover damages and keep the integrity proceedings from resuming.
The Board of Governors and seven individual defendants believe the Lang agreement opens the way to resume proceedings against Sears and Logar.
Sears and Logar disagree.
They claim Monongalia Circuit Judge Susan Tucker improperly voided previous orders in order to approve the Lang agreement.
She stopped the integrity proceedings against Lang, Sears and Logar in 2009, finding conflicts of interest in the university's investigation.
All three faced charges that they awarded a master's degree to Heather Bresch, daughter of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, though she hadn't earned it.
Last month, the Board of Governors reported the Lang agreement to U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp, who presides over the claims of Sears and Logar.
For Sears and Logar, Robert Ridge of Pittsburgh protested to Stamp that the agreement didn't affect their case.
"Nothing has changed the fact that West Virginia University's office of general counsel first advised the plaintiffs about the legal implications and requirements surrounding the awarding of a former student a promised degree and then, the same office turned around and advised the academic integrity panel in connection with its efforts to sanction those same employees for following the general counsel's advice," he wrote on July 29.
He wrote that the order would only modify the manner in which Sears and Logar prove the university violated their rights.
He attached Lang's "confidential settlement agreement and release of claims."
It stated, "Lang shall execute a voluntary resolution statement of the underlying academic integrity proceedings acknowledging his role in the decision to award an eMBA degree to a certain student in Fall 2007."
It stated, "No new academic integrity proceedings concerning the award of an eMBA degree to a certain student in October 2007 will be instituted against Lang."
At a conference with Stamp on Aug. 1, both sides stated they agreed to mediate.
He told them to choose a mediator in two days or give him a choice of three.
On Aug. 3, they told him they chose Joseph Selep.
They told Stamp they were working on a date and location.
Meanwhile, Stamp must decide whether a two-year statute of limitations closes the case.
On July 28, he ordered both sides to submit affidavits providing dates on which Sears and Logar received reports of a screening committee and a discovery committee.
The scandal persisted throughout 2008. Sears and Logar sued in December 2010.