On February 10th, 2012, the North Dakota State Auditor released a devastating report about diploma fraud at Dickinson State University. The audit found that some 584 fraudulent degrees were issued to foreign students, mostly from China. The students had also enjoyed relaxed admissions standards and even fake grades, all the while using their enrollment at DSU as justification for visas allowing them to be in the country.
The day the audit’s findings were announced in Dickinson, university official Doug LaPlante went missing and was eventually found dead from self-inflicted wounds near a local park.
The scope of this fraud was shocking, and its impact far-reaching. There are a lot of legitimate students, who earned legitimate grades, who must now deal with the fact that the degree they paid a significant amount of money from is tainted by association with a “diploma mill.” Enrollment is down significantly, and Dickinson State managed to hang on to its accreditation by the skin of its teeth.
But the question, a year later, is why hasn’t anyone been held accountable? This was one of worst, if not the worst, cases of government fraud in North Dakota’s history. Not so very long ago the director of the state’s worker’s compensation bureau was prosecuted for allegedly misappropriating thousands of dollars in state funds by buying and dispensing coupons for free massages and car washes to his employees. But not one prosecution for hundreds of phony degrees worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention rampant grade and admissions manipulation, at Dickinson State?
Not even the media in the state is making mention of this grim anniversary.
Former DSU President Richard McCallum was fired, sure, but late last year he was applying for a new job at Florida State College in Jacksonville. And McCallum didn’t perpetrate the fraud at DSU by himself. His accomplices in that fraud are either still working there, or have been allowed to leave the university quietly.
The North Dakota University System moved to push quickly past the scandal. After quickly appointing a new DSU president, and after the rapid turn over of several members of the State Board of Higher Education, they seem prepared to carry on as though the fraud never happened. Our state’s elected officials seem to harbor the same inclinations.
Meaning that, somehow, hundreds of diplomas worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were given away based on faked grades and phony admissions all without anyone facing criminal charges. And, on the one year anniversary of this horrendous fraud, nobody in the state is talking about what happened.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” wrote George Santayana in The Life of Reason. It seems as though North Dakota’s public officials are intent on not learning the lessons of Dickinson State’s diploma fraud.