Except when it is not.
It has come to light, as the Swiss daily paper Tages-Anzeiger noted on 9 August 2013, that the IT-boss at the University Hospital in Zürich has stepped down because of a missing 'e'. The University of California, Berkeley, is indeed one of the top universities in the US. But it did not grant a doctoral degree to Jürgen Müller. Müller had been working on his doctorate at the University of Passau in Germany when his financing ran out.
Müller then heard about the University of Berkley, and for only $ 3000 in fees he was soon the proud owner of a sheepskin declaring him to be a "Doctor of Science", according to the Tages-Anzeiger.
I am not linking to the site of this degree mill, but it is simple to find with Google. The web page is an eyesore that should light up a million warning lights that this is not a serious institution. Some sins?
- I can't decide if the amateur picture of the smiling, international graduates or the red, blinking button "Honorary degrees" is worst.
- Soon after the page loads it is clear that the self-starting video of the avatar "Kacy" who wants to sell me a degree is by far the most evil element of the page. Good luck finding the stop button quickly.
- A picture of Albert Einstein on a bicycle next to a quotation is balanced on the other side of the page by a "quotation" stating that one can earn 2 million more dollars in a lifetime with a college degree.
- The price list is on the first page. Only $ 3505, what a deal!
- There is a button for information about ordering a class ring (!) that leads to a page with generic class rings pictured and a non-working link to a company that will gladly sell you any ring you want.
- The motto appears to be "Earn a World Class, formal University Degree from one of the most recognized and approved institutions in existence... all in possibly as few as 6-8 weeks based upon what you already know!"
- There is no street address or even state given, just a telephone number and a web-based contact form.
- The domain is registered to one Dr. Dennis J. Globosky in Chicago, Illinois. The Los Angeles Times noted in 2005 that he is a former New Mexico state trouper who only has a high-school degree. The address listed is across the street from the DePaul University Loop Campus, there is no university listed at this address - and from the outside, nothing is visible.
- Down on the bottom of every page is a yellow band stating "The owners/operators of this site may not conduct business with residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, USA". The owner is a resident of Erie, PA, and he had settled out of court in a case brought by the state Attorney General's office, but did not keep up on paying his fines, so the Attorney General has assessed him penalties for contempt of court. But it looks like he is still in business.
The Tages-Anzeiger article ends with an interesting note. It seems that in March of 2013 a whistleblower tried to contact Müller's boss about his purchased degree. Müller, as IT boss, apparently had this person on a blacklist, so that emails from him did not bounce, but were just silently destroyed.
I suppose the University Hospital in Zürich is glad that he has resigned. The question is, where will he pop up again where people don't know the difference one letter can make?