Monday, December 15, 2014

More on Accreditation and UNC

By Professor Doom

     It really seems worthwhile to talk about the kind of effort UNC is still putting into covering up their “paper classes” scandal, and how accreditation in general operates when confronted with open, overwhelming, systemic, fraud.

    “One contributor to UNC-CH’s previous monitoring reports for the agency, Bobbi Owen, was identified by Wainstein as an administrator who knew in 2005 or 2006 that there were hundreds of independent studies under Julius Nyang’oro, the former AFAM chairman. The report said Owen went to lunch with Nyang’oro to crack down on the proliferation of independent studies and told him to “rein in” Deborah Crowder, the department manager who ran the scheme.

     Accreditors only hear what administration at the institution tells them, and never look to see with their own eyes what’s really going on. Owen was an administrator at UNC, knew there was fraud going on, but still reported to accreditation that all was hunky-dory at UNC.

     It’s critical to understand this: accreditation never looks at the institution in an honest way. Instead, administrators at the institution look at their own institution, and then tell the accreditor their own institution is legitimate. This is why long-running frauds are at many of our institutions of higher education, despite them all being “fully accredited.”

     Of course, Owen has her name on the reports certifying the paper courses were legitimate, so I bet people want to ask her questions.

Owen told the Wainstein team she did not remember such a meeting or concerns about the number of independent studies in AFAM, the report said.”
“Owen’s “inexplicable decision” not to press the issue about the independent studies allowed the paper class scheme to go on for five more years, the report said.

     Ah, the ol’ “I can’t remember” defense. It works well when nobody really wants to know the truth. I guess it’s possible she thought of that herself, but gentle reader, please don’t rule out the possibility that she’s receiving orders from above. Still, despite her claimed senility, I’m thinking some folks might want to ask some more questions of her:

A UNC-CH spokewoman said Owen is on “Senior Faculty Research and Scholarly Leave” during this semester. The competitive paid leave was awarded in January and is covered by various endowed funds, according to a UNC-CH website. Owen’s current annual salary is $138,669.

     Heh. She can’t answer questions now, she’s on paid leave. How convenient.

     Wow, it sure was lucky of Owen for administration to award her a fat, “competitive” leave just when she was needed to answer questions. Competitive…that means a committee looked at Owen, with the multimillion dollar fraud cloud hanging over her head and admission of senility, looked at all the other faculty that wanted that leave, and decided that Owen, despite the real possibility of long running fraud and her willingness to admit to senility, and said “Senior Associate Dean Owen is better than literally every other faculty member on campus.” 

      Geez, UNC is acknowledging their faculty are pretty terrible in general, that they all rate below a possible fraudster with admitted issues of senility. I bet the other faculty are thrilled that, once again, UNC administrators are willing to throw academics under a bus just to protect themselves.

      Owen gets nigh 140k a year for her “work”, or at least for being on leave. I wish I could get that kind of money for being on leave. I wish I could get that kind of money for doing my job! Not doing my job, AND getting awarded a long leave? That’s golden…it must be awesome being an administrator. Well, when there’s not a huge fraud scandal, anyway.

     Owen was a “senior associate dean” raking in that loot—keep in mind there are levels and levels of deanlings above her, making even more with every level. Despite this, Owen did quite a bit of the administrative work at UNC:

“She has been a key figure in assembling reports for UNC-CH’s accreditation requirements for years.

In 2005, she headed up the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan required for 10-year accreditation review by SACS. In a 2004 story published by the University Gazette, an employee newspaper, Owen discussed the importance of accreditation reviews: “It provides the chance to review all the documents and guidelines surrounding the academic programs to confirm we are doing what we are saying we are doing regarding degree programs as well as to look at an area in depth.”

     Ah the QEP. I’ve written of this laughably stupid make-work accreditation requirement only lightly before. Because accreditation is run both by and for college administrators, it has completely abandoned any pretense of having anything to do with education. Instead, it’s mostly about make-work projects for administration. The administrators at the top aren’t real big on work, so they hire more administrators below them to do the work…which hire more administrators below them to do the work.

     So it is that a 10 year project for accreditation, one that affects the entire institution and every student there, is run not by the Poo-Bah, not by a vice-Poo-Bah, not by a Chancellor, or by a Provost, or even by a Dean or even an assistant to the Dean. Instead, it’s run by a senior associate dean.

     And this project has absolutely nothing to do with education, or anything any student or faculty cares about.

     Seriously, there are way too many administrators in higher education today.
     Do note that neither President Rosenberg nor the other 25 Poo-Bahs thought there should be some administrative firings over this fraud. Instead, a ridiculously highly paid senior associate sub-administrator gets awarded glorious paid leave, coincidentally leaving that person unavailable for further questioning.

     Hmm. How is it, exactly, that “paid leave” prevents a person from answering a phone? Am I really alone in finding this excuse inexcusable? We’re talking millions of dollars of fraud here, at the bare minimum…answering the damn phone seems reasonable to me, even if you’re on leave. Does UNC know about cell phones?

     Am I alone in thinking accreditation is being a little too precious with accepting this excuse for not being able to ask this deanling some questions?

Integrity is a core principle of the accreditation agency, and any review in higher education is based on trust, said Andrew Westmoreland, chairman of the SACS Commission on Colleges and president of Samford University in Alabama.

      I really can’t emphasize enough how the massive conflict of interests in having the same people that run accreditation being the same people that run our institutions has led to widespread fraud. The Poo-Bah of Samford University is a Chairman of SACS? Am I really alone in seeing a problem having Poo-Bah/accreditors? With Poo-Bahs and accreditors being basically the same people, how is it a puzzle that Poo-Bahs can get away with academic murder?

     “This is certainly a unique case,” [Westmoreland] said. “Frankly, all of us in higher education have been heartbroken as the full story has emerged.” 

      Allow me to read between the lines here, by taking what the Poo-Bah/accreditor says at face value. The Poo-Bah/accreditor isn’t heartbroken about the fraud at UNC. He’s heartbroken that the full extent of the fraud is now emerged into public knowledge. 

      Well, full extent of the this particular fraud at one particular institution, at least. Across the country, institution after institution is running similar frauds, and taking note that ultimately nothing will be done even if the frauds are discovered. The Poo-Bah/accreditor need not be too heartbroken, however. The entire system of accreditation has been set up in such a way that it can easily take 18 years before even widespread open fraud at any institution can be discovered. Most people don’t come to this blog, and thus don’t realize the system is well-set to keep the frauds at other institutions well hidden for a long, long time.

      To add insult to injury, the tax dollars stolen by such fraud is easily spent by the institutions on PR firms that help to minimize the appearance of fraud. For example, UNC has already spent millions of dollars on PR firms just for this one fraud. Hmm, administration at UNC had the choice of “integrity” or “hire a PR firm”…too bad there’s no way to stop them from making the wrong choice, eh? Integrity speaks for itself, after all, you don’t need a PR firm to spin things if you’re being open and honest.

     To add injury to the insult to the injury, UNC actually offers a degree in Public Relations. By hiring an outside firm, UNC is openly admitting that they don’t trust their own Public Relations faculty to do the public relations, and would rather hire outsiders…do they fear the faculty would insist on telling the truth? That’s just a guess on my part, but a fair conclusion would be that a UNC Public Relations degree is worth about as much as a UNC African Studies degree, and UNC administration knows it.

      Am I really alone in seeing these problems?

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