U. of Illinois Administrators Ask Professor to Remove Web Site About "Diploma Mills"
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Quote:U. of Illinois Administrators Ask Professor to Remove Web Site About Diploma Mills

By ANDREA L. FOSTER, Chronicle of Higher Education

October 13, 2003

Under pressure from administrators at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a tenured physics professor has shut down a Web site he created to make information available about the unaccredited distance-learning institutions often referred to as "diploma mills."

The physics professor, George Gollin, says administrators ordered him to remove his site from the university server last month because proprietors of some of the online institutions mentioned on his site had threatened to sue the university over the Web material. Administrators at the university justified their demand by telling Mr. Gollin that his research into the controversial institutions did not meet the "public service" obligation for faculty members of land-grant universities, he says.

Visitors to Mr. Gollin's site are now urged to visit the State of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization site instead. The Oregon agency and the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education are planning to use the material from Mr. Gollin on their own Web sites.

Mr. Gollin said Thursday that he shut down his Web site after a meeting with the administrators, including David L. Swanson, the associate provost, and Mark Henss, the university counsel. Both administrators declined to comment.

But Robin Kaler, a spokeswoman for the university, denied that the university had ordered Mr. Gollin to remove the site. "We were trying to help him find a more appropriate place for his Web site," she says. A Web site about diploma mills should be "housed in a place that deals with accreditation," she adds.

Ms. Kaler says the university does not view Mr. Gollin's research into diploma mills as meeting the institution's public-service requirement since the work is not related to physics, his area of expertise. "He has a lot to offer the community and the world outside of his discipline," she says. "But for the university support he receives, it's for his work in his discipline."

Among the institutions that complained to the university over material on Mr. Gollin's Web site were James Monroe, Robertstown, and St. Regis Universities, all of which operate from Liberia, and American Coastline University, based in Metairie, La. American Coastline also threatened to sue Mr. Gollin. The institutions accused him of making inaccurate statements about them that were harmful to their businesses.

American Coastline declined comment, saying the issue is in litigation. Representatives for the other institutions could not be reached. None of the institutions has been accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Mr. Gollin says he has done exhaustive research about these and other unaccredited online institutions. His findings were detailed on his Web site, which totaled 109 pages of printed material. Alan Contreras, administrator for the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, called the professor's work "superb."

"We think it's a very helpful consumer-protection tool," he says.

Mr. Gollin has spoken on the television network CNN about St. Regis University, and he gave a talk this year at his university titled, "Sources of Unconventional University Diplomas from Online Vendors."


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