VCU Releases Details on Improper Degree

37 exceptions to rules were made to graduate Richmond's then chief of police without his having completed requirements.
September 8, 2008

Virginia Commonwealth University on Friday released its most detailed accounting yet of how the former chief of police in Richmond received a degree without meeting requirements -- and the report suggests many more rules were broken than has been clear to date.

The university gave reporters copies of the report it turned over to its accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, about the incident. Previous accounts have focused on how Rodney Monroe, the former police chief, violated a requirement that students earn at least 30 credits at at the university to be eligible for a bachelor's degree. Monroe earned only 6 credits at VCU and all the rest of the credits required for the degree (120) came from other institutions, many of them from the University of Phoenix Online.

While that may have been the most prominent rule violation, it was far from being the only one, the VCU report says. Of 28 requirements for Monroe's degree, his academic record "appeared to justify only 15." And in terms of overall documentation and process requirements for a bachelor's degree, the university has now documented 37 exceptions that were made for Monroe. "These exceptions occurred at every major juncture in this student's VCU experience: university admissions," including admission to the university and his program, courses, and graduation requirements.

Further, the violations weren't just a matter of exceptions to rules being granted through inappropriate procedures. The exceptions were apparently granted without Monroe even having to file paperwork. For instance, on the 30-credit requirement (which is common for bachelor's programs and is in no way unique to VCU), Monroe never submitted a request for an exemption, nor was one granted by the committee that had the authority to do so. Since 2003, the only other case of a degree being granted without 30 credit hours having been completed was for a student who died.

The report notes that several high-ranking officials have since left their positions at VCU, criticizes the way some people responded to inquiries about the incident, and pledges that reforms will be put in place to prevent a similar problem in the future. A theme of the report is that no one individual is responsible for what happened. "[T]he nature, number and magnitude of the exceptions to approved practice could not have occurred unless this student had been afforded preferential treatment at the admissions, curriculum, and graduation stages of the student experience," the report says. "Moreover, for this student to have been awarded the ... degree from VCU, it was necessary for more than one employee to overlook or disregard institutional policies and procedures that were known, or should have been known, but the responsible faculty and staff."

Since the scandal broke -- with anonymous tips to VCU board members and to SACS, its accreditor, in May -- VCU has noted that its policies do not allow for the degree to be revoked unless the person who received the degree directly engaged in academic fraud. While the report notes that the university is considering a number of revisions to its rules, including those on revoking degrees, it restates that argument to explain why the degree stands.

Monroe has since become chief of police in Charlotte, N.C. His biography on the police force's Web site says that he "earned a bachelor's degree" from VCU.


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