UAF may drop recognition of 'paper mill' universities

University may honor only degrees from accredited institutions

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2004

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Fairbanks is considering a policy change to recognize degrees only from accredited universities for decisions of transferring credit, hiring, promotions or tenure.

The proposal comes less than a month after UAF Faculty Senate president-elect Michael Hannigan resigned his post amid criticism of his doctoral degree from a Saint Kitts and Nevis university.

The policy change, which must be approved by UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, was approved on Nov. 1 by the Faculty Senate.

"A significant aspect of UAF's academic integrity is the assurance that UAF students, staff, faculty and administrators only claim possession of valid academic degrees," reads the rationale statement for the policy. "In the last decade, unregulated degree 'suppliers' have become rampant. Definition and regulation of the use of invalid academic degrees and academic credits at UAF is therefore necessary."

Jones said he supports the proposal in principle, but he wants to meet with UA President Mark Hamilton to see whether it wouldn't be better applied university-wide.

"I like the motion that the Faculty Senate passed in spirit, but what I'm wrestling with is, is this something that we do at the (UAF) level," he said. "That's certainly one of the questions we need to address as part of the president's cabinet."

If the proposal passes, university employees and students also would be forbidden from referring to their accomplishments at invalid institutions in any official UAF-related way, such as listing themselves as "Dr." on a UAF Web site or at a meeting where they're representing the university.

UAF geology professor Rainer Newberry, who put together the first draft of the policy, said it would go into effect as soon as it was ratified. But it wouldn't apply retroactively, he said.

"We're not going to go on a witch hunt to find out who's got a degree from where," he said.

For a university to be considered acceptable, it would have to be accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education, and therefore listed in registries put together by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the World Education Services.

A list of non-approved accrediting agencies and learning institutions, as compiled by an Oregon degree-authorizing office, would be posted on the UAF Provost's Web site and updated annually.

Among the universities on the list is International University for Graduate Studies, the Caribbean school where former Faculty Senate president-elect Hannigan received his doctorate.

Hannigan resigned on Oct. 12, a few weeks after an ad hoc committee questioned the legitimacy of his degree and a proposed vote of confidence in his leadership failed by a 16-1 vote.

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