Letters to the editor: Readers debate experience versus degrees

Don't forget years on the job

The problem is on the table, and everyone is looking under it!

The issue is the [academic] degrees but not for the reason most think.

It's easy to hire someone because they have a degree. You don't have to evaluate them or their competition; you take the applicant with the degrees. Government and corporate hiring practices demand the paper, ability be damned.

Degrees certify that you've been to class. They don't necessarily mean you know what you're doing. The best in the IT field often don't have degrees and have no chance at many jobs without one.

Of the people mentioned in your article, how many are of less quality than their peers? We'll burn them at the stake for not having the paper that says they can do the job they've already proven capable of?

We aren't looking at a problem of ethics. We're looking at a problem of desperation in a competitive field'desperation caused by a misguided evaluation process.

Everyone questions the quality of the government work force. Shouldn't we have a system to evaluate applicants on what they can do, rather than the paper they carry?

There is no question that many great minds are nurtured by colleges, but let's stop locking out those who've developed their talents through nontraditional venue.

No college is training the army of hackers we're fighting every day. Many of them could be turned into assets if they weren't shunned by our bureaucratic hiring processes.

Stop treating the symptoms and cure the disease. College is not the only source of education.

Often, it is a substitute for genuine experience. With no disrespect to the traditionally educated, we should be able to recognize an apple for an apple, no matter how the tree was watered.
These opinions are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Will Spencer

IT manager

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

Middlesboro, Ky.

What I know counts

While I don't think there are any people in the diploma mill category working for the Geological Survey, the whole subject does bring up another interesting point.

I am a high school dropout with technical subject matter classes and have been doing this job for more than 12 years.

It's totally amazing the sheer number of people with diplomas that don't know the subject matter, yet consistently get picked for jobs over those that do'mainly because they have a diploma. In the government, like many industry jobs, a piece of worthless paper is worth more than actually knowing what you are doing.

William B. Ferguson

IT specialist

Geological Survey


Dismissal seems obvious

As the holder of a master's in business administration, a bachelor's and the equivalent of another master's in counseling and vocational evaluation'all from accredited institutions'I am not surprised at the dishonesty of many, yet continue to be appalled.

When I read of the life experience ploy, I could not help but laugh.

I feel no empathy or sympathy for those who have been caught. By their actions, they prevented legitimately educated and qualified individuals from advancing.

The article indicated that some disciplinary action, not necessarily dismissal, might be taken. My question is simple: How can there be any action other than dismissal?

I would also add restriction from future employment with any government entity or government contractor. I assume some of these people hold high-level security clearances. Those, too, should be revoked.

During the Vietnam conflict, at the peak of the Cold War, I worked in the Army Security Agency and held the highest possible clearances due to my activities. For that reason, I do not feel I am being too harsh.

Applying the rationale for the granting of advanced degrees, given my legitimate graduate degree and life experiences, would it be safe to assume my Ph.D. is in the mail? No, wait, better make that two Ph.D.s'or possibly three'I've lived a lot.

Paul M. Loveall

Technology consultant

North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind

Winston-Salem, N.C.

It happens in industry, too

When I worked in Stafford, Va., for Logicon Inc.'which has since become part of Northrop Grumman Corp.'we were offered a $1,000 bonus for recruiting nontechnical employees and $3,000 for technical ones.

With that sort of incentive, I would spend evenings at the Virginia Transportation Department's slug lots and Virginia Rail Express stations greeting commuters returning home and pass them my card, soliciting them to contact me if they wanted work in Stafford rather than Washington. I met many a great potential worker and a few very different characters.

One of the people I met had, it seemed, all the prerequisite experience and even his bachelor's degree. I worked with him to reformat his resume and'without adding anything that was not the truth'add some small, related experience that he had not noted originally.

He interviewed with my boss and several other people. They made him an offer, and I was well into thinking what I would do with my bonus.

Then, the human resources department called my boss because they could not verify his degree with Trinity University in Texas. My boss called me and that reminded me that he said his degree was earned while in the Navy, from a Trinity College in 'England.' I contacted the registrar at Trinity College in Dublin'no joy.

So then I contacted the prospective employee and asked him to read his degree to me, word by word. Then, like magic, Trinity College became Trinity College and University.

I went on the Web and found Trinity College and University. The site was pretty nice. I spent several lunch hours reading the college's literature, then even called them to verify who they were and what they would do. They call themselves 'an accredited institution.' But a check of who accredited them was a circular reference back to the parent organization.

Now, it's not cheap, not if you are ambitious. I found out about getting a Ph.D., a diploma on sheepskin, transcripts kept on file, verification of my student record and a letter from my favorite professor to use as an introduction. That would cost, if I recall correctly, about $1,800.

Needless to say, we'me and my boss, an honorable and honest man who is a former Marine Cobra pilot'told Northrop that they needed to revoke any offer, that the guy's credentials did not pass the smell test. Northrop did not hire him. I understand one of our competitors did.

Well, I am still looking for the Ph.D.'for a real one that I can put on my resume. I figure I am going to have to pay for it over about 10 years with thousands of hours of research and reading, and other boring Ph.D.s telling me how great they are. But for one just to stick on the wall, well, wow!

Robert Lang

IT analyst

Triangle, Va.

Remember Abraham Lincoln?

What about the 1 percent who have zero degrees but actually, like Abe Lincoln, have exceptional skills or abilities?

What ever happened to good moral value and seeing real value in someone's honest will to do good?

Summers Sandford Stickney

Upholsterer, Re-form Inc.


School was mischaracterized

I take issue with your article that mentions California Coast University; it is not a diploma mill.

I received my bachelor's of science in accounting from Bentley College, and a certificate of advanced study in social sciences and a master's in psychology from Harvard University. I was referred to CCU to get a doctorate because the deans at CCU for business and psychology at the time were both Harvard graduates.

I was accepted in both programs and went for a doctorate in business, which took four years to complete.

This was a professional research doctorate. It took the same amount of time it would take at most universities. There was no credit for lifelong learning.

My final comprehensive exam was six questions, which were research and 70 pages long. The program was as vigorous as my two degrees from Harvard were.

I am published: a dual-discipline book on management and psychology, a white paper on team re-engineering and some poetry.

With regard to [the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's] questions on how to tell if an organization is a diploma mill, here are answers for CCU.

1. The degrees cannot be purchased.

2. Accreditation is through experimental and nontraditional programs. Politics plays a lot here. To be accredited, schools need a library of 100,000 books, a research program of real life has to gather books and articles and real-life situations, so this library is meaningless, therefore cannot be accredited.

3. Experimental and nontraditional programs are worldwide and have been around for more than 30 years.

4. CCU is licensed in California, unless they are lying.

5. Attendance in a research program is not relevant; telephone discussions are just as useful.

6. All my research courses had written assignments and papers to do on the subject matters, as well as written exams. These were no giveaways.

7. Do you call four years a short period of time when working 20 plus hours a week on the program?

8. I do not know about the lower-level degrees, but resume review and lifelong learning only allowed acceptance in the program; I still had to prove myself.

9. Graduation requirement: Do you call a 70-page research exam, which took more than a month to complete, an easy requirement?

10. The costs were about the same as most universities I attended.
11. Fees were not low but not high either.

12. There is a business location in Santa Ana and can be visited anytime.

13. Materials provided about programs do list faculty in each program brochure.

14. CCU does not have a name that sounds like any other.

15. As far as I know, no claim has been made that cannot be substantiated.

If CCU still sounds like a diploma mill to you, then why don't you see if you can easily pass their vigorous programs? Please note: You cannot be accepted in these programs without knowledge and experience in the field of program'mine was a minimum of seven years of management experience.

This may seem like a gripe, but I did the work and it was not easy.

Wilfred Caouette

Subcontract program manager

Cepoint Networks LLC

Nashua, N.H.

NMCI forces decisions Navy didn't make

I read the letter by the unnamed retired Navy officer with great interest, but also with frustration ['Editorial missed the point on NMCI]. Although I agree with the writer's points regarding leadership in IT programs, I find it frustrating and unfulfilling that he focuses on a single issue: legacy applications.

I agree the issue of legacy applications is not minor. Yet I find it difficult to accept his global characterization that the decision to favor standard, enterprisewide applications endangers the security of the country. His allegation that these changes 'threaten the livelihood of thousands of entrenched government employees' doesn't ring true.

The mission of security hasn't changed, only the tools used to accomplish it. Of those personnel who were involved in operations subsumed by the Navy-Marine Corps Internet Strike Force, most were offered employment by contractor EDS Corp. Many were contractor employees to begin with.

If anyone's livelihood has been endangered, perhaps it's those whose products are entrenched in a specific legacy application that either can't be modified to run in the more secure NMCI environment or whose function can be satisfied by a more cost-effective commercial product.

Legacy applications are not the primary cause of problems in implementing NMCI. More important are planning and change management.

Corporations undergoing transformation usually define business processes first, determine the method to deliver, then obtain the infrastructure to support the new process and application mix.
No, the Navy didn't do it that way with NMCI. The Navy and the Defense Department in general are not organized in a way to support such a change process.

No single entity in the Navy has the responsibility, power and resources to effect enterprisewide change. The CIO owns policy, but doesn't control the Navy budget. The writer talks to 'relative autonomy of unit commanders' with regard to stovepipe systems. The Navy doesn't have specific lines in the budget for IT. Therefore program managers with budgets obtain what they need to support their missions.

Fleets and other commands compete for dollars, including IT dollars. Without an integrated plan for spending those dollars, they purchase many solutions.

That is why, over the years, the Navy seems to have lacked an integrated business process for transformation, yet is forcing one by providing the infrastructure first.

Yes, NMCI is a forcing function, but a necessary one. Security policy for DOD and the Navy has been published for years. So why don't we have secure networks? Because they cost money'money that wasn't readily available. Navy leadership made business decisions regarding scarce resources that placed operation and cost before security.

Now that situation is undergoing forced change. NMCI provides the required security. If there are legacy applications that don't work in that secure environment, then this is what we get for putting off implementing security policy as we were growing legacy systems.

Regardless of when it should have come'before or after defining business practices'NMCI is here now. And the Navy is working hard to implement and define it via the Navy's functional area managers. These managers decide which enterprise applications will ride on the infrastructure.

NMCI forces better decisions for applications supporting the Navy's missions securely and effectively.

Joe Spruill


Navy Supply Corps

Alexandria, Va.


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