Navy résumé doesn't quite hold water

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by originalbigjim, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. Questionable degrees raise doubts on vetting

    By Russell Working | Chicago Tribune reporter
    October 1, 2008

    When Vice Adm. Donald Arthur retired as Navy surgeon general, Adm. Mike Mullen—now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—paid tribute to a "Renaissance man."

    "His résumé says a lot," Mullen said. "BA, MA, JD, PhD and of course MD. He's got more degrees than a thermometer."

    It was a stirring testimonial, but not entirely accurate. While Arthur's bachelor's and MD were legitimate, he has no master's. The PhD came from a university whose accreditation the federal government doesn't recognize. And the JD, or law degree, was granted by a diploma mill that collapsed after its president was imprisoned for fraud.

    Nearly two years before Mullen's rousing send-off, an author specializing in military research told his office that Arthur had claimed questionable academic credentials.

    Yet Mullen still made those degrees a centerpiece of his retirement ode to Arthur last year. And those degrees were either entered into Arthur's record or listed in résumés submitted to the U.S. Senate for his promotion up the ranks of admiral and ultimately to surgeon general of the Navy, records show.

    Arthur says he was guilty only of being ill-informed about unaccredited institutions—and that a Navy investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.

    But his history raises questions about how well Pentagon brass and the Senate vet applicants to top military positions as the federal government investigates cases of academic fraud.

    Arthur, who left the Navy and became a hospital executive in Pennsylvania, defended his qualifications to be the service's top doctor. "The only thing I was hired to be surgeon general for was my MD," he said.

    His PhD and JD have since been removed from his official biography but remain in his service record.

    An unaccredited JD and PhD would not be as central to a doctor's promotion as an MD, said retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000. But Hutson said the law degree and doctorate would have been factors in Arthur's advancement—particularly in an area like health-care management, the focus of his PhD.

    "He may or may not be promoted without it," Hutson said. "But one, he had it in his record, and two, there's a pretty good argument that he knew or should have known that people would rely on it, not knowing that they were unaccredited degrees."

    Unaccredited institutions range from those whose officials have been prosecuted, like LaSalle University in Mandeville, La., to those like American Century University (formerly Century University) that operate legally but claim accreditation from organizations the U.S. government doesn't recognize.

    Within a 14-month period in 1992-93, Arthur obtained a PhD in health-care management from what is now American Century University in New Mexico and a JD from LaSalle University, according to his Navy record.

    American Century's dean of instruction, Antonin Smrcka, said students work hard for degrees, adding that the institution had Arthur's doctoral thesis on file before it was destroyed as part of a regular records purge.

    But he added: "The U.S. Army or U.S. Navy or U.S. Air Force does not recognize the degree from Century University. … As a rule, we inform the potential student to speak to his employer [to find out] if his employer would accept the degree."

    LaSalle University is not to be confused with venerable La Salle University in Philadelphia. The LaSalle in Louisiana collapsed after its founder pleaded guilty in 1996 to conspiracy to commit tax evasion and other offenses in a scheme that included the selling of degrees.

    In interviews, Arthur acknowledged that in the early 1990s he took "some courses from two places that are unaccredited." He said LaSalle had given him papers indicating the school had been accredited. "I could say I was naive, but I was 40 years old. And I didn't understand completely what was going on."

    As for the master's, which first appeared in his bio for his 1978 medical school yearbook, Arthur said, "I was in a master's program, but I did not graduate. I do not have a master's degree."

    Arthur has come under criticism from a number of retired Navy officers, including Dr. Benjamin Newman, a veteran of the Navy medical corps who retired this year.

    Newman noted that the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, which Arthur oversaw as surgeon general, scrutinizes a doctor's record every time he is assigned to practice medicine at a new duty station.

    Arthur's "credentials should have been picked up by someone to show that they're not legitimate," said Newman, who has viewed Arthur's records.

    In November 2005, B.G. Burkett, an Army Vietnam veteran who has made a career of exposing military fraud, urged Mullen to investigate Arthur, according to letters provided by Burkett.

    Arthur said he was stunned by Burkett's allegations at the time and welcomed an investigation by the Navy inspector general. Arthur said the investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing, but he declined to give the Tribune a copy of the report.

    The inspector general's office declined to confirm that any investigation occurred, citing confidentiality.

    Asked how unaccredited degrees ended up in Arthur's record, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis said, "I have not seen the record. … Navy policy and the Navy practice is that we don't introduce degrees that are not from accredited institutions."

    Tribune researcher Lelia Boyd Arnheim contributed.,0,6089647.story
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  3. mcjon77

    mcjon77 Member

    I'm not surprised by this. I know someone that got a PhD from LaSalle back in the day. The university that she worked at refused to acknowledge it (her teaching position only required a Masters), but the Army Reserve did (and IIRC, still does) recognize it.

    I suspect that back when that degree got put in her file, the checks for unaccredited programs weren't as through as they are today. As for why it is (possibly) still in her file, my bet is that it has been their so long that nobody has thought to recheck it.

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