Drew Johansen coached the U.S. dive team to Olympic glory in 2012. He is the king of swim coaches, according to a press release issued by Indiana University via Swim World Magazine
last month after IU lured Coach Johansen away from rival Duke University.
Last week, a tattletale article in the Indianapolis Star
ignited an ugly battle on the issue of degree mills, educational integrity and shaky ethical standards inside academia.
Read the Indy Star commentary and you’ll discover many believe that neither the degree mill swim coach nor IU did anything wrong.
Give me a break. A degree is just a piece of paper. This guy is more than qualified to do what he was hired to do, which is coach diving, with or without that piece of paper.
I, on the other hand, look at this story and see the proverbial tale of smart folks being soundly blinded by the lure of future Olympic gold.
This story reeks of “wrong.”
Here is why.
IU Knew About Degree Mill — Looked Other Way
When the HR folks at IU discovered that Johansen’s only degree was bogus, they gave the athletic department the go-ahead to hire him anyway.
According to the expose in the Indianapolis Star:
IU’s athletic director, Fred Glass, said the university discovered Rochville is not accredited early in the hiring process and ran the situation past the university’s human resources department, which gave him the OK to be flexible on the degree requirement. Ultimately, Glass determined Johansen’s coaching strengths outweighed any concerns.
Let me type that again: IU knew the bachelor’s degree was bogus and decided, as an institution, that what mattered more than educational integrity was Johansen’s record of Olympic wins.
Johansen was draped in gold; that was credential enough for them.
They were not daunted by a Wikpedia page that clearly outlines the disreputable background, including ties to felonies and terrorism, that has plagued the Rochville degree mill
for more than a decade.
Degree Mills – Why Care?
There are exceptional individuals whose achievements alone qualify them for high ranking career positions. They perhaps do not need paper diplomas.
Okay, fine, forget the degree. Seek employment based on your achievements.
And if that was what Johansen had done—stated honestly that he had “earned” no degree, and that given his stellar record he needed none—then the story would have ended for me.
But he decided instead, as did IU, to dive both sides of the pool.
For that, I cry foul.
Fake Degree Used to Secure Duke Job and Launch Career
While head swim coach at Duke, Johansen boasted his fake bachelor’s degree in PE on the athletic department’s bio page
. He stated a grad date from Rochville of 2005. This was two years prior to his 2007 hire at Duke. Johansen publicly used his fake degree to qualify for the coaching position at Duke that set him on his future road to Olympic glory.
The situation is not one of a man insisting he was qualified sans degree. Instead, it is one of a man buying a fake degree, putting it on his resume, and using it to meet what was a career requirement for a series of college coaching jobs, the last being with IU.
Cheating, Fake Degrees and the Plague of Academic Dishonesty
IU, prior to hiring Johansen, discovered the fraud and decided such behavior was “acceptable” for a world class coach.
Johansen cheated. He got caught. And he snagged a six figure IU job anyway.
Those who were supposed to be refereeing the hire at IU on behalf of fair play and the taxpayers who underwrite IU—HR and Fred Glass, the athletic director—flashed the Olympic medals. They then told the crowd to do as they had done and look the other way.
If fakery and lack of ethics is not okay on the playing field—we have referees to ensure that the rules of the game are enforced the same for all players—how could it be acceptable that a coach, a man who is trusted with the sportsmanlike integrity of an entire college team, and with ensuring that all his athletes maintain minimum academic standards, mail orders his college degree for a couple of hundred bucks from a post office box in Dubai?
Question: If he was fine with buying his degree online for a few hundred bucks, what makes any of us think that those Olympic metals earned under his tutelage at Duke are forged of real precious metal?
I’d be scratch testing that Gold if I were IU.
And ordering drug tests for that swim team if I were Duke.
Educational authenticity. Ethics. Academic honesty. Fair sportsmanship. These are all the same issue.
Flunk one, flunk all.
The Criminal Underbelly of Degree Mills
There is more that bothers me about this story.
We are not talking about Johansen patronizing one of those cheesy websites that sell novelty Ivy League diplomas with your pet’s name emblazoned on it at $50 a pop.
Using cheap fake degrees to shore up resumes has become commonplace. After buying my pug dog an MBA online with honors in finance for $499, I did a search of LinkedIn and located almost 500 other professionals who boast diplomas from Rochville University
, including college instructors, politicians, engineers and nuclear scientists.
Rochville University is one of 20 or so fake colleges and high schools operated by Pakistani business man Salem Kureshi. Early this year, a Michigan court found Kureshi’s chain of online schools guilty of mass fraud and in violation of Rico laws. The court slapped a $22.7 million dollar fine on the degree mill conglomerate
and issued a court order for Belford, a sister university and high school, to cease operations.
Degree mills ought not to be taken lightly, especially by those institutions that are in the business of providing real educations and safeguarding academic integrity.
Rochville’s other famous alumni: include William Drumheller, a Virginia preacher who murdered members of his flock after using a master’s in divinity earned at Rochville
to get his job and gain the trust of an unsuspecting congregation. The preacher was also convicted of running a Medicare scam.
After the news hit the web about my dog and his online degree in 2009, both I and my dog received death threats. The Diploma Mill Police, the section of our site dedicated to consumer alerts on educational scams, is constantly under attack by degree mills. (And if you think I took those death threats to me or my dog lightly, let me assure you I did not.)
Selling fraudulent degrees has become a fast way for felons and terrorists to acquire millions in ready capital.
In fact, the worst mass murderer in history, Anders Behring Breivik, who assassinated 77 young campers in Norway, funded his killing spree
by operating a fake college credentials business online.
I do not think Indiana University can justify turning a blind eye to a global epidemic of fraud and corruption in an area that is the very bedrock of their publicly-funded mission.
No Excuse for Degree Mill Diploma
Johansen could have enrolled in one of scores of real online learning degree programs
. Instead, he chose to mail order a bachelor’s diploma and a set of bogus transcripts from Dubai for a few hundred bucks.
He chose instead to Fed Ex himself a bachelor’s degree, and to buy access to a toll-free number where a “registrar” would verify his degree and his great GPA to any prospective employers who cared to call.
I do not think there could be a clearer example of disrespect for higher education and the integrity of the credentialing process.
The one lesson Johansen teaches students: WIN. Win and wink-wink no one will hold you accountable for your behavior outside the arena. It’s that attitude, inside academic sports, that led to the recent sorry situation at Penn State. The “win at all costs” attitude will lead to more shameful incidents unless and until universities themselves wake up and honor the cornerstone of their own missions: integrity and truth in all matters of the intellect.
Diploma Mills — Help Stop Them
Should Indiana University—indeed should any real, accredited university—care about degree mills, the business men who operate them and the notorious “alumni” who happily fund them?
Yes, in fact I think real universities should become the unshakeable standard-bearers when it comes to degree fraud.
Call me old-fashioned but I think they should insist their hires have real accredited degrees whether earned on campus or online.
If you work inside higher education and care that your peers hold reputable academic credentials—regardless of whether they work in the physical education department or the nuclear physics lab—please join me in the fight against degree mills.
Take a firm stand against higher education and diploma mill fraud.
Help me get the word out that degree mills are serious threats to public safety and higher education integrity.
Link up with the free service I founded, the Diploma Mill Police
Plaster it across your Facebook page.
Let the world know that you value the integrity of a real college degree, and that you fully expect the administration at IU to do likewise.
Diploma Mill News
Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees, Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College.
Image Credit: teamusa.org