If Issuing Hundreds Of Phony Degrees Doesn’t Lose You Accreditation, What Good Is Accreditation?

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Earlier this week I linked to a Dickinson Press article by reporter Brian Horwarth about the possibility of Dickinson State University losing its accreditation when the Higher Learning Commission meets later this year.

As you readers know, DSU got caught issuing hundreds of phony degrees to foreign students, something for which nobody outside of former President Richard McCallum has been held accountable. McCallum, who I guess we’re supposed to believe pulled of this fraud by himself, was merely fired.

Horwarth’s article quoted a newspaper editor in West Virginia who covered the HLC’s decision to remove accreditation from Mountain State University. “If I’m Dickinson State, I would be nervous,” he told Horwarth.

That article prompted angry denunciations from DSU officials and North Dakota University System Chancellor Larry Skogen who called the idea of lost accreditation “impossible.”

I’ll leave it to you readers to decide what’s “impossible” or not as far as the HLC’s process goes, but maybe the question we should be asking isn’t could DSU lose accreditation, but should it lose accreditation? After all, what good is accreditation at all if an institution can issue hundreds of phony diplomas over the course of years and keep it despite holding exactly one person accountable, with no more than a termination of employment?

The HLC’s criteria for accreditation requires that “The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.” Yet, Dickinson State acted in about the least ethical way a university can, besmirching the reputation of the diplomas it exists to grant, and they get to keep accreditation?

It seems North Dakota’s higher education officials would rather the DSU scandal go away as quickly as possible. But the public deserves better than that.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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