Media Bias at Work, Governor Abuses University System

AP | May 1, 2008

As you read the story about Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who used his influence to get his daughter a master’s degree she didn’t earn, you have no clue whether this unethical political bully is a Democrat or a Republican. Since the writers failed to mention (translation = purposely left out) the party affiliation of Gov. Manchin in the first few paragraphs of the story I had a strong suspicion this guy was probably a Democrat. Sure enough on paragraph #12 of the story, buried 2/3 of the way down (below the fold) the AP writers identified the governor as a Democrat. Surprise, surprise! Had this politician been a Republican, the label would have been splattered all over the story, beginning with paragraph #1.

Here’s how the AP reported this story:

W.Va.U. embroiled in scandal over degree for gov’s daughter
By VICKI SMITH and TOM BREEN, Associated Press Writers
May 1, 2008

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This is not how West Virginia University wanted to build its national reputation.

Six months after his inauguration, President Mike Garrison is struggling to hold his administration together — and keep his job — amid a scandal that erupted after the school granted Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter a master’s degree she didn’t earn.

Two top university officials resigned last weekend over their part in the episode. Major donors have canceled plans to donate millions. Members of the Faculty Senate are planning a no-confidence vote on Garrison next week. And critics inside and outside the university have demanded the president resign over what appears to be an instance in which political pull influenced the awarding of a degree.

“If you have smart officials, they know this would be one of the quickest ways to ruin the reputation of the university,” said Thomas Morawetz, a professor and authority on ethics at the University of Connecticut law school. “It is a serious violation of norms.”

With more than 27,000 students, West Virginia is the pride of a state where people say they “bleed blue and gold.” Mountaineer alumni include the governor and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West.

The university has helped generations of West Virginians — many of them the sons and daughters of coal miners and steelworkers — lift themselves up in a poor state. But it also perennially ranks among the nation’s top party schools.

Now some fear the scandal threatens the university’s effort to improve its academic reputation and turn itself into a national research powerhouse. Garrison himself has made high-tech research a priority, successfully lobbying the state Legislature for a multimillion-dollar “bucks for brains” program.

An editorial in the student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, said the administration has “trivialized all degrees this university has awarded and will award.”

“I suppose this is the price paid for attending a university with such an intimate connection to its state, a final reminder of how dirty West Virginia can be, and not just from the coal dust of economic fallout,” student columnist Chad Wilcox wrote separately.

The scandal cracked wide open last week after an investigative panel issued a report saying the university showed “seriously flawed” judgment last fall in retroactively awarding an executive master’s of business administration degree to Heather Bresch, who attended the school in 1998 but did not earn enough credits.

The panel said the business school gave Bresch credit for classes she didn’t take, and assigned grades “simply pulled from thin air,” giving her special treatment because of who she is. The degree has since been rescinded.

The governor, a Democrat, has denied exerting any pressure and said he first learned of the dispute only after it became a news story. Bresch told The Associated Press that she believes she did nothing wrong.

Bresch, 38, is not only the governor’s daughter. She is chief operating officer of generic drug maker Mylan Inc., a major West Virginia benefactor with a lab in Morgantown that employs about 2,000 people. Mylan was one of the companies that raised the money to create the Executive MBA program, which is for full-time executives.

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