Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Okosun matter at Northeastern Illinois University

Theophilus "T.Y." Okosun got his Ph.D. from Pacific Western University in Los Angeles (a now-defunct diploma mill), got tenure at Northeastern Illinois University (outside of Chicago), and now the Chicago Sun-Times and others are writing about it.

Within the Sun-Times story:

He [Okosun] said he still felt obligated to list the degree on his resume, which he submitted to Northeastern, because "when you put out a portfolio, it's your ethical responsibility to say where you have been."

He said university officials knew it wasn't legitimate because he told them. "I said, 'Look, this is an unaccredited institution,' " Okosun said. "That was clear.''

But the resume he initially submitted when he applied for a job as an academic-support professional at the Chicago school in 1996 makes no mention of Pacific Western's unaccredited status. When Frank offered Okosun the tenure-track job in justice studies in 2003, the provost referred to him as "Dr. Okosun.''

The school president also referred to him as "Dr. Okosun'' in documents requesting approval of his final tenure application at a board meeting last year.

The Ph.D. is listed on his current resume, provided by the university -- with no explanation.

"That could mislead people," said George Gollin, a University of Illinois physics professor who has investigated diploma mills.

In passing, in humor, of the statement -- it's your ethical responsibility to say where you have been --, IPBiz notes that Jonathan Nyce did NOT include his prison address when he filed US patent applications while he was incarcerated.

Elsewhere in the Sun-Times article:

• [The Ph.D. is] listed in a 2006 article that appeared in the International Research Journal of Arts & Humanities. Okosun is on that journal's editorial board.

• A more recent article about him on the Web site of Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla. -- where he is now pursuing an online Ph.D. -- also mentions his first doctorate.

• The discredited degree also is listed multiple times after Okosun's name in Northeastern Illinois' 2009-2010 course catalog. "To be perfectly honest, when that was first put in, we didn't realize that was not an accredited institution," Frank said of the catalog. Okosun has since asked that the reference be removed, Frank said.

Northeastern justice studies department head Cris Toffolo -- who wasn't involved in Okosun's hiring or promotion -- lauded his teaching.

"Students sitting in his class are absorbing theoretical thought patterns in a way that I'd never seen any other teacher do," she said, describing student reviews of his teaching as "very, very good.'' The school declined to release the evaluations.

The other candidates for the justice studies job that Okosun won either had a doctorate or were finishing that degree at the time they applied, sources said.

The many comments in the Sun-Times article are worth a read.


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