- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RICHMOND | A legislative committee wants Virginia Commonwealth University’s Board of Visitors to see whether it can revoke a degree it wrongly granted to Richmond’s former police chief.

House Appropriations Committee members on Monday asked Rector Thomas Rosenthal and Provost Stephen Gottfredson to ask the university’s legal advisers whether the board has the power to deny improperly awarded diplomas.

The request came after a General Assembly investigative panel presented its review of how the university awarded former Chief Rodney Monroe a bachelor’s of interdisciplinary studies degree in 2007, despite his earning only six of 30 required credit hours there. The university has allowed Mr. Monroe to keep the degree, saying policy allows revocation only in instances of academic misconduct. However, officials plan to change the policy to make it easier to revoke wrongly granted degrees.

“There are a lot of people very upset that he’s allowed to keep his degree,” Mr. Rosenthal said after the hearing, during which legislators pointedly asked whether the university had asked Mr. Monroe to return his degree or whether the General Assembly had the power to revoke it.

Delegate Clarence E. Phillips, Southwest Virginia Democrat, was among several who asked how it was that Chief Monroe wasn’t aware of what it took to get a bachelor’s degree. “He went on to pursue a degree without knowing the requirements?” Mr. Phillips asked.

Mr. Monroe is now police chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C., where a bachelor’s degree is required for the job. The report noted that he declined to return two telephone calls from JLARC staff during the panel’s investigation.

A telephone message left Monday afternoon with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s public affairs office was not immediately returned.

Mr. Monroe was an assistant chief for the District’s Metropolitan Police Department in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s report largely mirrored the university’s report submitted last month to its accreditation agency, which found administrators intentionally violated policies when they allowed Mr. Monroe to pursue coursework that failed to meet at least five separate graduation requirements.

The report also found that the coordinator of the university’s interdisciplinary studies program felt that the dean of the University College, Jon Steingass, pressured her to develop a plan that would allow Mr. Monroe to receive a degree by May 2007. Mr. Steingass in turn said he felt “implied pressure from the VCU president’s office.” However, investigators found no evidence of wrongdoing by President Eugene Trani.

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