Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | November 8, 2009
Home : Commentary
Dog gets MBA online
Carolyn Cooper, Contribution


In response to my provocative article, "University fi stone dog" (September 13), I got a whole host of entertaining emails, most of which can't be reproduced here. They are far too irreverent. Incidentally, it seems as if the positive responses to my columns come directly to me and the negative ones go straight to the editor. Such is life.

A wicked email reminded me that the new university college at Ferry is sited on the grounds of a former circus. Another email included a link to the geteducated.com website, which tells the story of Chester Ludlow, a dog that got an MBA online from the Texas-based Rochville University.

fabricated résumé

I telephoned the founder of geteducated.com, Vicky Phillips, to check the story. You just can't believe everything you read on the Internet. She confirmed that she'd sent a fabricated résumé for Chester to Rochville and paid the $499 application fee. A week later, the dog had his diploma. You must see Chester in his mortarboard, grinning from ear to ear.

I'd once toyed with the idea of doing an MBA. My much more enterprising brother advised me against it. 'Yu better off finding something to sell." His entrepreneurial smarts remind me of Mutabaruka's witticism: everybody doing Management Studies; nobody not doing Owner Studies. But all the same, to think that a dog had more ambition than me!

I decided to apply to Rochville for a PhD in chemistry. Why chemistry? Why not? I have good chemistry. I crafted an appropriate résumé: In high school I'd been good at chemistry but I hadn't had the chance to go to university. I got a job at a company in Jamaica that manufactures household chemicals. For 20 years, I worked my way up the ranks and I now wanted to set up my own business. But I needed that piece of paper to prove I knew what I was doing. Competent professionals often don't get the respect they're due because they aren't certified.

Within 15 minutes of emailing my application, I got a call from a representative of Rochville. The Admissions Office at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies could definitely take lessons in speedy response to applications. See, even 'real-real' universities have their administrative challenges.

The rep asked if had a bachelor's or master's in chemistry. When I said no, I was offered a package deal of all three degrees. The next question was about payment. I proposed international money transfer. It had to be either a credit or debit card. When my credit-card number was requested, I protested. Did I need to pay in advance for the review of my life experience that would determine eligibility for the degrees?

The rep wasn't sure and promised to check. A week later, I received the following:

"Congratulations Carolyn Cooper! We are pleased to announce that on the basis of your résumé submitted by the Students' Counselor, the 10-member evaluation committee at Rochville University has finally approved you for [a] doctorate degree.

"You can now pay the amount from the link provided below and get your doctorate degree within 5 days from today. Once you make the payment, you will also be able to access the Alumni Area of Rochville University and get exclusive privileges and discounts.

"If you are unable to pay the complete amount at once, you can now place your order for an initial deposit of $99 only. The remaining balance can be paid within 30 days in small and easy instalments through our Flexible Payment Option Plan. Click the link below to read more details and continue with your order."

Having had such spectacular success with getting my PhD in chemistry, I decided to set up my own university and prove Ms Gillian Fraser wrong. In a letter to the editor, published on September 15, she diagnosed that I was "afflicted with 'red yeye,'" because of my concerns about the mushrooming of universities of dubious pedigree.

'intellectual dishonesty'

Similarly, Henley Morgan accused me of "intellectual dishonesty" in an October column for the local morning tabloid: Because I work at the University of the West Indies, I can't honestly appraise the quality of education at other institutions. He's a member of the board of directors of the University College of the Caribbean, a fact he conceals in his article. This, I suppose, makes him intellectually honest.

Be that as it may, I called the University Council of Jamaica to see what requirements I needed to fulfil to set up my university. Believe it or not, there are absolutely no regulations. The University Council of Jamaica Act (1987) does not empower the council to regulate the establishment of tertiary institutions. All appearances to the contrary, the council is a watchdog with no teeth. Pure bark. Amending this impotent, outdated act must be a priority. Chester Ludlow, MBA could set up a university here and nobody could stop him. Hopefully, the proposed commission on tertiary education will help give the council bite.

This weekend, more than 3,000 students graduated from the Mona campus of the University of West Indies (UWI). Many will be entering the job market for the first time in a period of extraordinary global crisis. If they do find employment, their salary will certainly hover several galaxies away from the astronomical pay package of the former governor of the Bank of Jamaica. If they don't get jobs, they'll simply have to create them in the entrepreneurial spirit of Mutabaruka's 'Owner Studies.' One thing I know UWI graduates won't have to worry about is finding a dog in the alumni association.

Carolyn Cooper is professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Send feedback to: karokupa@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.

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