Gaming the System

Fake diploma, by gadgetdude @ Flickr

Fake diploma, by gadgetdude @ Flickr

Can’t get past University requirements to get a degree?  Afraid you might have to actually learn something about reality that contradicts your Bible?  No worries, just make a fake campus in your megachurch and get your multi-million dollar salaried pastor on the board of trustees of a small but reputable institution in some other state.  From the Raleigh News and Observer:

DURHAM – For four years, N.C. Central University operated a small satellite campus at a suburban Atlanta megachurch run by a university trustee, offering a series of programs that were never properly approved by university system officials.

Paperwork oversight?  Unlikely.

“I can think of no justifiable reason why the former NCCU leadership would have completely ignored and failed to abide by the appropriate approval process in creating this program,” UNC system President Erskine Bowles said late last week in a statement e-mailed to The News & Observer. “Such action is contrary to all university policy. To say the least, it is very disappointing. We are working closely with Chancellor [Charlie] Nelms and his new leadership team to examine the various academic, legal, and financial questions associated with this Georgia-based program.”

But what if you get busted, you ask?

(Look below the fold to find out.)

Long’s gifts to NCCU

He has been generous to his alma mater. Last week, he announced a $1 million gift to create a distinguished professorship fund, and before that he gave at least $400,000, according to media reports. He has delivered at least two commencement addresses at NCCU.

Honest preacher, gone a little afoul of the rules, maybe?

A 2005 story in a church publication called The New Birth Voice said the NCCU program was “directly in line with Bishop’s vision of wanting to provide quality education to individuals right here on the New Birth campus from the time of childhood (Faith Academy) through the college years (New L.I.F.E. College).”

Long’s wealth has drawn attention. He is currently one subject of an investigation by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Finance, which is responsible for tax legislation and oversight, has requested financial information from a handful of large ministries to see whether they are enjoying luxuries not proper for nonprofit agencies.

Grassley has asked Long’s church and five others for detailed financial information; as of early July, Long had submitted only general financial information, which Grassley’s office deemed “not responsive,” according to a press release on Grassley’s Senate Web site.

In 2005, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a tax-exempt charity Long set up to spread his gospel paid him more than $3 million between 1997 and 2000, compensation that included a $1.4 million home and a $350,000 Bentley automobile.

And let’s just throw in a little arrogance, for good measure:

Long told the Atlanta newspaper in 2005: “We’re not just a church, we’re an international corporation. We’re not just a bumbling bunch of preachers who can’t talk and all we’re doing is baptizing babies. I deal with the White House. I deal with Tony Blair. I deal with presidents around this world. I pastor a multimillion-dollar congregation.”

So what could possibly be the motivation for skipping the rule book?  Oh I think we can all guess:

Mabe said there was no problem with a public university teaching classes in church classrooms as long as the rent paid to the church was fair. According to a 2006 memorandum of understanding laying out the relationship between the university and the church, the academic programs were housed within the church’s “Christian Education Division.” Still, officials say the courses had no religious component, and a News & Observer examination of course syllabi found no evidence of any.

Is mine the only Creationist lie detector going off here?  Let’s take a quick look at the profs down there, shall we?

But in declining to approve the New Birth program earlier this year, SACS cited, in part, questions about the backgrounds of some of the faculty. One instructor’s background boasted a master’s degree, but the field was not specified. The credentials for at least two instructors had not been provided, a SACS administrator wrote in a March letter to NCCU, and a human growth and development instructor’s degree was listed as “doctor of graduation.”

“Not all of them had the appropriate credentials to teach the courses they were teaching,” said Pauletta B. Bracy, NCCU’s accreditation director.

Big surprise.  Any takers on what the biology class looked like?  Geology?  Can you say, “Diploma mill for creationists”?

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Fake diploma, by gadgetdude and is licensed by the artist under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

2 Responses to “Gaming the System”

  1. J-Dog Says:

    Dammit, that’s a beautiful, hard-hitting post.

    How much where they charging for their fake diploma?

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    Thanks J, but the credit should really go to Eric Ferreri of the N&O, who did the work. From the same article:

    It doesn’t appear that the church reaped any windfall. Students paid $888.57 per three-credit course, which was more than the going rate for an in-state student at NCCU but less than a nonresident would traditionally pay, Phifer-McGhee said.

    From those revenues, NCCU paid the church $120 per student per course taught, Phifer-McGhee said. UNC system officials confirmed that is the proper way to administer an out-of-state program. The church provided classrooms, equipment, offices and administrative support, helped recruit students and instructors and, on occasion, videotaped courses and sent them to NCCU for evaluation, according to the 2006 memorandum between NCCU and the church.


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