Thursday, May 13, 2010

Professors and purchased titles

There seems to be quite a flurry of articles about professors who at some time purchased a title. Here are two that I still have around:
  • The Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave Newbart writes: "A professor granted tenure by Northeastern Illinois University got his  doctorate from a school the federal government later labeled a 'diploma mill', but the state university says it granted him the lifetime job security under a rule that allows 'exceptional' teachers to be hired without a doctorate."

    He appears to be a good teacher, so why not just get rid of the doctorate pre-requisite for university teachers? Or just get rid of titles, period?

  • The southern Sweden daily newspaper Sydsvenskan is reporting that professors applying for research grants have peppered their CVs with fascinating prizes they supposedly won: 
    • "International Scientist of The Year"
    • "International Professional of The Year"
    • "2000 Most outstanding Intellectuals of the Year"
    • "International Book of Honour"
    • "World Wide Honours List Award"  for "outstanding contribution to linguistic and cognitive sciences 2004"

    All of these titles are apparently available for purchase. One of the professors involved is the vice rector of the University of Lund. "Oh dear," he remarked, "did I forget to remove that from my CV?"  The question remains, however, as to how it found its way into the CV to start with. Apparently, he didn't realize as a young researcher that you don't have to pay for real awards that you get.

The latter type of "award" is one of the so-called "vanity scams" that appeal to people wanting to be recognized as someone important. Who's Who scams seem to have been one of the earliest of these scams, but they are proliferating. Pay your fee for your copy of the handbook, which was probably printed on demand with just enough copies for the people who payed up.

Note: In Sweden, every official paper must be open to public scrutiny (except for a few things of national security importance). Swedish citizens can ask to see the mail of the minister president, and the press use this power frequently to dig out nasty bits. So if there people put stuff like this on a CV in a situation where it is possible for the press to get a copy of it, how many more of these fake titles are on CVs in places where we can't see them? Our school just removed someone from a shortlist when it was discovered that their doctorate was from a diploma mill. No questions asked, just removed. But the question is: how many don't we find?

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