When RA Universities become Diploma Mills

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Morgan Khanstein, May 3, 2005.

  1. Morgan Khanstein

    Morgan Khanstein New Member

    It’s that time of year again. All across the country parents will soon fill the pews of auditoriums, orchestras will play, and students of all ages will await the coveted degrees they have so earned. At a certain key moment, when the music reaches a particular note, professors, costumed in flowing robes, and with the pomp, ceremony and gallantry of a medieval pageant, will slowly and ceremoniously march towards the stage. The audience will rise to their feet as the procession moves forward, with each distinguished professor, led by specially clad marshals, takes his or her position of honor and respect upon the stage. The president of the university will slowly and purposefully proceed to the podium. With all the gravity of an honored tradition stretching back a thousand years, and with the full weight of the state behind him or her, the president of the university or college will begin by introducing this year’s honored speaker, a man or woman whose accomplishments have earned him or her the right to be bestowed the title of honorary doctor.

    At most – if not all - of our prestigious RA institutions of higher education the honorary degree will be conferred on individuals of “notable achievement in any academic field, the arts and letters, the professions, or public service.” These men and women of honor will provide the keynote address to the graduating class and their families as they go out into the world to make a difference, define the issues, and solve the world’s problems. Because of their rightful contributions to society, these so honored individuals will henceforth be entitled to be addressed as Dr.

    Who can fail to applaud America’s universities in recognizing the achievements of men and women outside of academe to society and the betterment of our lives and this planet?

    Let us salute the those great RA institutions that have had the foresight and courage to honor individuals outside of the proverbial “ivory tower.” Let us join together and recognize both the RA institutions but also those who now deserve the title of “doctor.”

    Wherever you are right now, please join me in a standing ovation for:

    William and Mary recently in honoring “Dr.” Jon Stewart (http://www.wm.edu/news/index.php?id=3650);

    Grand Canyon University for honoring Alice Cooper; (http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-05-04-alice-cooper_x.htm?POE=LIFISVA);

    Pepperdine University for honoring Tom Selleck;

    Central Ohio State University for honoring Mike Tyson with a Doctorate in Humane Letters;

    The The Long Island University - Southampton College for honoring Billy Joel with a doctorate;

    The Houston Graduate School of Theology for bestowing its highest honor on George Foreman;

    The University of Alabama at Birmingham for honoring Stevie Wonder with a doctorate; and

    The University of Wisconsin Superior for recognizing then actor and future governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Drs. Stewart, Cooper, Selleck, Tyson, Joel, Foremean, Wonder and Schwarzenegger: thank you for all that you have done.

    BTW: who won’t you see honored this year?

    How dare those of you here (you “shills” and "supporters of academic fraud") who would dare suggest that your local teachers, school administrators, tool and die makers, machinists, architects, police, firefighters, government administrators and artists have the opportunity to receive either an affordable earned or an honorary doctorate!

    And what if these "lowly undeserving” men and women should turn to those less reputable schools (e.g. Pacific Western University and Kennedy-Western University)– places that couldn’t hope to attract the likes of the honorable Drs. Tyson or Cooper - for an earned degree? Then they deserve to be marginalized, penalized, driven from their places of employment (and if they are an Oregonian - fined)!

    And should they turn to even less reputable institutions (such as University of Berkley, Robertstown University, The Yorker International University, or Breyer State University) for honors, then they deserve every bit of scorn and condemnation that degreeinfophiles can hope to bestow.
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Yep, can't argue with the idea that handing out honorary degrees is shameless promotion that also serves to undermine legitimate education.

    However, it is not a practice exclusive to RA schools. In fact, it is a central activity of diploma mills.

    John Bear writes a great section in his book on honorary degrees. In it he cites four general reasons why schools do it. None of these excuses it, but the section helps us understand why it happens.

    I could do without it.
  3. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Schwarzenegger received an earned Bachelor of Arts from UW Superior. He was a DL student in fact, and is one of the world's most prominent DL graduates. I think that's great.

    As for the custom of awarding honorary degrees on celebrities, I don't like it.

    But I don't think that meaningless honorary degrees justify meaningless earned degrees. They certainly don't imply that people (whether here on Degreeinfo or anywhere else) should simply embrace every purported "degree" that's presented to them.

    But if we don't just accept all degrees uncritically, then we need to have some convincing reason for believing that particular degrees actually mean something. Successfully navigating the accreditation process is the most widely recognized of those reasons. If the expected forms of verification are absent, then the burden of proof is on the people presenting the mystery degrees to convince other people however they can. There's no obligation or expectation that the community simply believe, sola fides.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2005
  4. RobbCD

    RobbCD New Member

    If degree and diploma mills only handed out honorary degrees, I'd have no problem with it. But that's the thing, the mills are handing out degree's that people are trying to pass off as legitimate. You can't do much with an honorary degree, since it's honorary and all. But you can fool people with a fake degree from KWU and PWU, fool them into thinking you have earned an actual (rather than honorary) academic credential.
  5. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    To this list we can add many other illustrious scholars, such as:

    Dr. Tony Danza (University of Dubuque)
    Dr. Tim McGraw (University of Louisiana-Monroe)
    Dr. Bob Dylan (Princeton)

    I have a difficult time taking seriously anything that would have "Mike Tyson" and "humane" in the same sentence.

    The Berklee College of Music has awarded a myriad of honorary doctorates to famous musicians. I don't really have a problem with that. Someone like Stevie Wonder could probably provide better information to budding musicians than most music professors.

    At last count Dr. Bill Cosby (who holds an earned doctorate from University of Massachusetts) has collected well over 100 honorary doctorates. I don't think that I have too much of a problem with that either. He is a far better commencement speaker than most :)

    Tony Piña
    Administrator, Northeastern Illinois University
  6. Morgan Khanstein

    Morgan Khanstein New Member

    Re: Re: When RA Universities become Diploma Mills

    The term "meaning" and "meaningless" are interesting concepts. Who determines if a degree, honorary or earned, has meaning or is meaningless? How is "meaning" constructed? I would suggest anyone of the following three: (a) the bestower; (b) the receiver; and (c) a third party (family, employer, friend, general public, etc.). Meaning, then, is something constructed by subject or object - and doesn't have to be universally agreed upon.

    If RA honorary degrees are "meaningless," why bestow (or receive) them? My observation is that IHE's take the ceremony rather seriously. (A photo of Mark Twain receving his honorary degree shows him looking rather happy). Moreover, honorary degrees can be used to maintain an appointment of a professor who does not have academic qualifications.

    Likewise, if any of the aforementioned three at a UA school gives meaning to a degree, doesn't it follow that the degree has meaning?

    On a slightly other note: if all honorary degrees are meaningless, and the story of how Harvard initiated its doctoral degree programs is true (as told by Dr. Bear), than aren't all degrees in the USA "meaningless"?

    Does the community ever have the obligation to simply believe? (How is it different for RA schools - other than that it is widely accepted?) Doesn't each person presenting a degree (outside of an honorific context) have some obligation to demonstrate that they have in fact mastered a certain set of skills, etc.? Don't we all have to "prove" ourselves each time we take the degree off the wall, RA or not, and engage in some activity where performance can be measured, compared and evaluated?

    Or, does having the paper remove all responsibility from the holder of a degree?


    Morgan Khanstein, Esq.

    (Oh, the burden of being an Esquire!)
  7. RobbCD

    RobbCD New Member

    You're still selling, I still ain't buying

    Nope. Accredited degrees have value and meaning in and of themselves and this value is bolstered by the accepted set of minimum standards that accreditation represents.

    Unaccredited degrees have value and meaning only when the holder can fool somebody into thinking they come from a legitimate (read accredited) source.

    You can put silk on a goat, but it's still a goat.
  8. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Honorary vs. unaccredited degrees: same rules apply

    There are certain informal "rules" regarding the use of honorary degrees, as stated here.

    My attitudes towards both honorary degrees and unaccredited degrees are identical. Advertise them if you wish, but make it clear that they are honorary or unaccredited with the appropriate parenthetical qualifier. If you break this rule, then you should expect your honorary or unaccredited degree to become a source of ridicule, rather than respect.

    In practice, I don't think honorary degree holders represent much of an issue (despite the efforts here to make it one). First, legitimate honorary degrees are granted to relatively few people. Second, legitimate honorary degrees are typically granted to people who are already distinguished in their fields. Since they are already successful, they generally have no personal or professional need to advertise their honorary degrees in a misleading manner.

    Unaccredited degrees, on the other hand, are granted to large numbers of undistinguished people. And such people are quite likely to advertise their degrees in a misleading manner. So while both honorary and unaccredited degrees can be used fraudulently, unaccredited degrees are a vastly greater concern in the real world.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2005
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Re: You're still selling, I still ain't buying

    I wouldn't go that far.

    I think that unaccredited degrees can have meaning as long as everyone is clear about what the meaning is. That presupposes some familiarity with the school that granted the degree.

    Problems arise when that familiarity is absent and people just blindly assume that the unknown degree means the same thing as degrees from familiar schools.

    This is why I think that non-accredited degrees have most utility in niche applications. For example, a religious denomination might prefer to hire clergy who have graduated from the denomination's own non-accredited seminary.
  10. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Well, SOMETIMES the honorary doctorate is bestowed to reflect a distinguished career in academia. At least, this WAS the case, long ago and far away.

    My freshman English Comp. professor had an M.A. from the University of Chicago (earned in the late '30s...he took theology essay exams in LATIN as an undergrad). He was well published and well known, both among academics in the Pacific Northwest and also in the local community as a newspaper columnist.

    He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in the '60s, IIRC, and was ever after referred to by everyone except himself as "Doctor".

    His degree meant a lot to those of us who were priviledged to be his students.
  11. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    CalDog answers all your questions

    Because they are meaningful as social honors, even though they are meaningless as academic qualifications.

    UA degrees typically have great meaning to (a) the bestower and (b) the receiver. But the UA degree will not have value unless (c) third parties are convinced as well. For some reason, third parties seem to value independent, third-party evaluation of degree programs (e.g. accreditation), and so they tend to discredit UA degrees.

    No. Historical degree-granting practices from Harvard and other old institutions may not meet modern standards, but such practices are now obsolete, at least at RA schools. Modern earned degrees from RA schools meet meaningful standards, and are typically accepted as meaningful by third parties.

    Well, of course. A prestigious academic degree on your resume may help you to get a job. But your degree won't necessarily help you once you start working at that job. If you perform well, you may get promoted, regardless of your degree. If you perform badly, you may get fired, regardless of your degree. The degree only gets your foot in the door, the rest is up to you.

    Surprisingly enough, the answer can be yes. If you get a certain degree from a certain school, you are automatically set for life. You will be able to coast for the rest of your days, without ever worrying about your employment situation, your professional development, or your status in society. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the exact degree and school in question.

    If you didn't happen to pick that degree and school, then you will still have to bear some responsibility for yourself, even though you have a degree.
  12. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    If a person who held an honorary degree from an RA institution insisted that he/she be addressed as Dr. then I would insist on calling them an academic fraud.
  13. Oh, I like that school (RA) that gives credits for everything. I can get an accredited BA degree of that school in months.

    That is super. (A RA mill)
  14. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    What is the name of the school?
  15. I think that is one of those great and out of this world enormous one’s.

    By the way Uncle, you go on vacation or something, I do not saw you until now.
  16. Deb

    Deb New Member

    You didn't answer the question - which RA school are you referring to?

  17. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    Stop dodging the question.....to what RA school are you referring to when you say it's a mill?
  18. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    Neither on vacation nor out to lunch--just waiting for an answer.
  19. aic712

    aic712 Member

    It sounds like he is talking about one of the big three, I noticed that he mentioned uop, capella and itt sucks, ITT isn't even RA, so that has no relation to the initial title and purpose (if there is one) of this thread.

    I still love how people make this argument, yes it is possible (though rare) to earn a degree in 4-6 weeks from one of the big three, but it takes alot of work, and careful preparation of materials. It's not like st regis/monroe, almeda, and the like where you just cut them a check and maybe send them a resume/cv, or KWU where you turn in 4 papers and a resume and recieve a Bachelor's.

    So please, stop dodging the question and let us know which school you are talking about.
  20. Knockout,:eek:

    4 to 6 weeks to get a degree, which is faster than I think.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2005

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