“Tuition dollars should be spent on students, not boat checks for administrators,” Pennacchio said. “It is completely unfair and unjust to ask taxpayers and students to continue to subsidize this kind of reckless spending.”

Boat check? That’s a new one on UD. Looked it up and all, and found nothing. I think the writer must have meant blank check?

It’s from an article about how Rutgers University does things like give an administrator who lasted one year in his position “a $480,000 sabbatical” year. Rest and recovery after a job well done! Plus you promise not to tell everyone how filthy the school is, right? Cuz we gave you all that money?


UPDATE: UD thanks Brian, a reader, for explaining “boat check” to her.

The Great Garcby

Fabricating a fascinating heroic you is American as apple pie among all occupations, but this is University Diaries, so we follow in particular academics who make themselves out to be far, far more than they are.

Always overcoming appalling upbringings, ever duking it out on the world’s dirtiest battlefields, ceaselessly being summoned to the offices of the great for advice, these inspirational disrupters are pleased to deliver pep talks to the rest of us as we model our paltrier lives on theirs.

But – and you know UD has been saying this for years – you will only successfully forge a longterm career as a total fraud if you follow a few simple rules.

#1: Do not fly too high. The mistake Sergio Garcia, bigshot chief of staff and senior vp at SUNY Upstate Medical University, made was becoming bigshot chief of etc. The higher your profile, the more likely the local press is going to want to get to know you. Certainly Garcia’s bet that a university which hired David Smith as president would blindly hire a sociopathic liar was completely correct; he overlooked the local press, however.

#2: Choose a really cheesy school. As a product of the local culture of Albany politics, SUNY could hardly be called non-cheesy. It remains however a mildly respectable sort of location – the sort of school where, once the fraudulence of high-ranking administrators is revealed, someone on campus will actually care. Place yourself instead in a school (Southern University; Chicago State University; almost any university in Saudi Arabia) where no one cares.

#3: If you must join a non-cheesy school, make sure you are besties with the school’s president. James Ramsey protected generations of fellow scammers at the University of Louisville; and though this is hardly a guarantee of serious longevity for you (since presidents like Ramsey may themselves have rather short shelf-lives), it’s your only hope. Like the protagonist of Black Widow, you are going to have to find out what the president loves – handball, hockey, humpback whale watching, whoring – and do that thing with him so as to create an unbreakable bond.


UD thanks Eric.

‘I met Marsha during my stunt attendance in a Masters course at Teachers College, Columbia University. I say “stunt attendance” because I was withdrawn from the course for obsessive absences – I was vacationing in Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival Time.’

Annice Kpana thanks a bride for making her her bridesmaid, and in so doing explains her class attendance policy at Columbia.

Is this the same Annice Kpana who in 2010 filed for Porsche Cayenne-related bankruptcy?

Today Annice Kpana was arrested, along with a Columbia University financial aid director and two other women. She was part of a convoluted but rewarding scheme in which the financial aid director

funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the three students between 2013 and 2017, inflating their cost-of-attendance figures on forms in years where they weren’t enrolled in any courses so they could obtain large stipends. In turn, according to the complaint, they paid her back with kickbacks in tens of thousands of dollars — sometimes including “love” or “Thank you!” in the memo line of personal checks.

So… the story is starting to bounce around big time, because it’s Columbia, and because it went on for a long while (some sources say it lasted much longer than four years). And because… why did it take the school so long to catch on? How did it finally catch on? There’s plenty more to know. Columbia hasn’t issued a statement.


From the full complaint:

“[D]uring several of these years, KPANA was also receiving federal student aid in connection with her enrollment at unrelated institutions.”

Imposters. And How to Spot Them.

The funny thing is, it’s often very easy. You don’t really need my instructions on how to detect con men (it’s usually men), because most con men are right out there. Very, very obvious. Let us consider three of them who are currently in the news, starting with … let’s call him the mildest of the cons.

This man’s trickery is in the long and highly rewarded academic tradition of Julius Nyang’oro, Thomas Petee, and Leo Wilton — all of them professors who systematically, over years, provided fake courses and fake grades for athletes. For professors who don’t give a rat’s ass about actually educating anyone, ever, the rewards of this behavior are deep, profound, and monetary. Schools almost entirely devoted to their football and basketball teams – like the schools these men work and worked for – reserve their eagerest gratitude for professors willing to confer upon athletes the trappings of academic respectability. Administrators can’t do it; trustees can’t do it — only professors can put the A-/B+ on the record and keep players eligible.

The system works beautifully, except that occasionally mistakes of judgment are made, and some female pipsqueak hired to help with the grading (in all of the cases I’ve mentioned, except that of Petee, it was a woman) turns out actually to care about educating people. She’s appalled when she realizes she’s part of a con game, and she goes public with the scandal.

In the case of Florida State University’s athlete-positive professor, we’re talking about an online (has to be online – makes it much, much easier to cheat or indeed do absolutely nothing and ace a course) hospitality course called Beverage Management.

I’m not making this up. At FSU, we have entirely entered the world of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, where a local university offers a course called Eating and Drinking: Basic Parameters.

But don’t be too harsh. FSU started out with much more curricular gravitas for its players. For decades, a music theory professor there let hundreds of athletes cheat their way through his intro course. When that scheme was revealed and became a big ol’ national scandal, FSU had to hustle to find another online curricular home for people it didn’t give a rat’s ass about educating. It lowered itself all the way down to a person who heads one section of his 33 page cv Scholary Honors (some of his students have had it up to here with his spelling). (Oh. And there’s this.)

Where does FSU go now? When this latest cheating scandal is over, where can they go that’s even lower than online courses in Beverage Management?

Okay, so the two other con men the media’s paying attention to this week:

Like the FSU guy with his article-length cv trumpeting his amazing accomplishments (come to think of it, Professor Gun-Spree also has the self-presentation of an egomaniac), the children’s book author whose PEN nomination has been withdrawn on PEN discovering what actual Native American writers have been trying to tell the world for years – the writer is a con man – also displays a hilarious sense of his own greatness.

And let’s end with Paolo Macchiarini, shall we? Stem cell research of course is the hard-science con man’s Emerald City … And this guy, like the others, didn’t exactly hide his borderline-psychotic world of lies.


UD thanks Barney.

When the New York Times Visits Chicago State University.

UD doesn’t know who the NYT thinks it’s helping – or hurting? – by running this bizarre hard-luck story about the CSU women’s basketball team. Barely a team, losing every game, attracting no audience, representing a school that – through every fault of its own successive corrupt leaderships – has destroyed itself, this group of players deserves our sympathy. Indeed, it deserves our outrage. But ultimately it deserves to be put out of its misery, along with the virtually empty institution that fails even minimally to prop it up. Almost no one attends, or graduates, from CSU. This scandalous drop-out factory continues to cost the taxpayers of Illinois serious money, most of which goes to on-campus fraudsters and off-campus lawyers.

CSU (here are UD‘s posts over many years about the place) is a little corner of North Korea in America. It cannot afford to keep the heat on. It’s a desperate deadbeat. It will not talk to the press, and it chills the free speech of its professors. Crazy North Korea launches missiles; crazy CSU launches football teams and marching bands (yes – it has plans to spend its no-money on these).

But let’s suit up!

The announced crowd at Jones Convocation Center, a first-rate arena, was 230, but the atmosphere was expectant. Players and coaches on both teams and a number of fans wore pink to promote breast cancer awareness. Allen, the Cougars’ best player, had been cleared to return after the effects of a concussion subsided.

Look at the photos that accompany the article to understand how inflated that 230 figure is. Ask yourself why the writers of this piece are trying to excite us with the expectant atmosphere, the breast-cancer awareness, and that gutsy post-concussion return.

There’s nobody home. There’s only some well-meaning Manhattanite at her breakfast table, trying to make sense of this theater of the absurd.

The NYT should be ashamed of itself, playing CSU for a scrappy up-and-comer in order to help keep a failed, expensive, and deeply destructive institution alive.

Been There, Done That.

Melania [Trump] claimed for years that she had an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Ljubljana. But reporters have long known that she dropped out after her first year to model — no shame in that; some shame in lying though. Now her personal website has been totally scrubbed and just reverts to The Trump Organization’s website. In a tweet yesterday, Melania claimed the website was removed because “it does not accurately reflect my current business and professional interests.” Because fake architecture degrees are so last year.

What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

A German politician has resigned her seat in the Bundestag because she lied – extensively – on her cv.

German publications “Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” (WAZ) and the “Neue Ruhr Zeitung” (NRZ) reported late on Tuesday that contrary to what her CV said, [Petra] Hinz had never acquired a higher education entrance qualification nor completed university studies in law. The lawyer for the Essen politician also confirmed that Hinz had never taken any legal exams.

In a statement published on the politician’s website, the 54-year-old’s attorney said that “in retrospect, Ms Hinz is unable to discern which reasons … compelled her at the time to lay the foundations for further inaccurate claims about her legal education and activities with the false indication about her high-school diploma.”


UD thanks Chris.

And if he can pay enough people to…

vote for him…

“[I]f this turns out to be a hoax, it is going to turn the clock back on their thinking 30 years.”

I don’t think the now-notorious UVa gang rape story, as told to Rolling Stone magazine, is a hoax.

But, as I commented to one of my readers who thinks it might be, this blog has covered false rape claims before, and if this turns out to be one, it will certainly do that again.

And of course this blog will cover emergent skeptical takes on the Rolling Stone account. Like this one.

Jan Boxill: The ULTIMATE Academic Stakhanovite… Or is she?

She taught

160 independent study courses between spring 2004 and spring 2012…. [I]n spring 2005 she taught 20.

Let’s just start with that. Let’s start by trying to imagine what her daily life must have been like with 160 independent studies taught alongside a classroom teaching load.

Then let’s add her directorship of an ethics center. Her work as a summer school administrator for the philosophy department. During these years she was an academic advisor to the athletics program. She was associate chair of her department. She was Teaching Coordinator and Director of Undergraduate Studies for her department. She sat on a quadrillion university committees.

In addition: “UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell said Boxill completely oversaw the teams’ academics, making herself available for players at all hours of the day.”


It might seem a small point, but

[UNC’s] highly autonomous academic culture [the sort of culture that makes things like independent studies possible] is exactly what led to UNC’s academic-athletic scandal, according to the Wainstein report.

Datz right, kiddies. Thanks to Jan and Julius and Deborah and a whole, whole lot of other people, you can kiss any autonomy goodbye if you teach at unannounced spot checks to make sure all faculty are meeting their classes Chapel Hill. Keep your nose clean and fill out all your paperwork by five, sucker.

It might seem a small point. But it’s the biggest of them all.


Jan’s a sports-lover and it’s obvious that she’s very competitive.

UD has some very bad news for Jan.

I know, I know. She’s handling a lot of bad news just now, and it’s not nice to pile on. But I think she will appreciate knowing this, because I know she’s the sort of person eager to lift her game.

Thomas Petee, of Auburn University, taught

152 [independent studies] in the spring of 2005, [and] 120 in the fall of 2004.

Chapel Hill: 20
Auburn: 152

That’s a pretty shitty showing, Jan. If you don’t mind my saying. It’s pretty obvious which of the two of you was doing more for your school.


UD thanks Dave.

‘[T]he whistleblower emailed Mary Ann Spott, deputy director of the Army’s Joint Trauma System, which evaluates battlefield care. Spott wrote back, “I have confirmed that Dr. Apodaca did attend Yale and does in fact hold a degree in statistics from that institution,” according to emails obtained by the AP. Four days later, Apodaca admitted degree fraud and resigned. “Ms. Spott’s actions were appropriate,” [Army spokesman Lt. Col. Benjamin] Garrett said.’

If you’ve ever wondered what inspired Joseph Heller to write Catch 22, read this article, about how the Army handled a degree fraudster in its midst.

The Path to an African and Afro-American Studies Minor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Huge numbers of non-athletes took the notorious fake courses staged by the chair of African and Afro-American studies and his administrative assistant. Fraternities in particular, given their close connection to athletes, knew all about them. As the report on the almost twenty year hoax notes:

[When interviewed, members of fraternities] said that some of their non-athlete fraternity brothers took so many of the [bogus] classes that they inadvertently wound up with minors in African and Afro-American studies.

This is a great example of an argument UD has encountered ever since she started writing this blog: Big-time athletics benefits the whole university.


Vlad’s imaginary friend.

“Dr. Obokata copied a large chunk of her 2011 dissertation from a U.S. National Institutes of Health website on stem cells.”

Waseda University acknowledged problems with its guidance and screening process…

Miss Stem Cell 2013 was yet another beneficiary of the I’m too busy and important to actually read the dissertations here system – a system that seems particularly popular in Europe and Asia (UD has long noted an adorably old-fashioned tendency on the part of professors in the United States to – er – guide and screen the things their students write). Students know their professors can’t be bothered, so they pick up their dissertations wherever… translate an NIH website into Japanese and off we go…

Piling On: The Sociopath’s Undoing

UD has made the point on this blog before: Universities need to be very skeptical of high-powered job candidates who come at them with absolutely incredible accomplishments. Rather than start hyperventilating and begging the candidate to tell them what the school can do to make them join its faculty, search committees need to calm down, take a deep breath, and ask whether they’ve got a liar on their hands. Not just the sort of mild liar who plumps up his cv a bit here and there, but a plagiarist, a research-faker, a degree-inventor, and – ultimately, as West Virginia University has recently learned, a very scary person.

When a faculty member at WVU began examining the credentials of the school’s chair of epidemiology (the chair was being considered for an honor called the “Chair of Excellence”), he quickly discovered that virtually everything on Anoop Shankar’s cv was made up. As the university launched an investigation, Shankar made the sociopath’s characteristic mistake: overdoing. Sociopaths tend to overdo their resume claims; and, when cornered, like Shankar, they tend to overdo their efforts to destroy their would-be destroyers. Shankar sent two Indian friends to talk to the professor – Ian Rockett – who outed Shankar. This is what his friends reported happened when they did so, with one of the friends entering his office and the other waiting in the hallway.

“You Indians have nice brown skin,” Rockett allegedly said [to them]. “But you smell weird with the spices that you use for cooking.”

Right about then the grey-haired professor supposedly pulled his chair closer and snatched at the young man’s penis.

Teppala claimed that from the hallway, he could then hear Rockett rise from his chair and say loudly to Ganesan, “Here, taste my white c–k.”

Ganesan said he fled rather than reciprocate and that Rockett flew into a rage, his words echoing into the corridor: “I will destroy you!”

Ahem. When scripting these scenarios (one of the friends later confessed that Shankar had written and directed this drama), you need to be selective. Minimalism is more plausible than maximalism to most audiences. Deciding to throw in not merely an ethnic slur, but sexual harassment, and not merely sexual harassment but sexual assault, and not merely sexual assault but violent threat of retaliation, is just the sort of excess you’d expect from a sociopath.

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