Faux-degree plans on hold?
I am in despair, Dear Ones. I was all set to go full speed ahead with my plans to obtain a few faux doctoral degrees, as I’ve discussed here previously. After reviewing numerous institutions of higher earning…I mean, learning, I had pretty much narrowed my search down to a couple of prestigious universities: Belford University and The University of Metaphysics. I was quite excited about these schools, as I noted in a recent blog post (second item). And I was saving up my hard-earned money to buy some impressive degrees.
But then – wouldn’t you know it! – some of our local CBS (Channel 11, KHOU) news guys went and rained on my parade. Those journalists! They’re always ruining things for the rest of us. The story that caught my eye last night on Channel 11 was one of those exposé-type pieces about phony degrees, reported by a young muckraker named Mark Greenblatt. It seems that some of our city and state officials in Texas, as well as a university professor or two, have been lured by the siren song of bought credentials, and some folks are pretty unhappy about it. Here's the online version of the story.
I learned from this story that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) maintains a list entitled, Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas. With my heart in my mouth – well, actually, it was still in my chest, but it was beating more rapidly than usual – I jumped onto the THECB page and, much to my dismay, saw several familiar names on this list.
For example, there’s Belford University, which has "locations" in Houston as well as in Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Here’s the scoop on Belford, according to the THECB: "No degree-granting authority from the CB & no accreditation from a CB [Coordinating Board] recognized accreditor. Under investigation by the AG [Attorney General] for operating from a mail forwarding service in Houston. Diplomas mailed from the UAE. Previously had a presence in NV or AZ."
Well, that still left The University of Metaphysics, I thought, hoping against hope. But my hopes were dashed when I saw that it, too, was on the THECB "illegal" list: "No accreditation from a CB recognized accreditor. AKA University of Sedona." [GOOD NEWS! See update at the end of this post. ~CC]***
Gosh darn it.
But really, what’s the big fat hairy deal, as Garfield the Cat might have said? So what if a phony degree is "illegal?" It’s not like rape or murder or robbery or fraud.
Well, okay, so maybe it is fraud, of a sort. And in the state of Texas, depending upon how one attempts to use that phony degree, it is a punishable offense:
The Texas Penal Code (Section 32.52) prohibits the use of fraudulent or substandard degrees "in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or with the intent to: obtain employment; obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain a promotion, a compensation or other benefit, or an increase in compensation or other benefit, in employment or in the practice of a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain admission to an educational program in this state; or gain a position in government with authority over another person, regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position." Violation of this law is a Class B misdemeanor.
According to the Texas penal code (§ 12.22), a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by "(1) a fine not to exceed $2,000; (2) confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days; or (3) both such fine and confinement."
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are many money-making ops in jail – and especially after jail, particularly if you’re Paris Hilton (if you follow that link, scroll down to the third item). And heck, a $2,000.00 fine is nothing compared to the infinite amount of ready cash in the Universe.
Nevertheless I think I’ll pass.
I’m sure some of you are still saying, "Oh, Cosmic Connie, so what? Give it a rest already! This is much ado about nothing. After all, accreditation is an arbitrary tool of the establishment, and it’s no reflection on real merit."
You know what? Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t be so squeamish. After all, I’m not planning on running for public office, where every detail of one’s past, present and future is scrutinized. I’m shooting for the non-thinking public, people who are so gullible and worshipful that they never bother to question credentials. If a phony doctorate can work so well for so many New-Wage gurus, why can’t it work for an intrepid blogger?
Plus, as I’ve noted before, why earn your degree the hard way, if you can buy it the easy way?
Thank you for letting me get this off my chest, Dear Ones. I feel better already. And as an added bonus, I’ve just discovered another really good university which seems legit, because they have stringent admissions standards. I’m hoping they have a good doctoral program.
PS - Phony degrees are not just a Texas thing, of course, and not just a US phenomenon. Take a look at the articles and links on the Diploma Mill News blog.
(My recently expressed idea about getting a doctorate for Rex The Farting Dog was not that far-fetched; here's a link to an article about a kitty cat who got an MBA.)
PPS - Type "phony degrees" into Google and you get some very interesting "sponsored-link" results. This is the one case in which those scam schools who sell these phony degrees are actually being honest about their phoniness, but they're not going to pass up a selling op. Is this the ultimate in cynicism, or just great marketing – or both?
*** UPDATE added on 8 May, 2009: A commenter going by the moniker I.A.T.H. pointed out to me that the University of Metaphysics/University of Sedona are no longer on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) "Illegal" list. According to this person, the institutions were mistakenly placed there and have since been removed (you can read this person's full comment by clicking here). I have sent an email to the THECB web site asking for more details. My guess is that since U of Metaphysics/Sedona go to some pains to define themselves as "non-secular," they are outside the jurisdiction of the THECB. In any case, I wanted to be fair and inform you, as my commenter suggested I do, that these institutions are no longer on the Texas s--t list.
Do you realize what this means, Dear Ones? Not only does it mean that a certain person I've snarked about here has only one fraudulent doctorate (legally speaking) instead of two, but it also means that maybe I really can realize my dream of getting a flaky degree without running afoul of the law. Who said the Universe wasn't on my side?