Degree scandals

Ohio State revokes Arizona professor's Ph.D., questioning her findings on video games

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U of Arizona professor's Ph.D. is revoked after her findings on violent video games are questioned. Some wonder if her mentor and co-author is also to blame.

Scholars consider appropriate background to teach women's studies

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Disgraced professor renews the discussion over whether those leading the field should have degrees in it.

North Dakota and New York stories raise questions about ensuring international quality

Stories about colleges in New York and North Dakota highlight the lack of independent authority overseeing the quality of universities’ efforts abroad.

Costs of UNC Athletics Scandal Near $18M

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has accrued nearly $18 million in legal costs stemming from the decades-long scandal involving fake classes that appeared to benefit athletes disproportionately, The News & Observer reported.

The $17.6 million spent to date has gone toward an NCAA investigation, lawsuits filed by former athletes against the university, several law firms representing the institution, public relations costs to manage the scandal and the review, redaction and release of public records to news organizations. UNC has produced at least 1.7 million records related to the investigation.

UNC will not be paying off those legal costs with tuition dollars or state funds, officials told The News & Observer, and it’s very likely the university will be billed for additional legal fees in the coming months, as some of the lawsuits are ongoing.

The scandal in question spanned about 18 years and involved over 3,000 students -- half of them athletes. Some UNC employees were pushing students to take “paper classes” that were not taught by university faculty members and did not meet in person. In these courses, students received high marks on the single required assignment regardless of accuracy or quality.

It is widely considered one of the most far-reaching cases of academic fraud in higher education history.

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The facts about guns and other social issues must be embraced (essay)

It’s 2 a.m. on Friday, and I awaken and slowly consider the topic that I will teach in my class on earth science later today: global warming.

It is irrational to think there is a high probability that a licensed handgun owner will attend my class, have different perspectives than what I teach, become vitriolic, and pull out a gun and shoot me -- or worse, my students. Intellectually, I know that is unlikely. Reason, unfortunately, is not the same thing as emotion. Emotionally, I feel vulnerable standing in front of 120 students. I will be the focal point of their attention, and deep inside I am terrified.

I am frightened because I see a correlation between those who have decided there should be guns on campuses and those who deny anthropogenic global warming is occurring, despite clear scientific evidence that it is. The correlation is that, in both cases, many people are refusing to accept the facts. The fear is real because lives are being taken.

This week, I watched a video of a televised hearing on Capitol Hill in which Senator Ted Cruz questioned Aaron Mair, the president of the Sierra Club, about the veracity of warming trends. In that video, not only does the senator avoid referring to actual data sources, he frequently uses the terms “satellite data,” “facts” and “debate” to gain authority over the situation. Watching it, I suddenly realized that he had no need to cite sources and was not interested in a burden of proof. Rather, he was interested in winning because (like significant percent of the members of Congress) he is a lawyer. In the courtroom there are rules, and prosecuting attorneys do all that they can to win. At 2:20 a.m. on the morning of my class, I wonder how I should deal with any students who watched the interchange.

By 2:30 a.m., I have found a Washington Post article providing many of the particulars of what Senator Cruz omitted: direct NASA meteorological and sea surface temperature data that clearly show global warming over the same period that Cruz dismissed using (unsourced) “satellite data.”

At 3 a.m., I am integrating this new information into my lecture later that morning, but I am even more worried because I feel passionate (and that is risky). I want to argue my case, but I am afraid because just last week an angry student shot 18 students at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, nine of whom died. I arrive at work at 7:30 a.m., check my facts on NASA data online, and find from Yahoo.com that there has been another campus shooting overnight at Northern Arizona University. And, a few hours later, I receive reports of yet another one in my own state, near Texas Southern University.

So, there it is. Today, I will be the focal point of an earth science class, talking about a controversial topic that correlates politically with the issue of guns in the classroom. Most of the students began the semester with little to no interest in becoming scientists. And being mainly from Texas, a high proportion of these students are likely to disagree with my perspectives on science, education, society, economics and politics. A panicked sleep-deprived concern is that any one of 120 could be angry, might disagree with me and might have a gun. Although this is an irrational fear, campus shootings are committed by irrational, disenfranchised individuals.

It may appear that I have only two choices as to how to handle my fear. One would be to deny it and to teach my perspective on global warming with frustration and passion. Yet this strategy is actually riskier than being shot; people might listen to it because of my passion rather than because of data, logic and reason. That is, I might “convince them” that I am right and climate deniers are wrong, but that would be a tragedy because I, too, would become like a prosecution attorney concerned solely with winning. Second, I could avoid presenting my perspective, which I hold to be scientifically valid. That, however, would shortchange the students who are taking an earth science class.

So instead, I settle on a third option. I will present them with data that provide evidence for anthropogenic global warming and review the greenhouse effect as an important mechanism driving the warming trend. That represents the 97 percent scientific consensus that climate deniers won’t acknowledge. Then, I will share with them the basic contents of this essay. That is, I will lay out the ways in which I am feeling compromised in the classroom as a scientist. I will become an untrained lawyer for the defense, and then I will let them decide for themselves.

I find that this is the only option because politics in the United States has become a series of prosecutions that never rest. The playing field is somewhat unfair for scientists because we do not believe that the environment represents a “special interest”; rather, we consider it a common good. In addition, the prosecution is not taking place in a courtroom with established procedures and rules. Climate deniers do not have to rest their case; there is no summation of their argument. Should their arguments be exposed as invalid, they are free to change course and attack from another angle. It’s relentless.

I cannot be overly passionate in classroom because that too is unfair to students. The only way through this is deliberate, careful logic and shared compassion for the world. Anything else is a compromise that empowers anthropogenic global warming denial. And, with that, I must rest my case.

Steve Wolverton is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of North Texas. He is the co-editor, with David Taylor, of Sushi in Cortez: Interdisciplinary Essays on Mesa Verde, published this year by the University of Utah Press.

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Not Quite a Dr.

Two top officials of community college are found to have doctorates from unaccredited institutions, raising questions about why nobody noticed their credentials before, and why no rules appear to be broken.

A Numbers Game?

Edison State awarded degrees to students who didn't complete requirements, raising concerns that pressure to raise graduation rates could produce such incidents.

How 2 Scandals Might Have Been Prevented

Furor at West Virginia U. over inappropriately awarded degree, and possibility of such a situation at VCU, may point to what happens if registrars don’t have clout.

VCU Allows Improperly Awarded Degree

Error was university's, not ex-police chief's, so he gets to keep it. Some campus officials charged with not cooperating in probe.

Another Inappropriately Awarded Degree

First there was West Virginia. Then Virginia Commonwealth. Now Carnegie Mellon -- where apparent fudging of rules leads to a dean's immediate resignation.

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