Thursday, July 22, 2010

Harvard engages in creative accounting

Harvard Kennedy School Revokes Degree Awarded to Russian Spy

I find it interesting that Harvard thinks it can "revoke" a degree.

This guy lied about his identity. He was a Russian spy sent here to gather intelligence to be used against us by a foreign power. He was not a good man.

However, an education is not a piece of paper. Harvard cannot deprive him of the education he received while he was here. The most that the university can do is pretend that he didn't receive it, which is itself a lie.

To put it another way imagine this: A man goes to a car dealership and buys a car. He pays cash. Later it is discovered that the money he used was stolen and the identity he used was false. The police have no idea who he was and there is no way to recover the car. It is gone and will never be seen again.

Does the dealership still possess that car, or does the man who bought it under fraudulent terms possess it? Would it be rational or true for that dealership to "revoke" that car on paper and pretend that it is still in their inventory?

That is pretty much what Harvard is doing here. A difference of opinion about where a car is physically located is easily resolved by referring to objective reality. That car is either still on the lot, or it isn't. There is no ambiguity there. The same is true here as well. Either this man completed the course work necessary to earn his degree, or he didn't. That question is easily answered by referring to his academic records and the evaluations of his instructors. If he completed his coursework satisfactorily, then he has that degree. Harvard cannot deprive him of the insight, understanding, and enlightenment that he now has as a result of completing that degree program. If these intellectual enhancements were never received as part of earning that degree, if the only value to that degree is that Harvard now claims you as one of its graduates, then that degree is already worthless except as something to pad one's resume and Harvard is nothing but a diploma mill.

But I for one do not believe that the degree he earned amounted to nothing but fluff and busywork. I believe that earning a master's degree in public administration requires a student to actually learn and master real knowledge. If this is true, then for them to say that they have "revoked" his degree is a misrepresentation of the truth equal to the one he perpetrated by pretending to be someone else while earning it.

The honest thing for Harvard to do, if it wishes to disassociate itself from this man, is to simply state that they are doing precisely that. Divorce him. Disown him. Disclaim him. But don't pretend that his degree is non-existent because that simply isn't true. Harvard lessens itself by publishing that fiction.

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