A University of Pennsylvania student affairs administrator loses his job over false claim he had a Ph.D.

February 4, 2016

An administrator working for the University of Pennsylvania’s Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life lost his job in January after a student-run blog cast doubt on his academic credentials.

Onward State, a blog run by Pennsylvania State University students, published and then retracted a post about a talk at Penn State on being gay and black in Greek life by Kenny Jones, who was at the time associate director for community development at Penn. According to the retraction, Jones contacted Onward State and asked the blog to remove from the article references to his Ph.D. and affiliation with the historically black fraternity Phi Beta Sigma.

“Because the misrepresentations are so vast as to render the entire presentation questionable, and because Jones accused the fraternity of hazing, we are retracting the article in full,” the retraction reads, in part. It also cites an anonymous source claiming Jones never received a Ph.D. from Morgan State University, and an email from the administrator of member records for Phi Beta Sigma, who said there was no record of Jones ever being a candidate for the fraternity.

“When presented with these inconsistencies,” the retraction continues, “Jones admitted that he never received his Ph.D. He still claimed to be a member of the fraternity -- ‘just not through that chapter’ -- and claimed he joined the fraternity after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Jackson State. This contradicts Jones’s speech yesterday, which centered around his fraternity experience as an undergraduate at Jackson State.”

A statement from Penn’s Division of the Vice Provost for University Life sent via email to Inside Higher Ed reads, in full: “As of Jan. 21, 2016, Kenny Jones was no longer employed by the University of Pennsylvania. The human resources vetting process, including a background check, was done at the time of hire. The individual in question began using the Ph.D. credential after he was hired.”

Jones was enrolled for a time in a doctoral program at Morgan State, but he did not complete the program, according to a Morgan State spokesman. "He was not awarded a Ph.D.," the spokesman said, "[because] he had not completed all the requirements for graduation." He was enrolled from 2011 to 2015, working toward a Ph.D. in higher education.

He passed his proposal and dissertation defense, said Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Minority-Serving Institutions and an outside faculty member on his dissertation committee at Morgan State. "He did an excellent job presenting the research during his defense and appeared to be doing very well," she said. " I do think Penn acted appropriately in terminating him when they learned that he did not have a Ph.D. but had represented himself as such. Fabricating a degree is a serious action."

The executive director of Phi Beta Sigma declined to comment for this story. Jones himself did not return a request for comment.

Jones's staff biography has since been removed from the university’s website, though several references to "Dr. Kenny Jones," like this 2015 organizational chart for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, are still floating around.

Elsewhere on the Internet, Jones’s Twitter account and personal website have also disappeared, but bios and references to his academic background on other websites can still be found. This one, for example, describes Jones as “a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. for over 10 years,” where he served in a number of roles.


Back to Top