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Tilting at Windmills

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April 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

OFF WITH HER HEAD....I'm curious: what do people think about the MIT dean story? MIT officials recently discovered that Marilee Jones, their dean of admissions, lied on her resume 28 years ago and does not, in fact, have a college degree. So they fired her:"There are some mistakes people can make for which 'I'm sorry' can be accepted, but this is one of those matters where the lack of integrity is sufficient all by itself," [Chancellor Phillip] Clay said. "This is a very sad situation for her and for the institution. We have obviously placed a lot of trust in her."Needless to say, point taken. But isn't there also a point here about credentialism run amok? Everything I've read about this case suggests that Jones was not just a good dean of admissions, but something of a superstar dean of admissions. Given that, is the fact that she lied about her credentials three decades ago for an entry-level job really that big a deal?

Not being an academic myself, maybe I just don't realize how serious this situation is. But from my perch outside the academy, it's hard not to think that this didn't necessarily require the death penalty. Surely there was something MIT could have done to demonstrate it took this seriously without also losing a valued and high performing member of its administration?

UPDATE: Reaction in comments is virtually unanimous: I'm wrong. In fact, firing might have been too good for her....

Kevin Drum 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (233)

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Comments

She was a pretty lousy dean of admissions, actually.

Posted by: Theobald Smith on April 27, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

somebody should give her an honorary doctorate!

Posted by: Samira on April 27, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

George Bush lied about his military record, and there were no consequences to that, apparently. Unless you count mass murder and the subversion of democracy as consequences.

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Well the whole point of academics is credentials. They indicate a dedication to professionalism and a sign that the person in question has successfully completed a rigorous training program. Having a high-ranking staff member with a falsified background is a pretty substantial amount of egg on the face for MIT or any institution of higher education, since their primary reason for being is giving credentials.

Posted by: Chris on April 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,..In a nation where Taps is played daily over the societal death of honor, honesty and accountability, methinks you might applaud MIT's memory of now 'quaint' mores.

Posted by: craig johnson on April 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Given her position as Dean of Admissions is to run an office that reviews credentials of potential students (though I realize we are just talking about high school students), I think the importance of having a clean record in that area herself is pretty clear.

Posted by: CalStateDisneyland on April 27, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

The optics are just terrible. You have the Dean of Admissions saying, in effect, "lie to us as much as you want on your applications; after all, I did." Some other position they might be able to get away with it, but for someone in admissions, you have to have zero tolerance on this sort of dishonesty.

Posted by: jimBOB on April 27, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Even if she was the Bestest Dean of Admissions Evar, I think they had to can her for the reasons Chris sets forth.

Posted by: nolo on April 27, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Lying about credentials is pretty serious, both in and out of academia. Didn't the little "political officer" at NASA who was censoring Hansen have to ultimately resign because it turned out he had not completed his undergraduate degree as he had claimed?

Posted by: Mike on April 27, 2007 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

This may be a case of “rules are rules”. In today’s litigious society lying on your resume remains one of the few things (along with malfeasance and direct insubordination) you can be fired for. Letting one highly placed employee off the hook would demonstrate the rule is not absolute, at which point every other person who fudged their resume would have grounds to legally challenge their firing.

Posted by: fafner1 on April 27, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

It seems like a big deal to me. By doing that, MIT would be saying that it's okay to lie about your background -- specific achievements, a particular academic pedigree, even previous job experience -- as long as you do a good job after establishing yourself with those lies.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 27, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't just a a big deal, it's a huge deal. In academia we are nothing without our credentials.

Sorry, but no reprieve on this one.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, CalStateDisneyland has it right...Admissions is all about assessment of potential students' credentials, there's got to be a higher standard there. It's like Alan Hevesi's use of state employees to drive his wife -- improper, but by itself not that huge a deal. When you're the comptroller, though, and it's your job to make sure other people are spending the state's funds properly, you really have to be held to a higher standard. Ditto with Wolfowitz trying to run an anti-corruption campaign (which makes me laugh just typing it).

Posted by: Glenn on April 27, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Not being an academic myself, maybe I just don't realize how serious this situation is. But from my perch outside the academy, it's hard not to think that this didn't necessarily require the death penalty

Kevin, an unqualified person was hired to take a job. This is what's wrong. What next are you going to defend? Plagiarism and academic dishonesty? Firing is the only correct course of action. America is a meritocracy where those who do the job best succeed. Anything less than firing would send the signal MIT doesn't believe going to good schools and having the proper qualifications was important to getting ahead in life.

Posted by: Al on April 27, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hat-tip Chris. You got there first.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

MIT officials recently discovered that Marilee Jones, their dean of admissions, lied on her resume 28 years ago and does not, in fact, have a college degree.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be the case that Jones continued to claim the bogus degree on her current resume?

isn't there also a point here about credentialism run amok?

No.

She lied on her resume. Kevin -- and not just with a bit of inflated puffery, but by claiming a degree that others actually did the work for. Like plagiarism, the consequences have to be serious, because otherwise what's to stop everyone from making shit up?

Everything I've read about this case suggests that Jones was not just a good dean of admissions, but something of a superstar dean of admissions. Given that, is the fact that she lied about her credentials three decades ago for an entry-level job really that big a deal?

The fact that she admitted the fabrication yesterday indicates that she didn't lie three decades ago, but rather that she was lying about her credentials for three decades. As such, her offense isn't lessened, but rather increased -- again, to give her a pass would only encourage, not discourage, out-and-out lying on resumes.

Sheesh, Kevin, what gives?

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with previous posters about the importance for an admission dean to have clean credentials. If she had been a prof in electrical engineering, by now her published work would have eclipsed any question about her undergrad transcripts.


Posted by: troglodyte on April 27, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what position in the Bush Administration she'll be offered? :-)

Posted by: Robert on April 27, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree that her lack of a college degree renders her "unqualified." However, she lied about it (I don't care how long ago--she's had 30 years to get it since then!) and must face the consequences.

Posted by: Angela on April 27, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

...and holy shit, I just agreed with Al. Mirabile dictu.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

First, she is the gatekeeper responsible for ensuring incoming student's applications are complete, accurate, and truthful. If she lied on her own application, how does she treat the lies of others. Can you every, really, trust her...

Second, echoing Chris above: she is working for an organization that says you need credentials to be able to do a job well. And every day she is there she proves them wrong.

Posted by: Wapiti on April 27, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is only confused because he isn't familiar with professions where the paper qualifications are more important than the quality of the work.

Academia runs on credentials only because those are the easiest things to evaluate. The other stuff takes work to understand, and who needs that?

Posted by: grumpy and unqualified on April 27, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I was just going to say the same thing, greg.

Al, you are correct! (Gulp)

Posted by: Kenji on April 27, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I personally have busted my ass for every piece of paper I lay claim to. When people falsely claim they possess the credentials we have sacrificed and scraped to achieve, we take it personally. It gives us a frame of reference for truly understanding the outrage real vets feel when those who never served claim to be battle heroes.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Everything about MIT is insanely competitive, not just undergrad admissions, she was toast as soon as this became known (how did it become known BTW?). There's just this image of someone with a fake resume rejecting masses of applicants to MIT every year, picking over essays and references,that's years of personal and maybe interpersonal dishonesty.

As someone who spent a good deal of time in academia I'm surprised non-academics don't see this as serious, my observation has been that people are much more uptight about resumes outside academia - maybe because resumes are faked more often in the 'real world.'

Posted by: dave on April 27, 2007 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, outside of the moral turpitude issue, credentials do matter in the academy. First of all a Dean in an academic department is presupposed to have an academic background (the title "Director" is said to be more appropriate if you don't come from this background).

Next, it all comes down to credibility. A Dean of Admissions needs to be taken seriously by the students and the faculty and the administration, and one of the ways of doing that is to be able to say, "I'm one of you. I know what you've gone through academically. I know what you deal with." It's a reason that the normal track to senior administration starts as academic faculty.

Bringing that credbility to the table was what "made" Marilee Jones' career. I didn't think she was a good Dean of Admissions. There was something "off" about her dealings with the MIT community that screamed "I don't fit in here!" (self-link to blog post of mine on that). However, she was a very-much in-demand talking head outside the MIT community, and one of the reasons people inside and outside MIT thought, "she must know what she's talking about" is because she was assumed to have understood the environment and experiences of academia (particularly as a student) first-hand and she told people what they wanted to hear from a scientist when it came to MIT admissions and college admissions in general. MIT needed and wanted someone that could bring a scientific background to the table when talking about how to better improve the academic environment and evaluate incoming students of this generation. Since her perspective was rather radical, a lot of her credibility hinged on her academic background. When that turned out to be fraudulent, it brings down a lot of what she was trying to advocate for in the first place.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: from my perch within academia, the point isn't so much about credentials, but about honesty. We live by our words. Honesty and trust are crucial. That's why we care so much about plagiarism. It's also why we care about this.

Posted by: hilzoy on April 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

It is not credentialism in the first place -- it is integrity.

Posted by: Bob M on April 27, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Surely there was something MIT could have done to demonstrate it took this seriously without also losing a valued and high performing member of its administration?

Well, they could have given her the Medal of Freedom.

Posted by: craigie on April 27, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

This strikes me as a case where the preventative model of punishment is more important than the punitive or redemptive aspects. No matter how good she was at her job, you can't give people the impression that there is any circumstance where faking your credentials is ok.

Political junkies like us know full well that people eager to believe something will hold onto a single fact far out of proportion to its actual significance. Academies could bring the hammer down on five hundred people who committed the same act and people would still remember Marilee Jones.

Posted by: Tim F on April 27, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Twenty years ago I had a colleague at a financial institution who lied about receiving a college degree - when it was discovered he was fired the same day. I know of others who had the same thing happen many years into a career (after being promoted, for example, which led to a review of their entire employment file). This is nothing new and not restricted to higher ed. It doesn't surprise me in the least.

Posted by: DanG on April 27, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it's unreasonable that a college require its Dean of Admissions to be truthful about her academic credentials. Certainly, if any applicant to MIT lied about his or her qualifications for admission, and this was discovered, the "death penalty" would be the consequence. Why hold the Dean of Admissions to a lower standard?

Posted by: Paul or the Giant Rabbit on April 27, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe a college education isn't really necessary to do a high level job like Dean of Admissions, but MIT isn't going to admit that. Why would anyone pay $120,000 for a college education if they figure out that it isn't that all useful?

Posted by: ex-liberal on April 27, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I really can't emphasize enough that the fact that her bogus claim stood on her CV for 28 years doesn't make it a 28-year-old offense, but one that she continued to commit for 28 years. The offense is magnified, not diminished.

And yeah, her position as dean of admissions only compounds matters.

Surely there was something MIT could have done to demonstrate it took this seriously without also losing a valued and high performing member of its administration?

The obvious question here is, what could they have done? Kevin doesn't offer any suggestions.

That said, I can't help but wonder, Kevin: If you discovered one of your employees had lied to you during the hiring process, are you really claiming it'd be no big deal?

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe a college education isn't really necessary to do a high level job like Dean of Admissions, but MIT isn't going to admit that. Why would anyone pay $120,000 for a college education if they figure out that it isn't that all useful?

Of course "ex-liberal" springs to the defense of a liar. Birds of a feather and all.

Leave it to "ex-liberal" to insert bogus wingnut talking points into the discussion -- even Al didn't go that far. Shame on you, "ex-liberal."

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

If this was a movie, the whole theme would be how a hardworking woman without a degree managed to rise through the ranks. At the end of the movie, she would make a impassioned speech, everyone would forgive her, and she would keep her job... but this is real life. Despite doing an apparently excellent job, she was forced to resign.

The whole story raises a pretty good question: What is the value of a college degree if someone without it was able to rise so high in a competitive school like MIT?

The story certainly lends credence to the theory that college doesn't actually add much academic value (for a lot of careers, not all) and is nothing more than a way to vet for intelligence and perseverance.

Of course many people will argue that its not an issue of whether she had a degree or not, but an issue of integrity. Do you really believe that she would of even got her foot in the door if she had been honest about having a degree?

If she is smart, she will launch her own consulting company that helps students get into the colleges of her choice. She has already written one book, perhaps now she will write another exposing the dirty little secrets of college admissions.

posted at http://parentalcation.blogspot.com/2007/04/value-of-college-degree.html

Posted by: rory @ parentalcation on April 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Does no one see the irony? Her big message was that people need to stop being so insanely competitive (her book is called "Less Stress, More Success") and that you can succeed even if you don't have perfect SATs or aren't first in your class or don't go to a top 25 school. She de-emphasized things like resume padding extracurriculars. Now we know why she may have had such a view- she knew she had succeeded and was a productive person even without an Ivy (or any higher education) degree.

Posted by: SP on April 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I can see why she would be fired if she did not currently possess the degree. But what if she now does? If she got her current job based on an accurate resume...what's the big deal?

I also don't buy the "she's saying it's okay to lie on your application" school of thought. That's as extreme as saying the opposite -- that she's the best person for the job, because who better to root out the ones who are shading their credentials than someone who's done it herself.

Oh, and I'm saying this as someone with two post-grad degrees.

Posted by: Collin on April 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the money quote: “I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,” Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the institute’s Web site. (emphasis added)

That's in the second graf, Kevin. She lied -- not once but repeatedly -- for nearly three decades -- a record "ex-liberal" must look upon with envy. What's so hard to understand about that?

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Academia runs on credentials only because those are the easiest things to evaluate. The other stuff takes work to understand, and who needs that?

Exactly. And valuing credentials is self-serving to those who have them, creating a whole culture of puffery.

Though I can see how, from a pure marketing perspective, it is not good for MIT to have a dean that demonstrates you don't need an education to succeed.

Posted by: kis on April 27, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, lying is bad.

On the other hand, she performed the job satisfactorily for 28 years.

So their rationale for requiring a college degree turns out to be a bit suspect--especially since it was an entry-level job she got at the time.

The reality is that people lie to get jobs all the time--and are forgiven if it turns out they can perform those jobs. And they can do the jobs because, very often, the requirements are arbitrary and in some cases silly. (I saw job listings that demanded '3 to 5 years experience in Flash' when Flash was only two years old.)

I can't argue with the rightness of her firing--but I think MIT ows it to itself to acknowledge that she proved the arbitrariness of their requirement.

(And the cynical part of me says that this is a good way to get a lifetime of service out of someone and save on an expensive pension.)

Posted by: pbg on April 27, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

By all means, let's let everyone lie about their credentials.

I'm a brain surgeon Kevin, and I'll gladly operate on your tumor.

C'mon Kevin, I rely on you being sensible.

Posted by: Anonymous on April 27, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Do you really believe that she would of even got her foot in the door if she had been honest about having a degree?

Actually, yes, because her initial job at MIT was as an administrative assistant which did not require a college degree (that's why her degrees were never checked in the first place). She could have then taken advantage of MIT's (rather generous, I believe) educational benefit programs to get a college degree, at which point she could have gone on to bigger and better things. Instead she cut corners-- when she didn't even need to (initially)!

As I've said, much of her career as a high-profile Dean of admissions hinged on her identity as a "scientist" who was doing admissions. That it is completely false undercuts much of her credibility.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm on your side here, Kevin. If those fools in academia care so much about what the "credential" means, then how bad does it look for them to go 28 years(!) completely unable to tell the difference between someone who has it and someone who doesn't.

Posted by: Ben on April 27, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

As has been noted, this isn't one thing that she lied about 28 years ago. She never corrected her resume in 28 years on the job. Every time she moved up the ladder in that department, she had an opportunity to revise her resume to reflect the past.

Lying on your resume to get your foot in the door is not acceptable, and should be punished severely. I would also fire the person who hired her for the job, because checking someone's transcripts is pretty standard procedure.

Posted by: drumsfeld on April 27, 2007 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Al is wrong, as always. "Kevin, an unqualified person was hired to take a job. This is what's wrong." In fact it seems that she was qualified; after all, she performed at a very high level at all of her jobs up to and including Dean of Admissions. She wasn't unqualified, she was uncredentialed, which is a very different thing. (It is easy to cite top research scientists without Ph.D.s, for example - qualified but not conventially credentialed). Unfortunately, it isn't simple to judge qualifications of applicants and so hiring practices depend on credentials, which are at best a poor surrogate. On the other hand, her lies about her credentials require that she be removed from her position as Dean.

Posted by: bob on April 27, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

What astounds me are two things.1 why on earth wasn't MIT able to check her credentials 28 years ago. Whats that say about an institution that claaims to be one of the best in the USA. 2 how and why on earth did they check it out now? Could somebody in the guilded and semi-sacred halls of academia please explain this to me.

Posted by: Gandalf on April 27, 2007 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Credentials are the be-all and end-all of academia. Talent, effectiveness, and native ability count for nothing without the credentials. Lack of talent, ineffectiveness, and lack of ability count for nothing when the credentials are available to mask such inadequacy.

Posted by: Willingham on April 27, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

And valuing credentials is self-serving to those who have them, creating a whole culture of puffery.

Obviously an uncredentialed wanker.

Do you want your doctor or lawyer uncredentialed? They get their credentials from credentialed academics, afterall. Undermining that process has far reaching effects.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, she performed the job satisfactorily for 28 years.

No, pbg -- the fact that she continued to lie about her own background means that she by definition did not perform ehr job as dean as admissions satisfactorily at all.

The question isn't, as some would like to insinuate, whether a college degree qualifies you for this or that. As inconvenient as it might be to "ex-liberal" and his/her/its ilk, making false claims does ruin your credibility, and people and organziations are pefectly entitled to treat you accordingly.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

It is a very big deal. As a now-retired business school prof, I can attest to that's the way it is. Academic credentials are not to be toyed with and lied about, not in business and absolutely not in academia. If we expel a student for cheating, we fire an administrator for lying about something that got her hired in the first place.

Posted by: kim on April 27, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK
But isn't there also a point here about credentialism run amok?

Nope. She falsely claimed undergraduate and graduate degrees while applying for a job for which none was required to make herself appear more qualified. And she has since continued that fraud by repeating the claims in her applications for later jobs. "Credentialism run amok" would be requiring degrees not rationally related to job duties to be considered for a job. It is not "credentialism run amok", or even credentialism at all to take very seriously a substantial, ongoing, utterly gratuitous fraud.

Not being an academic myself, maybe I just don't realize how serious this situation is. But from my perch outside the academy, it's hard not to think that this didn't necessarily require the death penalty.

No on has suggested that she be killed for this, so I would think that reference to the "death penalty" is pointless. She committed fraud to get a job—not just in 1979, but when she got her current job, and every job in between. And, yeah, that costs her her job.

Surely there was something MIT could have done to demonstrate it took this seriously without also losing a valued and high performing member of its administration?

No, there isn't. Anything short of termination would have been an endorsement of fraud.

Perhaps if at some point in the past 3 decades she had voluntarily come clean, it could have been handled differently—that would have been a sign of some integrity.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Talent, effectiveness, and native ability count for nothing without the credentials.

Talent, effectiveness, and native ability are how you get the credentials.

Okay, okay, George W. Bush.

But even then, past performance -- as a lazy, incurious, un-rigorous dweeb with a sense of entitlement a mile wide -- turned out to be a predictor of future performance, didn't it?

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Her real crime was that she pulled back the curtain and demonstrated that degrees don't mean shit. This is a capital offense, especially at MIT. She had to be fired.

However, in the real world we reward competence and punish incompetence. I would have fired whomever hired her without checking her credentials.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

I see a rare consensus among all the regulars and trolls. Has any other topic had such agreement?

Posted by: anandine on April 27, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, everyone knows the deal: no matter how smart, brave, or sentimental you are, you still need see the wizard.

Posted by: apm on April 27, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

She serves at the pleasure of the Chancellor. :)

Seriously, I agree with the others that keeping her would indicate to applicants that lying on your application will be rewarded.

Posted by: K on April 27, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

If she was really good at what she does, I find it odd that she would have been fired. In my experience, lying on applications is a good reason not to hire somebody or, if you discover it later, a good excuse to fire somebody who later turns out to be a problematic but otherwise difficult to fire employee. Outside of those situations, though, it's kind of a, "huh, did you say something?" situation.

Posted by: lester on April 27, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK
Everything about MIT is insanely competitive, not just undergrad admissions, she was toast as soon as this became known (how did it become known BTW?).

Apparently, MIT received questions and did some checking. My guess is that the attention she drew from her speaking tour and the book it promoted naturally made people want to know more about her background. One of the natural things for people to look at with someone who has a Ph.D. is their thesis, and I'd bet that what happened is someone looked for that, couldn't find it, and started asking questions.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously an uncredentialed wanker.

Do you want your doctor or lawyer uncredentialed? They get their credentials from credentialed academics, afterall. Undermining that process has far reaching effects.

Gee thanks. Actually I've got a BS and an MBA.

Nice strawman, btw. Of course you want a doctor and lawyer to be credentialed, in terms of being licensed. But if someone passes the bar, and is an effective litigator, does it matter so much whether they were educated at a credentialed university versus, say, working as a paralegal for 20 years?

Posted by: kis on April 27, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, she performed the job satisfactorily for 28 years.

One of the reasons a person is an effective administrator/manager is because your colleagues respect you and because your observations are assumed to carry weight, even when they might be skeptical. Her ability to perform the job hinged, in part, on the very fraudulent claims she was making. Had an admissions administrator been hired without any college degrees, neither the faculty, nor the students, nor the administrators, nor the public would have taken her seriously (because, after all, how could she understand all of their concerns, not having had any direct experiences in academia?), and her performance would have suffered as a result, being regarded as "unsatisfactory."

This is a bit like the author of best-selling memoir being revealed to have made everything up about his life. Certainly the stories were compelling, but would they have been nearly as popular if they were marketed as fiction, rather than a recounting of actual life experiences? Probably not.

Jones was a very controversial dean of admissions, and her ability to get her ideas through hinged in part in her reputed academic background.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK
What astounds me are two things.1 why on earth wasn't MIT able to check her credentials 28 years ago.

They didn't (not weren't able to) because she was applying for a job for which not even an undergraduate degree was required (which makes the lying more egregious as it was needless—or extremely clever, forward looking deceit.)

Now, admittedly, that would be understandable if she had only claimed a bachelor's degree, but when someone is applying for a job that doesn't require a degree and says they have Ph.D., that ought to prompt some serious examination. While I suppose the thought may have been "don't look a gift horse in the mouth", in this case the horse was more of the Trojan variety.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I've got a BS and an MBA.

So does aWol.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Talent, effectiveness, and native ability are how you get the credentials.

That and being wealthy enough to go to the right prep schools, taking the right test-prep classes, paying the tuition at a prestigious school.

I happen to think people can be talented and effective even without the right degree.

Posted by: kis on April 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with rory and pbg on this one. Sure, they had to fire her, but let's at least acknowledge the important fact that she was, by most accounts, great at her job. A college degree was not needed for her to excel. And I'd argue that it's not needed in a much wider range of employment contexts than is usually accepted. And this is coming from a dude with a doctorate from UofC. A lot of college is about social and emotional development - not learning on some higher plane. And a lot of grad school is complete crap. So more power to the community college grads!

Posted by: phd whore on April 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory:
What does 'performing her job as dean of admissions' mean?

She applied for--and got--an entry-level job under false pretenses. She got promoted over and over again.

Promotions are not made within an organization by looking at the resume. Or are you saying that the MIT administration was so dazzled by her RPI degree, and so promoted her over more talented and able people?

She's being fired for lying, and as I said, I can't fault them for that. Those criteria are important.

But doing one's job is a measurable, testable, real-world thing. Revealing a 28-year-old lie does not make her real achievements magically vanish.

Posted by: pbg on April 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I concur with the other commenters, Chris being first to boil it down for you Kevin.

If a car mechanic never got certified by this or that school one could overlook the lie, provided of course their services were rendered properly. Where entry into a field is not predicated on having a degree or passing a state test, degrees and plaques and diplomas only give one an aura of credibility. Whereas where one is asked about your degrees and certifications, we can assume that such degrees and certifications are prerequisites to employment in the field.

Add to that, she worked for a degree issuing institution, she presumably rejected candidates because there credentials were lacking, the institution is one of the most prestigious in the world, and her particular position was most intricately intertwined with degrees and credentials.

She has to go. If she did good work, just leave it at that, but she has to go.

If you found out that your pediatrician of 28 years was never licensed to practice medicine would you be ok with him/her still practicing medicine without a license simply because they didn't commit malpractice while tricking everyone? No, they are kicked out.

Posted by: coltergeist on April 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I left something out here: Talent, effectiveness, and native ability are how you get the credentials.

It also takes a certain amount of work. Jones claimed to have done work that she didn't do.

That's a firing offense in the private sector as well as academia.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

So more power to the community college grads!

Speaking of CC's - I better hustle off to the last class of the day and give the students their moneys worth.

While jealously protecting my turf, of course.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

HTML foul. Mea culpa.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons a person is an effective administrator/manager is because your colleagues respect you and because your observations are assumed to carry weight, even when they might be skeptical. Her ability to perform the job hinged, in part, on the very fraudulent claims she was making. Had an admissions administrator been hired without any college degrees, neither the faculty, nor the students, nor the administrators, nor the public would have taken her seriously (because, after all, how could she understand all of their concerns, not having had any direct experiences in academia?), and her performance would have suffered as a result, being regarded as "unsatisfactory."

I agree that without a degree, others would not take her seriously.

However, she did have direct experience in academia, just not a degree.

Also, the changes she implemented in the admissions process to make it less stressful may very well have been only envisioned by her *because* she didn't have a degree. An argument could be made that a person who had gone through the "hazing" of academia from start to a successful finish would have been too wedded to the competitive system to even imagine making it less stressful, akin to the way in which frat boys who have gone through hazing cannot imagine not hazing others in turn.

IOW, her lack of credentials may very well have been her greatest credential that allowed her to see outside of the box.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

She applied for--and got--an entry-level job under false pretenses. She got promoted over and over again.

Yes, exactly, thank you! And as cmdicely pointed out, at any one of those occasions, she could have "corrected the record" and taken her lumps. I happen to agree that if she'd come clean years ago, she would have deserved consequences -- at the very least, not getting whatever job she was applying for -- but she could have then moved forward.

Revealing a 28-year-old lie does not make her real achievements magically vanish.

Again, it was not a 28-year old lie, told once and forgotten. It's a lie she has been telling, repeatedly, for 28 years. And yes, it does cast her "real achievements" in a completely different light, exactly as when, for example, a TV preacher is revealed to indulge in behavior he normally condemns.

She claimed credit for work she did not do -- exactly like palgiarism, and like plagiarism, doign so is unforgivable.

But doing one's job is a measurable, testable, real-world thing.

Exactly. As dean of admissions, she's supposed to enforce a certain standard. And yet she violated that very standard, and repeatedly at that. Her conduct automatically disqualified her from her job. A point which, I must observe, she herself agreed. Why you dispute her own admission and defend her unforgivable conduct is not clear to me.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

So does aWol.

Exactly. So, in many cases, what do academic credentials say other than you were able to get acccepted and pay to go through school?

Posted by: ki on April 27, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK
Speaking of CC's - I better hustle off to the last class of the day and give the students their moneys worth.

Apropos, really of nothing, I am reminded of something a CC philosophy instructor I had was fond of saying when his students complained of workload..."Students are the only people that complain when you give them what they are paying for."

Even further aside, this morning's posts here aren't quite what I would have expected the morning after the first Democratic Presidential debate.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, let's keep her, and then continue telling the student body about the need for the honor code, expulsion for anyone caught misrepresenting their own work (otherwise known as plagiarism), etc. . .

Yes, firing was very appropriate, esp. coming from our crowd (you know, the ones who like to talk about accountability).

Finally, this is not something she just did 3 decades ago. Every day she came to work without correcting the lie amounted to the retelling of that lie. So trying to flub it off as a youthful indescretion doesn't cut it either.

Yes, I'm in academia (PhD, full-time Asst. Professor of German)

Posted by: chuck on April 27, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

coltergeist:
if my pediatrician of 28 years (which is kind of scary if you think about it) accurately diagnosed and successfully treated my 8 kids for their diseases and developmental problems, and if the doctors at the hospital confirmed her diagnoses when 5 of them had their tonsils taken out and Joe-Bob was confirmed to have diabetes--it still wouldn't allow her to have M.D. after her name, but neither could I deny what she did.
Which is my point.

Posted by: pbg on April 27, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

A learned man is an idler who kills time with study . Beware of his false knowledge : it is more dangerous than igorance.

Posted by: GEORGE B. SHAW on April 27, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

IOW, her lack of credentials may very well have been her greatest credential that allowed her to see outside of the box.

That may be, Disputo, but in her position it also simply isn't credible that she wasn't aware of the serious nature of her offense. Again, if she had taken it upon herself to correct the record, it might have been one thing. As it was, though, she was content to continue to let her false claims stand, because she obviously benefited from them, when they ran completely counter to the jobs she was seeking. Her position as dean of admission makes her offense all the worse.

By the way, props to Kevin for acknowledging the verdict of the commetariat on the main page.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, an unqualified person was hired to take a job. This is what's wrong. What next are you going to defend? Plagiarism and academic dishonesty? Firing is the only correct course of action. America is a meritocracy where those who do the job best succeed. Anything less than firing would send the signal MIT doesn't believe going to good schools and having the proper qualifications was important to getting ahead in life
Al

Of course, none of the above applies to Republicans.

There you go Al, I fixed it for you.

Posted by: Mooser on April 27, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Also, the changes she implemented in the admissions process to make it less stressful may very well have been only envisioned by her *because* she didn't have a degree. An argument could be made that a person who had gone through the "hazing" of academia from start to a successful finish would have been too wedded to the competitive system to even imagine making it less stressful, akin to the way in which frat boys who have gone through hazing cannot imagine not hazing others in turn.

Oh, yes, I agree. But I think that part of her appeal was that people "wanted to hear" from a scientist who was going to go around telling people that they needed to live less stressful, less lives less focused on relentless achievements at the age of 17. If she preached that line with full disclosure about her background, people could have said, "what the heck do you know? You tried to get a science degree and failed." I'm not saying I completely disagree with her take on some issues, but I disliked her public persona, overall, and now I understand why.

Perhaps she could have had a role to contribute had she actually spent time at MIT getting a college degree, and then she could have had a position as "Director" of admissions. However, she was pushing her vision of a formula of successful admissions policies based on experiences she claimed to have had but didn't.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

So, in many cases, what do academic credentials say other than you were able to get acccepted and pay to go through school?

I'm going by memory here, but my diploma (now almost 20 years old!) says something to the effect that I satisfactorily completed the course of study as laid out in the requirements, yadda yadda yadda.

Now, the truth is, my current job has nothing to do with my degree, and yes, of course, I'm judged on my current work rather than my degree.

But I still did the work for my degree, and it simply isn't right that someone else claim credit for work they didn't do. I can't fathom why anyone would argue someone deserves a pass for that.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kids applying to competitive schools sometimes cheat on their resumes about some credential they probably didn't need to be a successful student but did need to win the competition to be admitted in the first place.

To have a dean of admissions that cheated in the same manner would be absurd, as the institution would effectively be winking at said behavior and encourage even more cheating in the admissions process as a result.

Thus, letting her keep this job will have the ultimate effect of excluding a more worthy young person from the opportunity to study at one of the world's best schools.

I heard once from the dead of admissions at Stanford about how they discovered that an undergraduate had cheated on his application and they not only expelled him but voided all his credits, effectively leaving him $60,000 poorer with nothing to show for it. I tell this story to as many of my HS students as I can. Some are appalled at the school, but I think the more honest ones appreciate it as they end up disadvantaged in the whole process by their own honesty. And that is a shame.

Posted by: ScottS on April 27, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

That may be, Disputo, but in her position it also simply isn't credible that she wasn't aware of the serious nature of her offense.

I never argued that she wasn't.

I am arguing that academia fetishes credentials to their own detriment.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Who gives a shit? It's M.I.T., the up-market DeVry.

Anyway, she can just plagiarize something an get a professorship at Harvard Law.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on April 27, 2007 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK
Also, the changes she implemented in the admissions process to make it less stressful may very well have been only envisioned by her *because* she didn't have a degree.

Even if not that, its probably the case that its unlikely that someone would have the top-to-bottom depth of experience in admissions she had if they had the credentials she claimed and which, while they weren't needed for her initial job, were certainly important to be Dean of Admissions.

So, certainly, I think that there is a case that can be made that this may illuminate a problem in academia, particularly, the problem that certain important positions may currently filled based on the wrong credentials. The head of admissions isn't, fundamentally, a teaching or research position, its not a position that directs teaching or research, and may, quite arguably, not be the kind of position to which a doctorate, while frequently seen as indispensable, is really a particularly useful or relevant qualification, whereas other kinds of practical experience are more important.

So, yeah, I think you have a point, not that it excuses what Jones did or suggests she should have gotten off easier for having done it.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just because you have credentials doesn't mean you can do the job. The reverse also applies.

Posted by: MNPundit on April 27, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

PLAGIARISM---There is nothing that has been said , that has not been said before ! There is nothing that has been written written before !

Posted by: FATHER TIME on April 27, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ms. Jones, did you or did you not complete your degree.

Um, I don't recall....

Seems in 3 decades, perhaps she could have gone ahead and bought one from one of those reputable online degree mills. Bet they'd have even backdated it for her.

A non-degreed person bossing degreed people. It just isn't done, Sir.

Posted by: 3 Points on April 27, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that having THIS sort of lie uncovered for someone in THIS sort of position is pretty clearly a firing offense.

On the other hand, the fetishization of credentials has been pretty clearly on display in this thread with the example that people in academia wouldn't have listened to or taken seriously this woman's ideas about admissions...JUST BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T HAVE THE RIGHT SET OF INITIALS AFTER HER NAME.

Having a degree or credential should be demonstrated in one's thinking or one's work. The simple having of a degree or credential, however, shouldn't convey with it a certain status all its own, independent of the demonstrated ability and skill of the individual.

Mike

Posted by: MBunge on April 27, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

But I still did the work for my degree, and it simply isn't right that someone else claim credit for work they didn't do.

I'm certainly not defending Jones, or lying about a degree. Rather, I'm just criticizing the supposed value of degree credentials as an indicator of intelligence, ability, or even knowledge.

I agree with Disputo - academia fetishes credentials to their own detriment.

Posted by: kis on April 27, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Her real resume didn't support the mission of the university. That is a fact.

Other than that, it's an argument between those time hallowed folks known as boors and snobs. Or the people who pretentiously think they are.

Posted by: parrot on April 27, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think she should have been fired. Reprimanded, demoted, but if she'd been doing her job well, that just goes to show how meaningless a degree can be. Academics won't see that because without their credentials, most of them are nothing. (I say that as an academic myself.)

Posted by: mackdaddy on April 27, 2007 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

If the academic training she lied about were essential to actually doing the job, would she not have been discovered years ago by her incompetence?

Marilee Jones is a charlatan, yes, but is not the "value" of credentials in this case also shown to be a ruse?

Posted by: intelligent design on April 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

how is what she did or did not learn 28 years ago at college relevant to her job today? doesn't 28 years of experience make up for it?!

Posted by: evermore on April 27, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Nailed it:
"Marilee Jones is a charlatan, yes, but is not the "value" of credentials in this case also shown to be a ruse?"
Posted by: intelligent design on April 27, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Janus Daniels on April 27, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

If the academic training she lied about were essential to actually doing the job

Strangely enough, not lying about academic credentials was essential to her job as dean of admissions.

And again, she lied 28 years ago and every day since for 28 years, because she never "corrected the record."

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Her real resume didn't support the mission of the university. That is a fact.

I think that's the key point, isn't it? The mission of the university is to perpetuate excellence in academia from others who were excellent in academia.

how is what she did or did not learn 28 years ago at college relevant to her job today? doesn't 28 years of experience make up for it?!

No, actually it doesn't. There's a claim to be made that higher education might not make you smarter or better-informed, but it does change you, culturally. Jones was pushing through a set of controversial policies while claiming to be part of the culture she was hired to serve and yet actually wasn't.

There's only going to be one time in life when you had to write a thesis, deal with a recalcitrant advisor, and deal with the academic rivalries and teamwork with your classmates. That time is as a university student. If you didn't go through that, 30 years in the working world isn't going to make up for it. In 90% of cases, that probably doesn't matter. The fact that her position is as one of the top administrators of a university means it does matter.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Well for one thing it shows you don't need a college degree to do that job.

Posted by: James Brown on April 27, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

someone should doublecheck Rachel Screwlouse's creds. Yale my aching ass.

probably another grad of Pat Robertson's School of Law 'N Bahble Study

third rate hacks
from fifth rate schools
running things at Justice.

Sad, sad day

Posted by: getaclue on April 27, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think what is truly sad about this whole thing is that she proved that she had the gift to do an amazing job...and it all was undone because she never buckled down and did it herself.
I would say she earned herself a sad realization that she just blew 30 years of her life away with this lie.
She has nothing now...and the sad commentary of it all is she is the author of this fiasco, and a good institution is going to loose a good adminstrator.
On the upside of it all, though, is that the local Denny's is going to get a fantastic manager.

Posted by: Sheerahkahn on April 27, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well for one thing it shows you don't need a college degree to do that job.

Posted by: James Brown on April 27, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I guess I am left to take the contrary position on this. MIT is basically saying the 28 years of service she performed was worth nothing at all because she did not have a degree that it is clear wasn't really needed in the first place.

A penalty other than termination was called for here. The penalty given is unjust, and it is surprising to me that more here cannot see that.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 27, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

More here are credentialled.

Posted by: intelligent design on April 27, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm unaware of any licensing requirements for college administrators, so I don't really see the analogy to lawyers and doctors. Here in California, you CAN get a license to practice law without going to law school.

However, I suppose judging other peoples' qualifications based on their resumes and other pieces of paper is one job where you probably shouldn't be lying on your pieces of paper.

Still, the fact that she worked her way up through the system to the top job says to me that she knew what she was doing, even if she learned on the job rather than in class.

Unfortunately for her, she chose the wrong place to work.

Sounds like a good movie in there somewhere...

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 27, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, here's the response from my boyfriend, an MIT grad:

First reaction: how the hell did it take THIRTY YEARS to find out about this?

Second: she had to go.

And my reaction to the tool who refers to it as an upmarket DeVry: Sounds like the sour grapes of someone who got rejected by even Iowa State University.

Posted by: Angela on April 27, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The penalty given is unjust, and it is surprising to me that more here cannot see that.

It was of course unjust, but it was nevertheless necessary. MIT could not allow one of their employees to continue demonstrating to their customers that their product is unnecessary.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

MIT could not allow one of their employees to continue demonstrating to their customers that their product is unnecessary.

BINGO!

Posted by: intelligent design on April 27, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

MIT could not allow one of their employees to continue demonstrating to their customers that their product is unnecessary.

Depends how many of their customers aspire to be admissions administrators/media personalities. And even then, many would argue her value system as an admissions admin was off-kilter.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey Ward wrote: Well, I guess I am left to take the contrary position on this.

How ruggedly individualist of you.

MIT is basically saying the 28 years of service she performed was worth nothing at all because she did not have a degree that it is clear wasn't really needed in the first place.

No, MIT is basically saying her 28 years of falsifying her academic record disqualified her from being dean of admissions -- for which the degrees she falsely claimed no doubt are required.

And, I must repear, Jones is on record as agreeing.

But of course, it's not surprising that Yancey Ward takes the side of someone whose dishonesty is now a matter of public record. Birds of a feather and all that.

It is a little surprising that Yancey Ward so spectatularly misunderstands the issue. No, wait -- it isn't, really.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

MIT could not allow one of their employees to continue demonstrating to their customers that their product is unnecessary

AFAIK, she didn't claim a degree from MIT.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

And my reaction to the tool who refers to it as an upmarket DeVry: Sounds like the sour grapes of someone who got rejected by even Iowa State University.

Spare us the childish snobbish insults. I got into MIT, but I didn't go. I went to a better engineering school.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

"They didn't (not weren't able to) because she was applying for a job for which not even an undergraduate degree was required (which makes the lying more egregious as it was needlessor extremely clever, forward looking deceit.)"

Reminds me of a friend at college in the UK: let's call her Miss X. She was highly competitive, wanted a political career. Pre-exams, she joked about getting a 3rd (low grade of degree). I checked when the exam results came out, and she got a 2:2 (mid-grade). I congratulated her in front of some friends, and she changed the subject rapidly. A few days later, she told me at a party there'd been a mistake by her professors and, she'd gotten a First. I said "Oh, OK then, well congratulations, that's great!".

About 15 years later, I'm in a different continent, an email an old political acquaintance, and he mentions to me "did you hear about X?". I google it, and it turns out my old friend X had been fired after two weeks in a high profile, $350K job because she'd lied to the UK Law Society a decade when applying for a scholarship: she said she'd gotten a First, when she'd got a 2:2.

She started lying about her degree less than a week after receiving it.

Posted by: No Longer a Urinated State of America on April 27, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

A non-degreed person bossing degreed people. It just isn't done, Sir.

3 Points, I would encourage you to work with more entrepreneurs. Particularly in the computer industry there are plenty of people who never finished college who have their own businesses, and they boss plenty of people. They boss people with Ivy League degrees. They sometimes fire Ivy Leaguers because they can't perform. I personally have seen this many, many times. (And lest I be painted as an 'uncredentialed wanker' here, let me just mention that I do have my degree.)

It can't be overstated that Ms. Jones worked for people who sell education. Her personal story, which directly questions the value of what her employer is selling, is dangerous for MIT.

Posted by: jen on April 27, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Spare us the childish snobbish insults.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Disputo.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Depends how many of their customers aspire to be admissions administrators/media personalities.

The balloon still pops no matter where you prick it.

And even then, many would argue her value system as an admissions admin was off-kilter.

Of *course* they are. I imagine that a full rewrite of her career as a bumbling boob is in the works. Of course, MIT can only take that so far....

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that she had to be fired no matter how good she did her job-the University has to maintain *their* integrity even if she didn't. If her position really doesn't require a degree to perform effectively-then they shouldn't be requiring the degree. After WWII and the GI Bill you had a big flood of working class people going to college for the first time. For a few decades this was a great thing-tuition was affordable and getting into the "top" schools didn't have quite the pressure it does now. The skill level of the workplace was greatly improved. However, since the 80's it seems that credentials are often being used as a cheap screening device-a way to keep raising the bar and moving the goalposts (for many positions-not all). If many occupations really do not require a degree to perform the duties effectively-what about the economic waste and inefficiency (time and opportunity costs)that were incurred? I just don't see how that helps us collectively as a society.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Hypocrisy, thy name is Disputo.

As ever you miss the point, which was to show that one shouldn't be a snob because they can always be out-snobbed. I don't go around bragging about my credentials, except to show for fools those who do.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Speaking as someone who isn't one of the country's best and brightest, I think it's grossly inappropriate that someone who failed, for whatever reason, to get a college degree should be in a position to decide who gets to attend one of the country's most prestigious colleges...or that someone who lied on her job application should be paid to judge student applications.

If she were in any other role, I might agree with you...but come on.

Sincerely,

theperegrine

Posted by: theperegrine on April 27, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

How many thousands of dollars and years of time would the degrees have cost the MIT dean at the time if she had truly earned them?

In a sense it's like stealing from the institutions the dean claimed she graduated from. Her lying also degrades the value of the degrees graduates of those institutions truly earned.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on April 27, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Doc, it's perfectly reasonable to believe that corporate America suffers from an obsession with credentialism while at the same time believing that in this case, such a concern isn't warranted.

Disputo, I know plenty of people who are successful in their own niches without degrees. In the niches I and many MIT students hope to occupy? Not so much. If the maxim that the balloon pops no matter "where you prick it" were to apply, it would have popped long ago. I'm not really sure how saying to a generation of students, "you don't have to go to college. you could end up as successful as Marilee Jones" was ever a compelling argument.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

The point of academics is most assuredly NOT credentials. That would be the equivalent of claming that the point of visiting other countries is to get your passport stamped! The point of academics is to discover, interpret and communicate information. Credentials are nothing more than documentation that a person has successfully completed at least the minimum requirements of a particular program of study. They do indicate certain level of intellectual ability and so are of value in the job market, but employment is hardly the point of academics!

The Dean of Admissions at MIT was hired, in part, because she misrepresented her credentials, but once hired, each paycheck she collected was in exchange for her labor. She did lie about her credentials and persisted in that lie and should be disciplined for her lack of integrity, but if her job performance has been satisfactory (annual performance appraisals are credentials too), there was no reason to fire her.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

"In academia we are nothing without our credentials."

If that were truly the case, you would be nothing, even with them.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo, actually, I mistakenly thought you were the one who called MIT an "upmarket devry" which was, itself, a childish snobbish insult.

When I read a lot of comments detracting from the value of various colleges' education, I'm skeptical. Let's just say that the internet is full of self-made millionaire veterans of the special forces who dropped out of harvard and MIT because they realized that they didn't learn anything from the professors that they didn't already know.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Kevin. I don't see why this is a big deal, and none of the comments I've read so far give me reason to change my opinion.

Posted by: Xanthippas on April 27, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Count me in on all those who agree that firing is too good for her. I'd also like to add the no doubt illogical wish that MIT could be slapped with an enormous fine for committing some sort of public fraud.

MIT accepts tons of applications (and their non-trivial application fees) every year from students who understand they don't have a terrific chance of getting into the school, but who do trust that the process, no matter how flaky, has integrity. Sure, legacy and affirmative action admits get in, and certainly knowing the right person helps, but at least at bottom, all their hard work in high school would be evaluated and assessed by experts who had themselves undergone a demanding academic career and understood the importance of each achievement. DoAs have an enormous amount of ultimate power over these decisions. Any student who was rejected from MIT during this period now knows that their applications were found wanting by a lying, cheating fraud, if that's not too redundant.

MIT owes the thousands of students whose checks they cashed over those years an apology for perpetuating the fraud through their own carelessness. All the other elite campuses everywhere should instantly review their own doa's credentials as well (I expect they will be).

Her book should be pulled from publication, and MIT should be forced to reimburse the publishers for their costs, since the publishers used her position at MIT as a proxy for expertise.

Posted by: Cal on April 27, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Cheshire11@2:55 p.m.,

Well said.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 27, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

My son's best friend from high school dreamed of attending MIT. He applied, but was rejected. He is brilliant (a valedictorian with excellent SAT's and ACT's), creative, athletic, personable and HONEST! We, along with his high school teachers and friends, were shocked that he was not admitted. The fact that Ms. Jones was part of a process that reviewed his application angers me--and I bet it will anger a lot of parents whose kids did not get accepted into MIT. Lying about her credentials DOES matter. For years, a dishonest person was heading up a department that required honesty from its applciants.

Posted by: bama on April 27, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

The tort buzzards are circling.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 27, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Call me a mushy Christian but I'm all for forgiveness.

Posted by: Northern Observer on April 27, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Al at 12:00 said:
"Kevin, an unqualified person was hired to take a job. This is what's wrong."

That's just it. That's why Kevin raises this question. She may have lied, but she obviously is not unqualified.

That said, the arguments for consistency in firing liars and avoiding conflicts of message at the Admissions office are quite valid.

But her job really isn't one that requires a degree in order to successfully perform. That's the larger point here. Credentialism has run amok. But we're so used to it that we don't even notice. At least those with credentials don't notice.

Posted by: bubba on April 27, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if she was good or bad at her job, but she had to go. That's a no brainer.

If she was good at her job, then she screwed herself. Anyway, she had a 28 year career, and unless they take away her pension I don't think this should be any great hardship for her. She may have to lower her standard of living, but she'll still be much better off than most high school graduates after 28 years in the work force.

Now, if they take away her pension, I might agree that MIT was a bit harsh.

Posted by: jussumbody on April 27, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

When I first read this story, I had mixed emotions, but I find the general sentiment compelling. I suspect that part of the disagreement (to the extent that there is any) stems from ignorance about MIT's internal culture. And it's not just MIT of course, it's the scientific culture in general, which takes as a given that you are not lying. You may be voicing an opinion, you may be a contrarian, but you don't make things up and claim them as facts. That's the way science works, and I seriously doubt whether this woman could have continued to do her job within that culture anyway, no matter what approach the MIT administration had taken. There was simply no other choice for her but to resign immediately, because she couldn't have continued even to show her face, much less do her job.

By the way, internal changes at MIT were not, in my experience, limited to suggestions coming from the degreed faculty. My class (1969) managed to explain how dingy the facilities came across (there is a long corridor used by just about everyone, and at the time it was a sickly hospital-green; it was spiffed up and became sightly instead of depressing). Freshman students did not have the pass-fail system used by Cal Tech; lots of things like that were addressed, and the system encouraged input and constant change.

One other thing: Some comments refer to the fact that people can be excellent in what they do even without a degree or a credential. This is obvious, but it misses the point that most competent scientists have some sort of a degree because excellence in science involves a lot of education and a lot of training; biochemists don't spring from the brow of Zeus, but develop skills after lots of practice at the bench. The practice of hiring faculty and administrators may yield the occassional diamond in the rough, but most scientists and MIT administrators come from competent training programs.

Posted by: Bob G on April 27, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

In a way I'd like to say this (the comment section's reaction) points to another of America's forgotten divides. That between the educated professionals and the unwashed masses.

Posted by: bubba on April 27, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Buzzards indeed.

The irony is that the Dean was fighting against the kind of elitist sense of entitlement on display here by Cal and bama.

I expect that the class action has already been filed.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

She did lie about her credentials and persisted in that lie and should be disciplined for her lack of integrity, but if her job performance has been satisfactory (annual performance appraisals are credentials too), there was no reason to fire her.

Allow me to continue being the contrarian in this thread. She had to be fired, not because of the smoke screen of academic ethics (HA!) but because her very existence undercuts the product.

If you were the CEO of Ford Motors, and you just discovered that your high-profile and talented VP of Marketing not only had been riding her bicycle to work for the last 20 years, but had indeed never owned a Ford or any other car -- didn't even have a drivers license! -- would you not have to fire her?

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

The embarrassing point is that you don't have to have a college degree to see who is eligible for college. That doesn't seem remarkable to me, actually.

Posted by: marky on April 27, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

"most competent scientists have some sort of a degree because excellence in science involves a lot of education and a lot of training; biochemists don't spring from the brow of Zeus, but develop skills after lots of practice at the bench."

Her job was administrative, not scientific.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

marky, actually, most everyone who applies to MIT is "eligible"-- which is to say, qualified to handle the work. What she focused on was the nature and the culture of the qualified students that were admitted. She was hired in part because of the presumption that she could provide the perspective of someone with a scientific background which, it turned out, she did not have. Yet she continually marketed herself to the MIT community and to the public as someone who was "a scientist by training."

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

The quality of mercy is not strained. We know little of her life story and nothing of her circumstances in the 1970s. I am certain that opportunities for women were considerably less three decades ago, and some people have limited access to college. Soooo, all of us venting here have insufficient knowledge upon which to hold a credible position on her work. Not a little ironic!

I wish we could be a little less punishment centric as a society. perhaps weighing her service against a public flogging. Colleges and universities are businesses first and foremost. Her greatest sin was harming the MIT brand.
If college wasn't often a way to validate the distribution of wealth to the already wealthy, I suppose I could summon more outrage at her lack of integrity (playing by the rules of academia against all life obstacles and cost). In truth, I think her crime is mostly one of embarrassment--on her part and MIT's.

Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

"If you were the CEO of Ford Motors, and you just discovered that your high-profile and talented VP of Marketing not only had been riding her bicycle to work for the last 20 years, but had indeed never owned a Ford or any other car -- didn't even have a drivers license! -- would you not have to fire her?"

Of course, however, if it were the director of HR in question, the matter of whetehr he/she had a car or a license would be irrelevant.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

What is striking about this whole line of commentary is the outrage many easily display about a lie regarding credentials. Amazingly, the case for the Iraq war was a set of nice lies and the outrage is far more subdued and barely evident.

Posted by: polson on April 27, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

If that VP of marketing got famous for declaring how cars needed to be redesigned to be narrower, have two to three wheels, and depend more heavily on human-powered pedaling in order to attract more customers among the urban-courier demographic, all the while relying on his experience as a test-driver by training, then, yeah, not only would that person need to be fired when it turned out he had never driven a car before, but suddenly his odd behavior over the years would make a whole lot more sense.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

The irony is that the Dean was fighting against the kind of elitist sense of entitlement on display here by Cal and bama.

I don't see how anything I said could be perceived as elitist. I certainly am not arguing that students are entitled to go to MIT. However, all protests to the contrary, universities eat up the ever-expanding number of applications they get, and do their best to generate even more. MIT should not be allowed to get away with an "oops" when the entire applications process that enhances their reputation of desirability is run by a cheat.

Posted by: Cal on April 27, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

"She was hired in part because of the presumption that she could provide the perspective of someone with a scientific background which, it turned out, she did not have. Yet she continually marketed herself to the MIT community and to the public as someone who was "a scientist by training."

…and yet, for 28 years, the one of the two or three most prestigious scientific institutions in the world was unable to find fault with her job performance and promoted her repeatedly. I would think that her repeated and sustained ability to meet or exceed the expectations of various positions in the MIT administration would have discredited presumption that the theory that a scientific background was necessary to the position. Strict adherence to (at least the spirit of) the scientific method would dictate that MIT keep their Dean of Admissions and jettison a discredited presumption!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

"I wish we could be a little less punishment centric as a society. perhaps weighing her service against a public flogging. Colleges and universities are businesses first and foremost. Her greatest sin was harming the MIT brand."
Exactly right on both points!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

"What is striking about this whole line of commentary is the outrage many easily display about a lie regarding credentials. Amazingly, the case for the Iraq war was a set of nice lies and the outrage is far more subdued and barely evident."

Well, in all fairness, the neocons credentials are impeccable!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

The list of liberals who lied their way to fame if not necessarily fortune is a very long one. The woman who lied about her non-existent degrees is completely in character for the liberal she is.

Posted by: mhr

Too, tempting. Must... resist... urge to.... gaaa! Shouldn't you be responding to a subpoena or hiding under a bridge, mhr?

Posted by: jussumbody on April 27, 2007 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Cheshire11, I would argue that her promotion to the top was more reflective of the dysfunctional nature of university administration than anything else. She had her detractors and plenty of people who asked themselves, "how on earth did she get as far as she did?" Now we know-- she climbed her way up by dint of charisma and an ability to make people believe she was speaking from a position of authority when she actually wasn't.

I don't want people who can rise to the top by dint of their charisma and an ability to bamboozle.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Rule #1 in any decent university is Don't Lie. In the current administration, it would appear to be "Don't Remember."

Posted by: etaoin shrdlu on April 27, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bob G: Some comments refer to the fact that people can be excellent in what they do even without a degree or a credential. This is obvious, but it misses the point that most competent scientists have some sort of a degree because excellence in science involves a lot of education and a lot of training; biochemists don't spring from the brow of Zeus, but develop skills after lots of practice at the bench.The practice of hiring faculty and administrators may yield the occassional diamond in the rough, but most scientists and MIT administrators come from competent training programs.

An admissions officer is not a scientist, and Ms. Jones actually did "spring from the brow of Zeus." Her career advancement indicates that her work was considered excellent by many of the more polished diamonds at MIT.

If scientists tried to determine the relationship of credentials to job performance, what conclusion would they draw from the case of Ms. Jones?

Posted by: intelligent design on April 27, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine-

I agree with you that office politics suck. I also admit that I don't know if she rose to her position through ability, charisma, politics or outright deception (probably a little of each), but as long as she received favorable performance evaluations in her position, I don't quite see why she should be fired. As bad as advancement by charm and fraud is, firing a person with a documented record of competence only opens the door (or window) to termination for similarly bad reasons.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"She had her detractors and plenty of people who asked themselves, "how on earth did she get as far as she did?"

That is often said of anyone who attains a position of prominence in any organization - especially a woman!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

My boyfriend went to MIT during the start of Ms. Jones's tenure and would verify that she was considered a joke by many in the college. It wasn't just her touchy feely policies but that she sometimes behaved in a manner inappropriate for herjob position.

Posted by: astrid on April 27, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK
If scientists tried to determine the relationship of credentials to job performance, what conclusion would they draw from the case of Ms. Jones?

Scientists, or at least people doing science at the time, wouldn't draw any conclusion about broad trends from a single individual.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, if we followed your advice on this issue, we could eventually end up with an incompetent president. Do you really want to go there?

Posted by: dcbob on April 27, 2007 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

BTW,

Thanks to the NYT's lead hiding, we were most of the way through the news story before we realized that she was fired. We were originally lead to believe she quit over a sudden pang of conscience.

My boyfriend immediately thought she was blackmailed by someone who opposed her position at MIT. Anyhow, his impression was that Jones was not well liked on campus.

Posted by: astrid on April 27, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

mhr-

I would love to debate with you the integrity or mendacity of liberal intellectuals, but I'm busy having a discussion with the grown ups at the moment and I'm sure you have a busy afternoon of nose-picking ahead of you.

Cheers!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

In a time when an administration can have zero accountability concerning matters of life and death, it seems too harsh. Why could they not make a big deal of her lying way back when, extract a tearful apology, and forgive her. She does not HAVE to be a bad example.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on April 27, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

astrid, you're correct about her public persona, at least among many segments of the students at the time she was Dean. What's interesting is that never do I remember an MIT Admissions Dean having such a high public profile both on and off campus. In retrospect, it seems she was trying to overcompensate for a hidding shortcoming.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK
Well, I guess I am left to take the contrary position on this. MIT is basically saying the 28 years of service she performed was worth nothing at all because she did not have a degree that it is clear wasn't really needed in the first place.

Um, no, they aren't.

They were saying that any future service would be worse less than they would get from someone else.

Its not like they sued her to return all the pay she'd received over the past 28 years.

And, yes, its clear that the degree wasn't needed in the first place: it wasn't a requirement for the job she first lied about it to apply for. That the degree was not even theoretically required for the jobs she held for most of her career is not in dispute.

What she is being punished for is not "not having a degree". Its 28 years of lying about having a degree that only ended when she got caught, not because she discovered some integrity.

A penalty other than termination was called for here. The penalty given is unjust, and it is surprising to me that more here cannot see that.

It is, sadly, entirely unsurprising to me that you can't even keep track of what the penalty is for, much less develop a reasonable idea of what is just.


Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

"UPDATE: Reaction in comments is virtually unanimous: I'm wrong. In fact, firing might have been too good for her...."

That is why you are running/writing a popular blog and we are all here reading it... your opinions are interesting.

Posted by: Anthony Finta on April 27, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK
We know little of her life story and nothing of her circumstances in the 1970s. I am certain that opportunities for women were considerably less three decades ago, and some people have limited access to college.

The reminder of context is appreciate, but the fact that her lie about having undergraduate and graduate degrees may have, in such a harsh employment environment for women, deprived a more honest but otherwise equally qualified woman without a college degree of the opportunity provided by the outreach-to-women position she landed at MIT that didn't require any degree is not inclined to make me view her more favorably.

Again, had she at some point come forward voluntarily to come clean I would agree that, if at all possible for her to credibly continue, she should not have been forced out. But that's not what happened.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

"If scientists tried to determine the relationship of credentials to job performance, what conclusion would they draw from the case of Ms. Jones?"

Scientists, or at least people doing science at the time, wouldn't draw any conclusion about broad trends from a single individual.

Surely scientists would conclude that despite being prerequisite to hiring, academic credentials are not always essential to performance.

Posted by: o'really on April 27, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Ms. Jones's credentials are not the heart of the story. Her apparent job performance are not the heart of the story.

The heart of the story is that she told everybody a bald face lie for almost 30 years. MIT shouldn't even have to fire her, she should have quit because she has completely compromised herself.

Is this story on par with Iraq, hell no! Stop comparing this to Bush administration's lies. That trivializes the tremendous scale of Dubya's lies and the loss borne by thousands of young American/British soldiers and millions of Iraqis.

Posted by: astrid on April 27, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

With your usual alacrity, you completely missed the point. The punishment is disproportionate to the transgression. A worker, with what appears to be a stellar work history, is being fired because of a lie she told 28 years ago. If MIT thinks she is a poor dean of admissions because of this lie, then it is far more appropriate to punish her with a demotion to another position within the university, of which I am sure there are many she could perform quite well, as she has in the past. Clearly, 28 years of solid work at MIT meant nothing at all to the university when it came time to punish this woman. Of course, MIT is free to follow any policy it wishes, but this one is clearly unjust and short-sighted.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on April 27, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

She lied about the very thing which she herself proved irrelevant and totally unnecessary for 28 years.

Posted by: o'really on April 27, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yancey, one does not retain one's job as a reward for the work one did yesterday. One retains one's job because of the value one is expected to provide tomorrow.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I went to MIT. Don't remember ever running into Ms. Jones. Doubt she actually had that much input in decisions on individual admissions. (There's a lot that goes into the soup--including an interview with every applicant.)

I agree with getting rid of her. If she had come clean at the beginning and taken her lumps it would have blown over a long time ago. But she ended up lying every day she did not correct her resume and make it obvious to people around her.

Those who claim this just shows how needless credentialism is are missing the point. It's not a question of credentials. It's a question of honesty and integrity. Ms. Jones has shown she has been lacking those traits for 28 years.

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 27, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I certainly think that MIT absolutely had no choice but to fire her.

But I also think that there was something tragic in the outcome here -- a sentiment that seems to be pretty well shared by her former employers at MIT, as best I can make out.

She seems to have been extraordinarily good at her job, nearly universally liked, extremely effective and energetic, and pushing for good causes. Clearly, she was impressively better at what she did than the large hordes of her peers who do possess the right credentials for the job.

It's very hard for me to feel any satisfaction in her fate, though in a basic moral sense it was deserved, and she certainly brought it upon herself.

Really, isn't that almost how a tragic figure is defined?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 27, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0,

You haven't been paying attention to the posts of MIT grads and people who know MIT grads. Jones was far from universally liked and her actual effectiveness is dubious.

I will agree that lots of abundantly credentialed people are just as bad at their jobs. (cough Harvard Business School cough)

Posted by: astrid on April 27, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Ha ha ha! The obvious point is that she didn't need the credentials to perfom her job in an outstanding manner. Credentials are virtually meaningless in most fields--not all, but most. Unfortunately, to admit this fact would be to admit that most so-called 'university educations' are a fraud. In a just world, most profs would have to go out and get a real job...

Ha ha ha!

Posted by: ahem on April 27, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Yancey, one does not retain one's job as a reward for the work one did yesterday. One retains one's job because of the value one is expected to provide tomorrow."

Yes and no, the job position is retained because of the value it is expected to generate tomorrow.

An individual retains their job because of the value they provided yesterday if they provided value, they keep their job, if not, then as long as their shortcomings have been documented, they have given cause for termination. Any employer who behaves differently will be excessively dependent upon the value their legal department brings them as they litigate all of the wrongful termination suits!

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

A worker, with what appears to be a stellar work history, is being fired because of a lie she told 28 years ago.

Yancey, it's already been pointed out to you that she has continued to lie for the past 28 years, so one wonders how someone of your unblemished intellectual honesty (cough, gag) -- not to mention rugged individualism of course! -- could pretend to be ignorant of this fact.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

You haven't been paying attention to the posts of MIT grads and people who know MIT grads. Jones was far from universally liked and her actual effectiveness is dubious.

I've read one or two posts to that effect. God only knows what lies behind them. I mean, what does it mean that an MIT student thinks she's too "touchy-feely", for example?

Certainly she seems to have been very well regarded in the community of admissions officers, and its hard to find any fault with anything she was publicly advocating for, particularly a less stressful admissions process.

You know, I've got to say, in reading the comments here I'm struck by how incapable most people are at having two contrary ideas in their head at the same time.

Yes, she did something absolutely wrong for which she deserved to be fired. But, yes, she seemed to have been nonetheless an extraordinary person with considerable talents, fantastic energy, and with mostly noble intentions.

As I said, this is pretty much how a tragic figure in the classical sense is defined.

Is the concept just too subtle for people to grasp and appreciate anymore?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 27, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Is the concept just too subtle for people to grasp and appreciate anymore?

Yes.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

What a lot of people seem to be missing is the incredible amount of lying that was done, for 28 years. That is why this cuts so deeply. In a research establishment You Do Not Lie. Period. Scientists and engineers don't have the time to double-check and redo every single reported experiment, so we take reported results on good faith and assume the research scientists has not made up results. Which is why we attack those who commit fraud so fiercely--it's the only way of keeping the scientific research system together.

Marilee Jones presented herself to those of us at MIT as being "one of you. I adhere to your beliefs and to your morals." She has shown that she definitely does not. And it's pretty rich (not to say Wolfowitzian) to have someone who lied on her own resume holding herself up moralizing on How One Should Not Lie On One's Application.

In short, with the discovery of this, she has made herself into a total joke and discredited the reputation of MIT. Firing is not an overreach in my opinion.

I wonder how many commentators who are supporting her have lied on their own resumes?

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 27, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

According to Reuters:

"Jones earned a string of honors, including MIT's highest award for administrators..."

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK
With your usual alacrity, you completely missed the point.

Um, no, I didn't.

The punishment is disproportionate to the transgression.

Yes, I know that is your point. I disagreed with it, and pointed out that the supposed basis on which that conclusion rests is erroneous.

A worker, with what appears to be a stellar work history, is being fired because of a lie she told 28 years ago.

No, that is incorrect. She is being fired for a lie she started telling 28 years ago and has kept telling since.


If MIT thinks she is a poor dean of admissions because of this lie, then it is far more appropriate to punish her with a demotion to another position within the university, of which I am sure there are many she could perform quite well, as she has in the past.

OTOH, if MIT thinks—as it should—that the 28 year history of lying about her credentials is a grave breach of the minimum standards of integrity expected of an employee of the university, then it is quite right to fire her.

Clearly, 28 years of solid work at MIT meant nothing at all to the university when it came time to punish this woman.

No, clearly it didn't mean enough to outweigh the breach of trust in 28 years of lies.

Whether it meant "nothing" is not at all apparent from her being fired.

Now, I can understand, Yancey, that integrity matters little to you personally, but some persons and institutions do value it, which is something that you should recognize even if you can't understand why people would do so.

Of course, MIT is free to follow any policy it wishes, but this one is clearly unjust and short-sighted.

Yes, I'm sure that MIT would be better served in the long term by sending the message to staff and students that integrity is unimportant in relations with the university. How very short-sighted of them to treat integrity as if it were important.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 27, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, she did something absolutely wrong for which she deserved to be fired. But, yes, she seemed to have been nonetheless an extraordinary person with considerable talents, fantastic energy, and with mostly noble intentions.

As I said, this is pretty much how a tragic figure in the classical sense is defined.

Is the concept just too subtle for people to grasp and appreciate anymore?
Posted by: frankly0 on April 27, 2007 at 5:58 PM

I agree generally with regards to tragedy here except for one thing: The book. If she had not been so *public* with a book-while at the same time keeping a *private secret* about her fraudulent resume then I would have similar sympathies that you have. I hate to say it, but it all seems a tad stagey to me. Try as I can not to be cynical, but nowadays....

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many commentators who are supporting her have lied on their own resumes?

I wonder if it is possible for the torch bearers to post a comment without a gratuitous ad hominem attack against those who see the situation as more complex?

Would it be too snarky to point out that such fallacious behavior advances the cause of scientific discourse and academic integrity about as well as fraud does?

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

"I wonder how many commentators who are supporting her have lied on their own resumes?"

And I could wonder how many commentators who are condemning her have lied on their resumees.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 27, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hehe... well obviously, since she didn't have a degree she must have been incompetent, right? Since universities are in the business of selling worthless pieces of paper that supposedly show that you will be a great hire, having someone prove their competence despite not having credentials is very embarrassing.

Posted by: kr on April 27, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

One further possible irony in this woman's fate: most likely, she would never have been found out had she been less impressively good at what she did.

I'd expect that it was precisely her growing fame in her work that led to the attention that ultimately exposed her. (I'm not sure we'll ever know, since the tipster is likely going to remain anonymous).

All in all, a pretty remarkable situation.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 27, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

I agree generally with regards to tragedy here except for one thing: The book. If she had not been so *public* with a book-while at the same time keeping a *private secret* about her fraudulent resume then I would have similar sympathies that you have. I hate to say it, but it all seems a tad stagey to me.

Someone in the comments of another blog mentioned that the book might have been a sign of how, like many deceivers, she felt the need to deceive on a larger and larger scale until she got caught... and it wasn't just the book. I was at MIT both before and during her tenure as Dean of Admissions. It was only when she took over the role that the Dean of Admission at MIT assumed such a public profile, both on-campus and off-campus.

It's like it occurred in stages: first she lied to the office she applied to. Then she lied to higher and higher tiers of administration. Then, once she became Dean, she started lying to the entire campus. Then she moved on to start presenting herself fraudulently to the larger community of Admissions administrators and guidance counselors. Finally she went on a book tour and presented herself to the media. The lies also seem to get worse. At first, she claimed to have just a BS and MS. Then she was referred to as having a Ph.D. and being "a scientist by training."

This all points to someone both charming and deceptive-- not a person I'd want to have around, but someone who can appear very charismatic.

As to why Jones was loathed by many on the MIT campus, she took a very patronizing attitude towards the students. The initial shot "fired" was a long missive in which she claimed to analyze the next generation of MIT students as very dependent and in dire need of adult supervision, much more so than the group of students just before them (coincidently this was the group that arrived at MIT just as she took over as Dean). She would refer to them constantly as "kids" and talk about herself as their "Mom away from Mom." One of the things that caused one of the larger campus uproars was when during the "campus preview weekend," visiting students were instructed to wear identifying wristbands at all time and never to leave campus at any time that weekend and to never, ever visit any other campus (such as, say, the small liberal arts college up the street). In an environment in which every student had always "done their own thing" since before they had arrived at MIT, it seemed that Jones was trying to be a campus Den Mother. You can agree or disagree with her "way," but the point is that it was such a big departure from what MIT students were "used to" that it had a lot of backlash. Perhaps this is the way she wishes she had been treated during her brief time in college. Who knows?

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

At first, she claimed to have just a BS and MS. Then she was referred to as having a Ph.D. and being "a scientist by training."

LOL. Wow. That *is* pretty damn bold.

Thanks for the additional background.

Posted by: Disputo on April 27, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine,

That's an interesting take on Jones.

It does seem there could have been a significant gap between how students regarded her and how other admissions officers and MIT administrators regarded her. Likely, it was mostly the same traits in her (e.g., the Den Motherliness) that each side either disdained, on the one hand, or praised, on the other.

Posted by: frankly0 on April 27, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

I would venture everyone on this board has engaged in some resume padding. Some credulity stretching. Some integrity lapsing. It is why the parable of throwing the first stone is such a perfect lesson.
A lot of people in fraternaties and sororities seemed to have tests, papers, and opportunities others did not. They are the ones fretting about her not seeming to "belong." Or being touchy-feely.
And CMDicely, I highly doubt she denied a "deserving" grad anything. She worked her way up.
I always laugh when I see curators at Museums are Art History majors--and happen to be the progeny of publishing, oil, or business magnates. Funny how they all seem to "belong." The emperors wear no clothes at the Frat house while other people fought and died in Iraq.

I don't doubt she should have suffered some consequence. But it should not have been public, she should ave been given a chance to make good in view of her performance and service, and we should not otherwise be anything but conflicted by the friction between the haves and the have nots.
I wish her well, but in America, public mistakes equal suicide, poverty, or Jerry Springer. And a lot of pompus ass derision. "You don't belong. You lack integrity." Like every business executive in America has a shard of integrity left. That other parable about a camel and an eye of the needle springs to mind!

Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0, the interesting thing when I think about this all is that it's not simply that the previous Dean of Admissions (the one who was there while I was an undegrad) wasn't as controversial. It's that I couldn't even tell you who the previous Dean of Admissions was.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

She wasn't hired to be Dean of Admissions. She was hired for an entry level position and worked her way up. She probably has better knowledge of how to do her job from that education than from any nonsense she would have learned in college.

Seriously, if she had gone to RPI and studied obsolete semiconductor manufacturing techniques from the 1970's, would that have made her a better member of the admissions office? Um, don't think so.

The purpose of credentials is to ensure that someone can do the job. But clearly she can.... since she has been doing it.

So the only issue is academic integrity. And frankly I'm too old and jaded to believe any of that hoo-haw. Half the blovination that comes out of universities is complete BS anyway.

Posted by: Kyle R on April 27, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine's comment, if true, would indicate a psychological problem at the root of this. And would make the whole embarrassment self-inflicted since her profile was too high to quietly push aside. Nonetheless, whatever her assertions, she seemed to have done pretty well with the training she received in residence. I am a huge fan of apprentiships, not so big a fan of colleges. There is a huge gulf in the quality of education between students who work, and those who are not so encumbered. I wish everyone with a passion to learn could do so and earn standing based on merit rather than cash outlays. I like the German system. . .

Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Astrid is completely right - I have no idea where this "universally liked" meme arose from. She may have been liked by her colleagues, but she was definitely not widely respected among the students and much of the faculty as well (with the complaint being that she was responsible for sending scientifically weaker classes than her predecessors - she put a lot more emphasis on well-roundedness than the MIT culture cared for).

There's been plenty of schadenfreude served up on many of the student e-mail lists over the past couple days about Dean Jones' fate.

Posted by: reader on April 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I love this quote from the Times story:

“It’s like a Thomas Hardy tragedy, because she did so much good, but something she did long ago came back and trumped it,” said one friend, Leslie C. Perelman, director of the M.I.T. program in writing and humanistic studies.

Yes, of course. It's like a Thomas Hardy tragedy.

Posted by: Kyle R on April 27, 2007 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

And of course, "scientifically weaker" means not well-rounded. The truest irony of all this? Most of the hard science jobs paying very well are already out-sourced. There probably will be a Computer Science PhD taking over admissions next. And man will he or she be qualified. And not scientifically weak. No sir. Snort! Snort!

Wonder how much money is tied up in MIT's incredible endowment fund that could be used to spread prosperity to mathematical geniuses working in chicken plucking factories--or weaving optism rugs for George Bush?

Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

err, optimism rugs. Sigh. Preview. Then Post. . .

Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine's comment, if true, would indicate a psychological problem at the root of this.

I should note that I was speculating based on an interpretation of of what I've read and the past as I remembered it. When I think about it, it certainly seems like she was telling bigger and bigger lies to larger audiences, but I'm not claiming to be an authority.

Also, another reference that's popped up: a Google cache of the program of a conference that Jones appeared at in 2007. The money quote:

Dr. Jones is a scientist with degrees in biology and chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Medical College.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

the program of a conference that Jones appeared at in 2007.

Uh, will appear at. The conference is this september. I wonder if she'll still be speaking.

Posted by: Constantine on April 27, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

I wish her well, but in America, public mistakes equal suicide, poverty, or Jerry Springer.
Posted by: Sparko on April 27, 2007 at 7:02 PM

Or maybe it is a very interesting interview on ..? What if the story gets even more complex? Maybe this is a test of a long-held theory that she has harbored and she wants a *public discussion* about it? She is approching retirement. MIT will likely let her have her pension. She is getting proceeds from her recently published book. Maybe Kevin should do an interview with her about all of these issues. A true tragedy yes or no? Better yet, for whom?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote, in response to Yancey's obtuseness: if MIT thinks—as it should—that the 28 year history of lying about her credentials is a grave breach of the minimum standards of integrity expected of an employee of the university, then it is quite right to fire her.

And I point out yet again that Jones herself, in the Times story, acknowledged the seriousness of her transgression and agreed that the consequences were appropriate.

She isn't playing the victim card, to her credit. How odd that rugged individualist Yancey Ward is doing it for her, in defense of 28 years of professional dissembling.

Perhaps he admires her achievement.

Posted by: Gregory on April 27, 2007 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Reaction in comments is virtually unanimous: I'm wrong. In fact, firing might have been too good for her....

Kevin, you were NOT wrong. And I'm very saddened and even disturbed by the near-unanimity of the responses here. Actually, I have trouble believing it.

Perhaps my views are colored by the fact that my father built an entire banking career on a similar lie. He came to the U.S. after WWII as a Jew who had survived the Holocaust (he was in the Dutch navy the entire time). He rose from an entry-level clerk to senior v.p. before his death in 1978, despite having never graduated from high school. He lived in fear of being found out. The only reason he wasn't (or maybe not the only reason, but I'm assuming it was the major reason) is because he always told new employers that all his records had been destroyed in the war. That was a credible reason, and so they accepted his claim that he was a high school (and college) graduate.

My father excelled at what he did (while simultaneously loathing and despising the work), and he was so positively regarded as a person that when he died, the entire staff of the bank he worked in wanted to attend his funeral. They had to tell some people they could not come, because somebody had to mind the store.

My point is this: People make mistakes, and we don't always know what the reasons were. If the mistakes harm people, there have to be consequences, of course. But who was harmed by the MIT dean's mistake? Yes, she deceived her employer, but she built a stellar career over 28 years and helped thousands of students. Are all of you here saying that counts for NOTHING?

I don't agree.

Kevin, I hope you see this comment. I always worry you won't when there are 199 comments before mine. But I just now read this article.

Posted by: Kathy on April 27, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

As a non-degree holder I have to side with those who uphold her firing. She lied for nearly three decades about her qualifications and that is certainly grounds for dismissal.
Ms Jones apparently was quite capable of doing the job and seemingly performed her duties well. Hopefully MIT will decide that her dismissal under the present circumstances is sufficient punishment. They might also look into developing a position for a "Director" of Admissions.
I do have some sympathy, though, for those who have mentioned the "fetish of credentialism" in this thread and have wondered if this fetish could be, in part, simply because we want something in return for the thousands of dollars spent attaining whichever degree is sought?
I'm a firm believer in further education, but I do believe learning is more important than education (which is why I'm glad I have never been in Ms Jones' position).
This whole thread has been very interesting.

Posted by: Doug Stamate on April 27, 2007 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming that what was posted was the full story, it's clear that MIT had to let her go. This is a question about integrity, not competence.

There are some careers where integrity isn't necessarily critical. Say one day your All-Star baseball player tells you, "Hey, you know that tryout where you first saw me in high school? I was using a corked bat!" Do you boot him off the team? Of course not. If your wildly popular five-star executive chef of many years admits suddenly to have never gone to culinary school, do you fire her? Of course not. The first one still hits and the second one still makes amazing food.

But academia, and (I would suggest) most businesses simply cannot tolerate gross deceptiveness. It's not about the credentials, but the truthfulness. You simply cannot work with people you cannot trust. In a place which places a premium on academic honesty, this kind of deceit cannot be allowed.

Certainly credentials are important in academia, but mostly because they are a convenient signal that someone possesses intelligence, creativity, and scholarship. If an unschooled fellow suddenly starts publishing high quality papers in physics, however, you can be sure that any good university would hire that person as soon as possible.

Ms. Jones may be brilliant, and easily capable of obtaining the degrees that she claimed to have. One could make a very plausible argument that her many years of experience make her much more qualified than anyone MIT can find to replace her. But that's all beside the point. It's the integrity that counts.

(As for those who claim that this shows the emptiness of college degrees, I'll note that it's quite hard to tell when someone is doing a good or bad job of being an admissions director. MIT gets so many strong applications that as long as you admit the slam-dunk cases, you can hardly be accused of making critical mistakes.)

Posted by: Steve on April 27, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

..MIT gets so many strong applications

Steve,

This goes full circle with the "flat maxima" concept with top school admissions thread recently. The argument there essentially was "why split hairs and waste time trying to decide who's better-just throw the dice and not waste everybody's effort-students and admissions officers". I will be very interested to see what Jones has to say in the next several weeks.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 27, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

kevin: I'm late to the party here, having been out of town, but yes, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Posted by: supersaurus on April 27, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I thought this episode just helped prove the emptiness of crudentialism. It appears most of the commentors think an actual degree would have been more important than several decades of exemplary performance.

Posted by: David Siegel on April 27, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Perfect score for missing the point. First off, actually possessing a degree with ones own name on the line is implied for a Dean...

She perpetuated a fraud...repeatedly...for three decades. In a job where she held other people up to scrutiny and evaluated them based on the veracity of the statements they made in applications submitted for evaluation to a liar and a fraud.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 27, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Somewhere there is an honest candidate for the job of Dean of Admissions who lost out to Jones in the competition for that job. A question for the defenders of Jones: Should that candidate have lied also?

Posted by: Brooklynite on April 27, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

She had to go because it cuts at the heart of what her job was about (evaluating other people's credentials and qualifications) BUT it also speaks to the fact that doing a job competently often has nothing to do with credentials. I find it amusing that so many people here enjoy polishing their credentials up to be such a big deal. Tons of people get through even expensive schools by the simple application of money to problems (tutors, people to write your essays); admittedly they don't get PhD's, but they certainly get BA's and whatnot. And piles more get through by doing the minimum, then forget everything they learned.

And I'll pass on a little secret: the academic literature on qualifications, including the qualifications to be... oh a doctor or lawyer, has come to the conclusion that most of the learning isn't done in the classroom. Interns are basically worthless.

Don't believe me - go start reading the sociological literature on credentialisation with that library card from the university you're going to.

None of this is to say that learning isn't worthwhile - but credentials are a very imperfect measure of learning, and those who take them as proxies for it are somewhat foolish. And learning is a very bad measure of competency in the real world.

Posted by: Mouse on April 27, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

And here's a perspective from the world of unionized employees: we have been arguing for years, with some success, that there is a shelf life to lies on a resume (in the case of union members we're usually talking about suppressing details about something bad in their past); after a year on the job the company should have to show that the lie made a difference. In this case I can't see MIT making that case.

Of course, if you want to get on a soapbox and talk about great things such as Academic Integrity and Trust, then the details, such as job performance and whether she can still do her job even after being exposed as a liar, get lost. Amazing how so many people contributing to this post not only want to sue, but prosecute her. We've got a lot more Human Resources Managers in training reading this blog than I would have thought.

Posted by: Henry on April 28, 2007 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

As a non-academic, who never lied about my status (no degree) - I have suffered, my entire career for it. (and yes, I'm working on correcting the situation - nearly done, after three career changes).

The fact that this person got a 28 year career because she lied, really pisses me off.

The fact that she performed her job, without the degree, shows that credentialism (which pisses me off much more) is a bunch of bullshit.

It's not fair to people like me when people like her get away with lying.

But it's also not fair to people like me, who do their jobs well, and in many cases (my case) better than many of those with credentials, and yet, face the constant "glass ceiling". (I cannot be given the chance to manage people who have a degree, lest they "resent" me, despite my superior job experience - 15 years.)

Should she have been fired?

Abso-fucking-lutely.

Should she have been given a chance at her job, without the degree?

Abso-fucking-lutely.

A degree, is nothing more, than a response to LAZY and medieval hiring practices, in desperate need of modernization. A degree is no indicator of talent or skill or drive.

When I interview candidates for employment, I don't pay much attention to whether they have a degree.
Unfortunately, my employer's HR rules DO pay attention, and they have frequently undermined my hiring decisions because of this.

In corporate America, it's the HR department that is often the greatest barrier to corporations hiring the best employees.

Posted by: bungholio on April 28, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

Not firing this woman would be like having someone who went AWOL as Commander in Chief of the military. Something is sick in our culture where anyone would even question firing this woman who is in THIS job (evaluating credentials) for THIS offense (lying about her own credentials). It is like Wolfowitz saying he should keep his job so he can continue to fight corruption. It is intolerable.

Posted by: Ba'al on April 28, 2007 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

On what planet is lying in business or academia viewed as a sin? Not planet earth. Liars are common in the work place and in most are a requirement for promotion.

I don't know this person, but the comments could easily be about laws penalizing people for wearing clothes above their class during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Posted by: Paul on April 28, 2007 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

Credentials not meaning anything/forgiving someone who has faked their credentials:

How much difference does it make if it's the worker who comes to you, totally voluntarily, and confesses, versus someone who you get outside information on, you do some digging about, and then discovering his background is a sham?

How can I have trust in someone who lied, not just all those many years ago, but every day since then, and who, if he/she hadn't been discovered, would still be doing so? How do I know that this is the only thing that this person has lied about? Why should I want to work with this person?

For those who want "forgiveness"--please excuse me, but why? Isn't this just going to give a signal out there that it's fine to lie, provided you carry it off for long enough?

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 28, 2007 at 5:30 AM | PERMALINK

I once worked for an insurance company when they discovered one of their VPs lied about his education, including an imaginary Masters and Ph D. He was fired.

But I think it might have been the imaginary Olympic Gold Medal that was his ultimate undoing.

Someone who manufactures stuff like that may next imagine that his department does all sorts of things that it doesn't.

Posted by: Scorpio on April 28, 2007 at 6:00 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, of course. It's like a Thomas Hardy tragedy.
Posted by: Kyle R

I think it's touching that someone at the NYTimes assumes that their readers are conversant with Jude the Obscure or The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Posted by: MsNThrope on April 28, 2007 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

As a lawyer, I live in a world where credentialism has truly run amok. It's not just that you need a degree, but it's where you got your degree that will dog you for your entire career. It can be inane.

But that doesn't mean you tolerate a liar, particularly someone who has told such a big lie.

We fired a lawyer a few years ago for lying about his military record. It had absolutely nothing to do with his credentials for the job -- most of us hadn't served in the military. But this guy listed his marine corps service on his resume, and was constantly telling colorful stories about his days as a marine. One of our lawyers who had actually been a marine mentioned that the stories didn't ring true, so the HR department checked on his service record. He was nailed as a liar, and we fired him.

Posted by: pj on April 28, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Lying is a disqualification for attorneys?

Posted by: chance on April 28, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Goodness, a lot of people here with college degrees, it seems. You represent, what, 25 percent of the population at most? 75 % of the population is doomed to flip burgers 'cause you lot came from well-off homes and got a piece of paper? I've worked with degreed professionals and not-degreed, and the main difference is the that old-boys network sanctimony and snobbery mask real incompetence, but somehow the idiots never get canned, while the non-degreed work like dogs for what they've accomplished. You cover each other.

It was thirty years ago. Let it go. She's obviously proved herself every step of the way. A REAL meritocracy lets someone move up based on their performance, not on what tired degree from some cliched big 25 university.

And if you lot actually had your resumes checked, how many would stay employed?

Posted by: catbeller on April 28, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

I would. I actually did the hard work to earn the degree that the fraud at MIT laid claim to. So yeah, I take it personally. And she had many opportunities to rectify it, and did not. The original job she was hired for did not require a degree, but she chose to lie. Then she perpetuated the lie and compounded it.

Had she not been fired, the entire faculty should have resigned in protest. Run a college without us. I dare you.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 28, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

It's akin to cognitive dissonance. If it hurts too much to change my beliefs, then I must be right. If I worked really hard to get something, it must have genuine intrinsic value.

But even with his diploma, what the scarecrow said about triangles was just as incorrect.

Posted by: chance on April 28, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Good to know that there are so many who have no problem with someone who phonied her credentials and perpetuated a fraud was the person evaluating others and making judgments and punishing those who were guilty of much less by denying them admission to a tier one school like MIT - admission to which actually makes a difference in the future one will experience. The hypocrisy is staggering, and I understand life, the universe and everything.

Speaks volumes. It really does.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 28, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I guess the undermining of education is complete.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 28, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

In addition to the arguments above supporting her being fired immediately, she could be liable for criminal charges for fraud. She rose to the position of Dean of Admissions without even having a bachelor's degree, much less a master's or doctorate. Her total misrespresentation of her academic could be the grounds for criminal prosecution. She should be considered fortunate that MIT doesn't pursue that. She would never have been considered for that position, much less employment at MIT, without that lie. And a lie is what she lived for decades.

Posted by: oofda on April 28, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Quote from the AP article:

"Clay said MIT now checks credentials of new hires but did not generally do so when Jones first applied to work there. The first job she applied for, as an administrative assistant, did not require a college degree, but Clay said Jones claimed to have one. He said she did not correct that claim during her appointment process as dean in 1997.

"Jones was asked to resign because her actions go "against her being a model for integrity that an admissions director sets," Clay said. "It represents a very, very long deception, when there were opportunities to correct the record. This is not a mistake or an accident or an oversight." "

Got that? "It represents a very, very long deception, where there were opportunities to correct the record. This is not a mistake or an accident or an oversight."

And would all those of the commentators who think that it's no big deal to lie on your resume provided you can get away with it not apply for a job at any company I ever run?

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 28, 2007 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Her total misrespresentation of her academic could be the grounds for criminal prosecution.

But you haven't answered the important question.

Stocks or pillories?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 28, 2007 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Conceding for the purpose of argument that Marilee is an abomination for whom flaying is much too good...

The question that remains is whether her highly MIT-regarded job performance has not proven the prerequisite credentials totally unnecessary and irrelevant.

Posted by: chance on April 28, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

For the last time:

1. Marilee was NOT considered "highly regarded" by everyone. A lot of the students and faculty at MIT considered her a lightweight and a nattering would-be "house mother" type. One thing I much enjoyed about MIT is the willingness (at least when I was there) to treat us more or less as adults. Most of us were very brilliant, socially inept geeks who had to deal suddenly with the fact that everyone around us was at least as brilliant as we were. Instant culture shock. But there was also the fact that we were getting taught classes by Nobel laureates and similar--and having to live up to our expections of ourselves. In light of such a culture, nattering den mothers are pretty useless. (I think the most useful thing MIT ever had was its habit of loading students complaining about sore throats with large bottles of strong cough syrup. It would knock the students out and force them to get some more sleep, which would cure most of the problems.)

2. Credentials for becoming a Dean of Admissions? Yah, I agree, probably not all that necessary. Especially considering the tripe that gets churned out in "education programs" I think we were damn lucky we didn't have a "Ph.D in Education" shoved into the job. It is more important to understand the culture of MIT and the amount of pressure on the students, so that a process of admissions can be done that doesn't let in students who achieve and can stand up to the load. Marilee's "training on the job" was pretty good from that point of view.

3. On the other hand, she may have ended up without a very relevant experience if she hasn't gone through the actual pressure-cooker of an intensive university program and the gauntlet of writing a thesis under deadline.

4. My own take on the matter is I'd prefer a Dean of Admissions who had a degree from MIT simply because then I know he/she has experienced the entire emphasis of "getting an education from MIT is like getting a drink of water from a firehose."

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 28, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

...should be "let in students who can achieve and CAN'T stand up to the load...."

Yeah, and I know I'm an old fart on this topic. She lied, she got fired. End of story.

Posted by: grumpy realist on April 28, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Between "she lied" and "she got fired" she did a good enough job, despite her complete lack of credentials, to be made Dean of Admissions by one of the best colleges in the world.

Those who consider it particularly reprehensible that a person without academic training would attain a position from which to judge MIT applicants might also ask themselves how such particularly appropriate training could be shown to be so irrelevant by the actions of MIT itself.

Posted by: chance on April 28, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-dean Jones is exactly in the position of a judge who has been found to be taking money in exchange for favorable decisions: she's called into question all her past decisions, and any that she might make in the future if she were allowed to stay on. She's also sullied the reputation of a fine institution. She's a long-term lier who has been in charge of assessing the credentials of others. She must have handled numerous cases of dubious claims on puffed-up applications - is there any way she could have evaluated those without undue bias one way or another? She had to go.

Credentialism is not the issue here, as no one gets a Ph.D. in being a dean of admissions. Instead, it�s a matter of credibility, experience, and whether her judgements and opinions are valid. I heard her being interviewed on NPR about her book. I was not sold on her message that we should let kids be kids and not stress them to produce perfect resumes, although as a parent of a high school student and as a professor, I really want her opinions to be correct. However, my experience is that, dangers notwithstanding, �no pressure, no diamonds� (well, not many). Internally derived pressure works far better here than externally applied pressure, and the students who push themselves outrageously tend to be the ones who accomplish far beyond rational expectation. Also, when MIT has tens of thousands of hyperqualified overachieving applicants, what else are they going to do other than accept the most excessive overachievers? That's why it's MIT, and that's why those students belong there.

Now it turns out that the dean knows absolutely nothing about the benefits that one can get from pumping up the academic pressure on oneself, thriving on an absolutely insane level of concentration on learning, and totally focussing on research problems, because she's never had the opportunity to experience anything remotely like that first-hand. So no matter how impressively she presents her opinions about education, she's built them on false foundations. Does she perhaps favor the kids backing off and ratcheting down because she resents their accomplishments or doesn�t understand their drive, motivations, and rewards? I listened to her opinions because she seemed to have much broader experience than me, but it turns out that her opinions are baseless and her credibility is ruined.


Posted by: N.Wells on April 29, 2007 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

You can't lie in academia.

People who lie in academia should go and work for the government and leave us honest folks alone.

Posted by: richard on April 29, 2007 at 6:57 AM | PERMALINK

The ex-dean is a dead horse being beaten.

The live horse is whether:

MIT was totally inept in evaluating her work for 28 years, or

MIT seriously overestimated the real value of the prerequisite credentials.

Posted by: chance on April 29, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

One lie on a resume 20 years ago is insufficient for dismissal. Expanding and growing that lie is unacceptable.

Where is the morality in academia, politics, and personal life?

Perhaps morality has been outsourced,too.

Posted by: kindlingman on April 30, 2007 at 6:35 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly Jones did more than just misrepresent her academic credentials on her resume, although as others have noted such fraud would be grounds for dismissal in most workplace environments, not just "ivory tower" academia. Jones also represented herself in multiple contexts (including MIT's admissions office web page) as being "trained as a scientist". To my mind, this implies MORE than an undergraduate degree... it implies at least a graduate degree, and probably a Doctorate; at any rate it implied that she spoke with a degree of authority that was clearly undeserved.

Jones used this false, self-aggrandizing statement to bolster her credibility and her marketability, and clearly compounded her initial misrepresentation thousands of times over. Every time someone read this line in her bio on MIT's web site she repeated the lie. She lied to literally tens of thousands of prospective students, parents, and professional peers over the course of her tenure as Dean of Admissions.

Anyone who tries to claim that these misrepresentations were irrelevant to the perfomance of her job is either being obdurate or hopelessly naive. Every time someone read this statement, it inevitably influenced their impression of her, of her office, and of MIT (imagine little Johnny's parents perusing MIT's web site: "Wow... MIT is so impressive they even have a scientist running their admissions office!"). Now that the lie has been exposed, the lie has influenced these impressions, in the opposite direction, and arguably to a much greater degree. Jones thus seriously tarnished MIT's reputation, and as with any elite academic institution, its reputation is its single most important asset: it is why the best of the best among prospective students and faculty strive to become a part of such institutions, and why they continue to produce the highest calibre graduates and research accomplishments.

Because any academic institution's reputation is so valuable, I would argue that honesty and integrity are in fact critical aspects of one's job description in a position like Jones'; indeed those of us who work in academia understand implicitly that this type of integrity is absolutely paramount, and essential to the functioning of all educational and research institutions. Once this code of conduct has been violated, the individual in question has clearly failed in the execution of his or her job duties, and dismissal is the only appropriate course of action.

Posted by: dbjr on April 30, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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