The inevitable happened today – Mike Garrison, the political
hack appointee President of West Virginia University resigned. His selection and administration was a complete disaster. The final nail in the coffin was the political cover-up of Heather Bresch’s (formerly Manchin – gov of WV) unearned MBA degree. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has a good write-up on the (link) entire ordeal. Head over to Hammy’s blog for a good detailed following of the process as well.
Oddly, the thing that go Garrison
fired to resign isn’t the root cause of WVU’s problems. Analysis of his hiring does get us a step closer to the problem. A quick Google search unearthed a post on Fifth Column that gives a good explanation of Garrison’s rise to power. I know Morgantown, West Virginia’s Dominion Post also had a good story during the time of Garrison’s hiring, which outlined his political connections. He’s a lawyer and a hack; not an academic administrator or even global business leader, but he became the President of West Virginia’s flag ship university.
A quick summary of WVU today. WVU today, with some exceptions around medical research and the CSI program, is a mediocre school that provides an education that doesn’t justify the opportunity or financial costs its students, academics and supporters invest. I’m not talking about athletics and I’m sure I’ve missed some key points (not time to Google “good things at WVU”) other than our #1 party school status.
This hasn’t always been the case, nor should it be the case. WVU was a respected 2nd/3rd tier school during the mid-part of the 20th century. My Dad often laments about how he remembers business, law and psychology as top schools, and they probably were. The WVU of yesterday also stood out as a place where students were given a second chance to succeed. It was a pure meritocracy – all in; prove you belonged.
But today, WVU’s world looks much different. Public school status and a small state, if analysis from outside consultants were to be conducted, would show that WVU’s natural ranking nationally should be either upper third tier or middle second tier for schools with a few tier 1 schools – probably CSI, a specialized medicine focus (elder care and Alzheimer’s) and certain types of engineering. Oh, and the business school should be highly ranked for marketing and small market entrepreneurship.
Unless I missed something, WVU has moved away from meritocracy to everyone one in; everyone out. It’s not a subject that’s interesting to me but frankly a key issue for the school’s resurrection.
WVU’s strategic shift or mediocre results aren’t the core problem. No, those are simply symptom’s of a larger issue. Frankly, a school that is nothing more than a reward for political hacks or those unskilled in managing/turning around large institutions. Those who are governing the school appear to have no interest in its best interest; only their own. Until those incentives and focus change; WVU and its stakeholders are doomed. It’s sad, but a fact.
Will the next President of be another political hack or someone hired to turn around the school? Let’s hope for the latter, but how often do those tiger stripes really change?