Shepherd University is becoming a diploma mill

I feel that it is my clear public duty to write this column.

Under the current stewardship of Shepherd University, semester attendance has been cut by two weeks, graduation requirements (number of course hours) have been cut and it is apparent that standards are slipping precipitously.

The current president of Shepherd, Suzanne Shipley, is a very pleasant person, well-spoken and apparently has specialized in German studies in her academic career. However, a leader she is clearly not. The first thing any leader has to do is to establish and maintain the highest standards, come what may. Just the opposite is happening at Shepherd. Shipley tells faculty to “teach smarter” to justify her policies. This is farcical when there is little enough time in any full and proper semester for faculty to cover the material.

I realize that students at Shepherd come from a variety of backgrounds. In my observation, students usually demonstrate their seriousness and willingness to work and study diligently before they leave high school. A real university is a serious place, and only students who have demonstrated genuine studiousness and application should be admitted. It is a form of cruel and unusual punishment (prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution) to take grossly unprepared, lazy or uncommitted young people into a serious educational environment and then give them a thin veneer of quasi-education and a piece of paper. The world is a hard, demanding place and the currency of even a baccalaureate degree is easily devalued when it is clearly incomplete, imperfect, slipshod and bogus.

A university or college campus is a place of serious study or learning. It is not a day care center for expensive automobiles. The Shepherd campus seems to be perpetually oriented to autos rather than people. I happen to have been a graduate student long ago at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; while I was gone in the Army in Vietnam, a vice-president got rid of the autos from the main campus and converted the streets into magnificent pedestrian concourses. The effect was stunning. This could be done at Shepherd.

My view is that the French educational system serves as a useful model. Students are given a test at the end of each year of instruction. Those who pass go on to the next level and those who fail go to work. This is sound policy anywhere, especially for the USA.

Of all the pernicious, destructive lies ever promulgated in human history, the worst has been Thomas Jefferson’s “all men are created equal.” This is utterly bogus, and has no scientific basis, it clearly being contrary to all experience and observation. Jefferson himself clearly did not believe it — he and his political cohorts were attempting to foment a revolution and they saw this nonsense as a way to recruit support among the illiterate, uneducated rabble.

— Joseph J. Snyder writes from



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One Response to Shepherd University is becoming a diploma mill

  1. I found this article by having it referred to me by a Google search email alert which I set for any new content containing the text strings “degree mill” or “diploma mill” or “accreditation mill”; and I did so because higher education accreditation, and also anti-degree/diploma-mill activism, is both among my consulting firm’s areas of expertise, and something of a personal avocation.

    Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m assuming that Mr. Snyder was writing about this place:

    If so, then here is my response to what he wrote…

    I’m tempted to discredit at least some of Mr. Snyder’s overall message by simply pointing-out the prima facie both ignorant and racist (by its unambiguous suggestion that people of color are inherently genetically substandard) outrageousness of his final paragraph. Jefferson, et al, did not practice precisely what they preached because they understood themselves to be the flawed preemptors of the more perfect union which their work prescribed for long after they were gone. Moreover, all men are, indeed, created equal; and there positively is both scientific evidence and a rational scientific basis for it. Under what rock, I would rhetorically ask, has Mr. Snyder been living?

    As to converting all on-campus roads to walkways, what many other colleges and universities have done is close the campus, during daytime hours, to all but traffic which has a special permit; and then to issue permits judiciously so that the roadways would, effectively, be for pedestrian traffic only… or at least enough of the time that it at least seems so. I would somewhat more strongly recommend that.

    As to giving students a test at the end of each instruction year, and all else that Mr. Synder wrote about that: This nation already has that in the K-12 system as part of the regrettable “no child left behind” initiative; which testing is universally reviled by most long-time professional teachers… and is causing many of them to either quit the profession, or retire from it early. Such testing, we have seen in the K-12 system, results in what’s called “teaching to the test,” which robs students of the kind of creative instruction that only a gifted and experienced teacher may provide. It’s been a horrible idea and failed concept at the K-12 level, and implementing it at the post-secondary level would be a palpable catastrophe.

    I don’t even know where to begin with Mr. Synder’s clear and unambiguous misunderstanding of what actually constitutes what the Eighth Amendment considers to be “cruel and unusual punishment.” His reference was clearly hyperbole.

    As to Mr. Snyder’s overarching point that Shepherd’s “standards are slipping precipitously;” that it takes “grossly unprepared, lazy or uncommitted young people into a serious educational environment and then give[s] them a thin veneer of quasi-education and a piece of paper;” and that its “baccalaureate degree is easily devalued” and is “clearly incomplete, imperfect, slipshod and bogus”…

    …and that all of those things add-up to the headline’s assertion that “Shepherd University is becoming a diploma mill”…

    …I now make two points about these both very serious allegations, and the innacurate concomitant conclusion of the headline:

    THE FIRST POINT: Shepherd University is accredited by one of the nation’s six big “regional” accreditors that have been approved by the US Department of Education (USDE), and the USDE-sanctioned Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Since most in academia regard “regional” accreditation as the so-called “gold standard” of higher education accreditation, it is simply categorically not possible for it to be a degree/diploma mill. Mr. Snyder (or perhaps it was, if not him, then whomever wrote the headline) clearly doesn’t understand what the term “diploma mill” actually means. More on that in my second point.

    No regional accreditor would ever allow any of its schools to slip to the low quality level which Mr. Snyder so hyperbolically — and so, therefore, recklessly, in my opinion — described. If a regionally-accredited school begins to slip, then, believe me, the regional accreditor would be all over it! Regionally-accredited schools sometimes get put on probation by the accreditor; and so if Mr. Snyder really believes what he’s alleging, and he can prove it by empirical means (rather than shot-from-the-hip anecdotally, as he has herein done), then the proper step for him to take is to assemble his empirical evidence and submit it and a formal complaint to the accreditor.

    THE SECOND POINT: The term “diploma mill” gets tossed around a lot, by people who don’t know what it really means, to indicate a simply substandard school. But that’s a misuse of the term; and of the term “degree mill,” too, if it’s similarly so used.

    A “diploma mill” is little more than a print shop, not terribly dissimilar to a local printer who does flyers, letterhead, business cards, etc. The difference is that a print shop that’s a diploma mill is willing to engage in printing-up, to order, impressive-looking diplomas which bear either fake or real college/university names, and which appear to convey a degree of any level, in any subject, to virtually any person willing to pay the price to purchase one. The fake diploma even has impressive-looking signatures on it, and sometimes an embossed seal, and sometimes it’s even framed. In some cases, for an extra fee, the diploma mill will include an impressive-looking fake transcript, printed on the same kind of bank safety paper, using the same OCR-style font, that colleges/universities use.

    A degree mill is an entity — nearly always online, but, before that, advertised in the backs of magazines, or on matchbook covers — which pretends to be a real school, but actually isn’t. The normal procedure is for the degree mill to advertise that people may obtain a “life experience” bachelors, or masters, or doctoral degree. The “degree” seeker is asked to fill-out an application, and pay an application fee, and to provide a resume, and to list any and all college courses that s/he has ever taken in life; and then, finally to specify in which degree s/he’s interested. The the degree mill waits a few days to make the “degree” seeker believe his/her application is actually being considered; and then said seeker finally gets a letter or call from the degree mill telling him/her that his/her previous college credits in life, plus his/her life and work experience, all adds-up to almost enough for a degree, at which point the “degree” seeker is told that if s/he will pay an enrollment fee, a matriculation fee, a registration fee, plus the cost of just two or three of the degree mill’s distance learning courses to finish-off the needed credits, and then pays a graduation fee, s/he may have a degree in whatever is his/her interest… all without really doing any work of true academic rigor. Even the two or three courses amount to little more than reading a thin book and writing a high-school quality book report. No one who hasn’t fallen on his/her head too many times in life would ever believe that they were real college-level courses; or that a degree could basically be purchased without doing any real work. That’s what a degree mill does.

    Those who get caught with a degree mill degree on their resumes usually say they didn’t know; that they got scammed or duped; that they thought the school was real; that its website sure LOOKED real. But they’re all lying. No one is fooled. Everyone with a degree mill degree knows exactly what they were trying to pull.

    The terms “diploma mill” and “degree mill” have nothing to do with the quality of the school. Rather, they have to do with that it’s not really a school, at all!

    Shepherd University is a real school that’s “regionally” accredited. It could not, therefore, by definition, be either a “diploma mill” or “degree mill.” The headline, then, is a misuse of the term, and so fosters its further misuse by those who then similarly use it to indicate that a real school is simply a bad or substandard school. If it’s a real school — especially if it’s accredited — then it cannot possibly be a “degree mill” or a “diploma mill,” no matter HOW bad it is.

    What Mr. Snyder obviously has some kind of ax to grind with Shepherd University. I have no idea whether it’s a good or bad school. All I know is that it’s regionally accredited, which is the hands-down best kind of accreditation; and so it can’t possibly be a mill of any kind. To the other things he wrote, I’ve herin more-than-adequately responded.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

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