Mainstream news sure is
a funny thing; questions don’t get asked, and you’re very lucky to get
even the facts. Despite being a typical mainstream news piece, the following
is well worth consideration:
Plea in Grade-Fixing at Baruch
The highlights are simple enough. A college
administrator was changing the grades of students, turning F students
into A- students (this goes a long way to explaining why A-
is now the median grade in college), allowing them to get those
all-important degrees. He would forge faculty signatures to
facilitate the grade changes.
I’ve mentioned before that going
to admin is the thing to do when failing (it’s good, albeit
corrupt, advice that could have come from Machiavelli himself, I
admit), but this is a little over the top.
The article makes it clear the administrator wasn’t
taking bribes to make the changes (one might conjecture the salary
these guys get is pretty much an “advance bribe” to make sure
students do well). The article does a poor, poor job asking the
question why he did it
He’d been at the institution well over a decade,
so it’s a safe bet that this sort of thing had been going on for
quite some time. The administrator has little to say in his own
“They did not like the way I was doing my job, and
we mutually agreed I should leave,”
His job, apparently, was to make sure students got
their degrees no matter what. He says there was no pressure from
above, but I find that claim preposterous. I’ve worked for over 20
years in higher education, and at most institutions the pressure from
above to pass students no matter what is, simply, relentless.
Incidentally, he wasn’t fired right away; he
stayed on the payroll long enough to cash in his sick and vacation
days. That’s amazing; even if not convicted of job-related
fraud, faculty lose that sort of stuff immediately when they’re
fired, and they’re fired immediately.
Letting him stay employed long enough to for that
shenanigans is a clear message that the administration of the school
approved his actions.
It is, of course, completely impossible for this
level of fraud to only have a single person involved; I suspect the
administrator’s unwillingness to implicate others or claim he was
pressured into committing fraud is merely assisting the cover-up,
with vacation and sick leave as a reward. His immediate supervisor
also left the school:
dean… quietly resigned to take a job as dean of the University of
Connecticut’s business school, starting in August.
In my research, it’s jaw-dropping how often an
administrator involved with fraud, even if fired, has no trouble
landing another plum position somewhere else. As I mentioned before,
the only other fields where fraud and incompetence doesn’t
disqualify you from future work in the same field are banking and
For his fraud, the administrator will get 6 months
in jail, and 5 years’ probation. I figure a better than 99% chance
that when he gets out, he’ll get another plum position in higher
education, since nobody will ask the questions that need to be asked
Me, at graduation: “ I have no idea who that person
is. Did you pass that student?”
Me: “Is there someone else besides you and me
teaching the courses it says she passed, to graduate?”
Faculty: “Nope, but I know better than to ask
--I grant my memory for faces and names is far from
perfect, but I really started to hate going to graduations at one
school, which was just too small for so many students to have slipped
through the cracks. Asking questions got me in some trouble there, I
Only 15 students were specifically mentioned in this
case (I repeat, this admin was there for over a decade, so I bet
there were quite a few more students involved). Despite the fraud,
none of the students will lose their degree. Lucky them, though I
honestly believe this sort of thing cheapens the value of the degrees
the legitimate students, if any, receive.
Let’s talk about the money involved here. The
article helpfully says that the program the students were in could
cost nearly $75,000 per student. Hmm. Times 15, that’s well past a
million bucks. Much like in banking, just a few forged signatures are
necessary to procure that kind of money.
But no, the administrator says he wasn’t paid
extra to help those (and other) students, and the article doesn’t
dare suggest that there was some financial benefit to the
administrator for passing those students.
Despite the fraud, the school remains fully
accredited. In fact, it will not even get a second look from
accreditation. Of course. Accreditation has no means to even discover
fraud like this, so can’t be expected to penalize a school engaging
in such fraud. This is why, time and again, I stress that the way to
at least start fixing higher education is to make
accreditation something besides a fraud and a joke.
I wish this case would set a real precedent in
higher education. Churning out worthless degrees for bogus and/or
non-existent coursework is actually quite common in higher education
today, and the administrators involved should probably be the ones
looking over their shoulder, instead of the minimally paid adjuncts
who are under constant pressure to pass everyone, lest they be fired
and have the grades changed by administration anyway.
man can dream, right?