Unearned degrees: A cautionary tale

August 23, 2013
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Education

By Dale Gough, AACRAO International Education Services

Lisa Johnson, Director of Articulation and Transfer from the North Dakota University System, served as Interim Registrar at Dickinson State University (ND) following revelations that hundreds of foreign students had received degrees from DSU without completing degree requirements.  In the wake of the discovery, a new president, Dr. D.C. Coston, was brought in to ‘right the ship,’ and he asked that Lisa look into what had happened and what could be done to correct the situation. Lisa shared her experiences with AACRAO Annual Meeting attendees at the International Plenary session, “The Perfect Storm: A Cautionary Tale.”

Seeking solutions, Johnson reached out to AACRAO International Education Services for assistance and worked with its Director, Dale Gough. As Johnson told the audience in San Francisco, “Dale said that Dickinson could ‘fish or cut bait.’” After a night’s reflection, Lisa understood that Dale meant that Dickinson could merely say that what was past was past, or they could pursue a more active solution to demonstrate that errors of the past would never occur again.

In seeking the more active path, Dickinson rescinded the degrees of 500 foreign students, but offered them the opportunity to return to DSU to earn their diplomas. Dickinson also terminated all contracts with Chinese recruiters, and discontinued special ‘International Student Programs.' Foreign students still enrolled at Dickinson had their credentials evaluated by AACRAO’s International Education Services.

The Plenary session began with a video prepared by Dickinson State University staff that highlighted what had happened, including the suicide of a much beloved dean. The ending frames of the video asked, "How did this happen?"┬"  As the lights came up following the video, there were few dry eyes in the audience.

One attendee said, "This was a powerful and touching presentation. The presenter was very passionate about the story.┬""

 Another added, "The fact that professionals at DSU and the North Dakota University System are so willing to talk openly about this goes a long way towards understanding and prevention."┬"

For more information, please contact Dale Gough in AACRAO International Education Services, goughd@aacrao.org.

 

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