VCU leaders step down amid degree probe

Several Virginia Commonwealth University administrators are stepping down following an investigation into the improper awarding of a bachelor's degree to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Rodney Monroe.

University officials confirmed the resignations but aren't linking them to the diploma investigation. One administrator was dean of the college that awarded the degree, and two others criticized how VCU officials conducted the probe.

Robert Holsworth is resigning as interim dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. The noted political analyst will continue as political science professor and special assistant to the provost.

Michael Pratt is stepping down as interim director of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and director of the VCU Center for Public Policy. He will remain a professor of economics. A telephone message left Wednesday for Pratt wasn't returned.

Jon Steingass resigned as dean of VCU's University College, which awarded Monroe the bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies in May 2007 despite Monroe's failure to meet degree requirements for transfer students. Steingass also was associate dean for undergraduate affairs for the College of Humanities and Sciences. VCU said he has taken a job in another state.

Monroe started work as Charlotte's police chief June 16. He had been the Richmond chief since 2005.

Holsworth and Pratt were critical of the university's investigation into the improper awarding of the degree. VCU officials said last month that Monroe completed six credit hours at VCU, far short of a quarter of his total coursework, but it allowed him to keep the degree. VCU subsequently announced that it had disciplined those involved but declined to disclose names or details.

On Wednesday, Holsworth told the Observer he wasn't pressured by anyone to approve Monroe's degree. “Absolutely not,” he said. “If any mistake was made, it was made by people who thought they were doing the right thing. People were always operating on good faith.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is conducting an independent investigation. The association is the accreditation group for 11 states, including Virginia.

The resignations come in light of double controversies – the Monroe degree and a task force looking into the implications of the university's acceptance of research contracts from tobacco giant Philip Morris USA.

Associated Press and staff writer Greg Lacour contributed.