'Diploma-mill' Ph.D.? No problem Northeastern Illinois still grants lifetime tenure t

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Hortonka, May 11, 2010.

  1. Hortonka

    Hortonka New Member

    A professor granted tenure by Northeastern Illinois University got his
    doctorate from a school the federal government later labeled a "diploma
    mill," but the state university says it granted him the lifetime job
    security under a rule that allows "exceptional" teachers to be hired
    without a doctorate.

    Given the glut of out-of-work Ph.D.s in recent years, that's a rarely
    used provision. Northeastern Illinois officials said that only one of
    the school's 280 other faculty members doesn't have a doctorate.

    Although Theophilus Okosun says he disowned his Ph.D. around 1998, it's
    still included on his current resume, provided by Northeastern Illinois
    University, and mentioned in several other places.
    (John J. Kim/Sun-Times)

    The granting of tenure last year for Theophilus "T.Y." Okosun, a
    professor of justice studies, has caused rumbles among faculty members
    at the 12,000-student public university on Chicago's Northwest Side.

    Okosun got his doctorate from the now-shuttered Pacific Western
    University in Los Angeles. In a 2004 report, the congressional agency
    then known as the U.S. General Accounting Office said the school was
    unaccredited, offered degrees for a fee and didn't require any
    classroom instruction.

    The report -- titled "Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have
    Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense" --
    said Pacific Western and two other schools issued "academic credits
    based on life experience and require no classroom instruction. ...
    Instead, the schools market and require payment for degrees on a
    flat-fee basis.'' The cost for a Ph.D. from Pacific Western: $2,595.

    Those involved in hiring Okosun at Northeastern Illinois in 2003 didn't
    know about the problems with his degree from Pacific Western, which had
    been under investigation for years even before the federal report was
    released, at the time he was offered the tenure-track job, sources at
    the school said. They said Okosun wouldn't have been considered for the
    position if it had been known his Ph.D. wasn't from a legitimate

    Northeastern Illinois Provost Larry Frank wouldn't say at what point in
    the tenure process the school learned the degree wasn't valid. But the
    school allowed Okosun to pursue the lifetime employment contract --
    without a Ph.D. -- based on his teaching skills. Okosun eventually
    demonstrated to faculty and administrators that his teaching is so
    "exceptional" that he is worthy of tenure, Frank said.

    "You already have to present yourself as a superior teacher or scholar
    to be tenured," said Frank, who as provost is the school's chief
    academic officer. "So 'exceptionality' means better than superior.''

    Pacific Western was licensed by the State of California to operate in
    the late 1980s and 1990s but never sought accreditation, which entails
    a rigorous review process by a private accrediting agency and is
    undertaken by all mainstream colleges and universities in the United

    Pacific Western was denied a renewal of its California state approval
    in 1994 -- the year Okosun finished his degree. The school sued and,
    under a settlement, had its state license renewed in 1996, though it
    still wasn't accredited by the Western Association of Schools and
    Colleges, the main accrediting body in the western United States.

    Shortly after the GAO report, Pacific Western was sold, its name
    changed, and new staff hired.

    Okosun said that, at the time he obtained the doctoral degree from
    Pacific Western, he didn't know it wasn't legitimate. Okosun said he
    disowned the degree around 1998.

    "I started discovering folks had issues," said Okosun, a native of
    Nigeria whose salary at Northeastern Illinois is $52,500 a year. "I
    said, 'Hell with this.' ... Those of us who come in as immigrants, we
    didn't understand the difference between 'state-approved' and
    'accredited.' "

    Okosun already had two master's degrees from the Catholic University of
    Leuven in Belgium when he moved to the United States. He was drawn to
    Pacific Western, he told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter, because it
    claimed "you can do your work through correspondence." He said he spent
    two years taking classes by mail and completing a thesis on violence at
    Cabrini-Green, where he'd been working for a nonprofit.

    A two-year time frame to earn a Ph.D. is far less than what's typically
    required for a doctorate.

    Okosun declined to provide a copy of his transcript or of his thesis.

    He said he still felt obligated to list the degree on his resume, which
    he submitted to Northeastern, because "when you put out a portfolio,
    it's your ethical responsibility to say where you have been."

    He said university officials knew it wasn't legitimate because he told
    them. "I said, 'Look, this is an unaccredited institution,' " Okosun
    said. "That was clear.''

    But the resume he initially submitted when he applied for a job as an
    academic-support professional at the Chicago school in 1996 makes no
    mention of Pacific Western's unaccredited status. When Frank offered
    Okosun the tenure-track job in justice studies in 2003, the provost
    referred to him as "Dr. Okosun.''

    The school president also referred to him as "Dr. Okosun'' in documents
    requesting approval of his final tenure application at a board meeting
    last year.

    The Ph.D. is listed on his current resume, provided by the university
    -- with no explanation.

    "That could mislead people," said George Gollin, a University of
    Illinois physics professor who has investigated diploma mills.

    The degree Okosun said he has disowned also is cited in several other

    • It's listed in a 2006 article that appeared in the International
    Research Journal of Arts & Humanities. Okosun is on that journal's
    editorial board.

    • A more recent article about him on the Web site of Nova Southeastern
    University in Davie, Fla. -- where he is now pursuing an online Ph.D.
    -- also mentions his first doctorate.

    • The discredited degree also is listed multiple times after Okosun's
    name in Northeastern Illinois' 2009-2010 course catalog. "To be
    perfectly honest, when that was first put in, we didn't realize that
    was not an accredited institution," Frank said of the catalog. Okosun
    has since asked that the reference be removed, Frank said.

    Northeastern justice studies department head Cris Toffolo -- who wasn't
    involved in Okosun's hiring or promotion -- lauded his teaching.

    "Students sitting in his class are absorbing theoretical thought
    patterns in a way that I'd never seen any other teacher do," she said,
    describing student reviews of his teaching as "very, very good.'' The
    school declined to release the evaluations.

    The other candidates for the justice studies job that Okosun won either
    had a doctorate or were finishing that degree at the time they applied,
    sources said.
  2. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    When quoting a story it is ethical include the source (I hope you don't mind me pointing this out).

    This is basically the same story:
    'Diploma-mill' Ph.D.? No problem at Northeastern Illinois :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: The Watchdogs

    I got a kick out of some of the responses such as this one:
    A degree is a degree.
    Since when has society gotten so picky that you have to earn a CERTAIN degree status from selected universities or colleges.
    There are many educational institutions that are now defunct; does this make the student that earned a degree null and void?
    How stupid!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2010
  3. Hortonka

    Hortonka New Member


    I actually had the source and but failed to included it with my posting . My error. Thanks for the correction.
  4. ITJD

    ITJD Active Member

    Yeah but there are obviously some idiots on the other side of the equation in the comments area calling Nova a mill too. Comments sections are wonderful.

  5. BadgerBadger

    BadgerBadger New Member

    Hey, Fraud in Illinois is .... Par for the Course! He's a Perfect Fit!


    This man went by "Dr." as recently as 2009, refuses to produce the dissertation he claims he wrote for this diploma mill, and the University still portrays him as a Ph.D. in its own literature. Although he claims he "disowned" the Ph.D. in 1998, the university states it did not know that the Ph.D. was unaccredited in 2003. In other words, HE COMMITTED FRAUD!!!!!!!

    So he's the perfect man to teach criminal justice in Illinois! They could not have found a more perfect candidate from the multitude of regionally accredited schools that turn out Ph.D.s each year. After all, in a state where they emptied death row in large part due to the frequent conviction of the innocent, where the Chicago police have had issues with TORTURE, and where governors seem to routinely go to prison, I guess mere fraud in applying for a tenure track position is pretty minor! Indeed, who better to shape the next generation of criminal justice professionals in Illinois than a man who can pull off fraud?

  6. wthagen

    wthagen New Member

    I would venture to guess the majority perhaps an overwhelming majority of faculty at traditional schools would not make a distinction between Nova and a degree mill. Or rather more accurately the distinction at the doctoral level is not an important one. The knock on Nova and others is that their degrees, especially the advanced ones are too easy to get compared with those from traditional schools.
  7. wthagen

    wthagen New Member

    Unfortunately all too often promotion decisions are made for political or administrative reasons and not purely academic ones. My guess is the promotion decision was made by administrators and not fellow faculty. On occasion I have seen the thoroughly unqualified promoted and the highly qualified denied for administrative reasons.
  8. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Plagiarism is very serious academic charge. Hence, be sure to cite and list all references used in the development of your posts... Moreover, direct quotations require a page number for printed sources and a paragraph number for online sources.
  9. 03310151

    03310151 New Member

    You got that part right :rolleyes:
  10. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

  11. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    This story is interesting to me, since I worked for Northeastern for four years and know the parties involved. The unaccredited nature of T.Y.'s degree was well known. when I asked about it as a new mid-level administrator, I was told that it had been "an issue" during his reviews for retention and promotion. So Dr. Frank's statements need to be taken with a large grain of salt.

    T.Y. is an extremely popular teacher who consistently tops student evaluations. He has published several books and journal articles. His publication record is more extensive than the average tenured faculty at Northeastern. It is possible that T.Y.'s race also may have played a factor in people looking the other way, with regard to his degree. Personally, I found him to be a very agreeable person, though I do not approve of diploma mill degrees and have written articles against them.

    Although I was told that T.Y. was hired (and paid) based on his masters degree (other faculty in the sociology/justice studies/social work had the masters as their highest degree), I was always puzzled that the university continued to list his Pacific Western PhD in the catalog. By the way, his field is "justice studies" (i.e. social justice), not "criminal justice". A liberal institution like Northeastern would not really be interested in producing police officers.
  12. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    A perfectly good example of the use of unaccredited doctorates, being a professor and researcher outside the current orthodoxy... However, the University should / could state that his doctorate is unaccredited; there is certainly nothing wrong with stating that he achieved a non-standard degree that has relevance to his professorship.
  13. salami89

    salami89 New Member

    With the credit crunch, some accredited institutions may be tempted to take on some characteristics of diploma mills especially if they have debts to pay and loans to service. There will be a convergence of bona fide cash strapped institutions with diploma mills that mint out certificates. Face it at the end of the day it is the bottom line that counts and places food on the table.
  14. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Agreed. However, it was basically considered "none of my business" when I was there and I, since I liked T.Y. I just waited for the "ticking time bomb" to go off. Frankly, I'm surprised that it took so long. I do not know who alerted the media (someone who was ticked off at T.Y. or someone who was ticked off at Northeastern). I, for one, liked my four years in Chicago at Northeastern, but was given an offer from Kentucky that I could not refuse :)
  15. orloporter

    orloporter New Member

    I also used to teach at NEIU and overlapped with Okosun. His fraudulent degree was common knowledge and Frank is just not telling the truth. But I must respond to my former NEIU colleague. You say Okosun is better published than most NEIU faculty. Are you aware that the seven books he lists on his C.V. are all self-published from vanity presses? None went through peer review; he paid ot have them published. They are no different than his fake Ph.D. If you do a worldcat search of library holdings you learn than none of his books is owned by more than seven libraries world wide. A university press book is purchased, almost always, at minimum, by about 300 libraries.
  16. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Good point. I should have looked more closely at the books themselves, as you did. I agree with your assessment of Larry Frank--T.Y.'s degree status was definitely known during the time I was there (2004-08).

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