Friday, April 27, 2007

Dean at M.I.T. Resigns, Ending a 28-Year Lie
Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became well known for urging stressed-out students competing for elite colleges to calm down and stop trying to be perfect. Yesterday she admitted that she had fabricated her own educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at M.I.T. Officials of the institute said she did not have even an undergraduate degree.
“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. “I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond

I have two opinions on this story.

First, lies always seem to catch up with us. She lied and got caught.

Second, this is credentialism at its worst.

This woman was an outstanding college administrator. She was well known and respected. She tried to make the admissions process less stressful for the teenagers. She wrote a book. She was the kind of dean that every college president hopes to find.

But she had no degree. She was hired at MIT 28 years ago and rose through the ranks. When she got promoted, everyone at MIT knew her good work and therefore did not check her degrees.

She was fired for her lie. She would never have been hired without those degrees on her resume, no matter how good the quality of her work.

I understand the allure of the degree for hiring people. A degree does insure several traits: persistence, a certain degree of intelligence, the ability to work within the system, some general knowledge and some specific knowledge. But not having that degree does not mean a person is devoid of those same traits.

It is just easier to hire people by their paper qualifications but it is not always wise.

I knew a man in Memphis who had a high school diploma. He was extremely intelligent and knowledgeable. He had severe test anxiety and could never pass any test even though he kept trying.

His company, where he was an hourly worker, wanted to promote him for years but he couldn't pass university tests nor their own tests.

Finally, they gave up and promoted him anyway. Last I heard from him, he was in charge of the company's operations in the entire US southeast.


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