Thursday, April 2, 2015

A 'Recto' Mentality

(published 02 March 2015, MST)
There is Recto the man, Recto the family, Recto the thoroughfare and Recto the metaphor for fake academic claims.
There was a time when small kiosks along Claro M. Recto Avenue in Manila,near the universities, no less, peddled diplomas and transcripts—ready made to reflect superb academic achievement—or their services to alter such. This is how a 5 or 4 becomes a 1 or a 1.5. The services came complete with the school logo and dry seal, for an aura of legitimacy.
This was what enabled some people to land jobs or improve their chances of promotion despite being handicapped by their academic past. After all, who would bother calling up the schools and checking? With so many candidates for the job to evaluate, who would be so silly as to spend precious time and energy going to the individual schools and poring over individual records just so to check whether the candidate is accurate in his or her claims?
And if the job applicant can carry himself or herself in such a way that shows he or she is as smart and capable as claimed, then why go through the trouble of investigating at all?
But times change.
These days, with faster communication and freer flow of information, the fake diplomas and reinforced transcripts have lost much of their appeal. Schools can be contacted more easily, even campuses in other provinces, regions or countries. One can easily shoot an email to the registry office, or obtain permission to search records.
And if it is found that the claims are not supported by facts, social media—also a product of technology—can be vicious. The embarrassment is magnified several times over, and the damage to one’s reputation for being a fraud could be severe, especially if one is a high-profile or high-ranking official.
The Internet provides a ready list of politicians and corporate executives who have resigned in shame or been fired after making false claims in their resumes.
In May 2012, Yahoo!’s chief executive Scott Thompson was separated from the Internet giant after an activist shareholder’s group exposed that he lied about having a computer science degree, when the university said it did not start offering the course until four years after he left.
In August 2014, South African MP (member of parliament) and anti-apartheid activist Pallo Jordan—known as Dr. Jordan—stepped down after a newspaper discovered he had no degrees or diplomas from the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the London School of Economics, two institutions cited in his resume.
And in September 2014, 40-year-old David Tovar, Wal-Mart’s vice president for communications, said he was quitting after the retail company discovered he did not actually earn a BA from the University of Delaware in 1996 as he claimed. The school’s records assistant said Tovar was discontinued, meaning he did not register to finish his required coursework.
What made this story sadder was that the discovery was made in the due diligence process because Tovar was up for promotion to senior vice president.
The thinking is that if one can lie about one’s academic qualifications, one can lie about so many other things. Honesty is a crucial virtue in crucial positions.
* * *
Here at home, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been accused by the online newspaper Rappler of lying about the degrees he listed in his resume at the Senate Web site.
The resume claims Marcos has a BA in political science, philosophy and economics obtained from Oxford University, England (1975-1978) and a Masters in Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, USA (1979-1981).
A report written by Marites Danguilan Vitug, initially published February 24, said Rappler’s fact-checking shows the senator’s name does not appear in records of both universities. 
At Oxford, where Marcos claims to have graduated in 1978, the 1977-78 university calendar showing the names of those sitting for final exams does not include him.
Meanwhile, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania spoke with the director or the MBA program and provided Rappler the following information: “Marcos entered the MBA program in 1979 and attended until the fall of 1980. However, he withdrew sometime this period or early spring in 1981 and never graduated.”
On this one, Senator Marcos, through a statement released the same evening the article was published, said: “I... did post-graduate studies at the Wharton Business School....I was, however, unable to complete the course because I was elected Vice Governor of Ilocos Norte and had to return home to serve my provincemates.”
As to his BA, the senator said , “I earned a diploma in political science at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University in England in 1978.” He emphasized that all the information stated in his resume was accurate.
The ensuing online attention to this issue showed that people cared a lot about honesty from their top officials—and rightly so. The senator’s swift reaction also showed he recognized this could potentially be devastating to him if he did not address it at once. 
Unfortunately, the Internet the following day was abuzz with the People Power anniversary traffic, and the mystery of the blue-and-black/ white-and-gold dress thereafter.
But if you think that the idea of Recto the diploma mill, is dead, think again. I have not personally been to the famed avenue these days, but try taking the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and alighting at the Carriedo station. On your final steps descending the stairs, you will be greeted with not-so-subtle propositions from young men: “Diploma, transcript,” they say, which will leave you to wonder...don’t they realize what year it is?
Technology may provide some deterrence, but sadly, there is still some business to be made.

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