David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Deep Fakes

December 3, 2021

***SPOILER ALERT*** If you like Lisa Gardner mysteries, you may not want to read this blog.  It will spoil the reading of Before She Disappeared.

So I am breezing through Lisa Gardner's engaging and gripping novel Before She Disappeared, wondering, like most readers of the book, what was the key to the mystery of the disappearance of two high school girls. Set in Mattapan, Massachusetts, likely links to the disappearances could be drugs, gangs, sex trafficking, even counterfeit money and IDs.

Turns out that the mystery begins unraveling when the main characters find the girls associated with a college website, puzzling in and of itself because they were not of college-age. Eventually they realize the website is for a non-existent college, leading the characters to often say, "Who would want to create a fake college?"

Honestly, that line of questioning from smart, worldly characters almost ruined the book for me.  The question in my world is "who doesn't want to create a fake college?"  Sham colleges can be found everywhere. Heck, one was featured in Inside Higher Ed just today:

Reese's University -- Home of the Fighting Cuppies.  Hey, at least their website includes the disclaimer, "Our lawyers want you to know that REESE'S is not a real university." 

At least here, potential students (and after all who wouldn't want to get a Reese's degree) encounter transparency. That is not the case with so many sham universities and colleges:

The University of Farmington was set up by the U.S. Government to catch visa fraud: the deportee degree, I suppose.

The University of Redwood, which sounds so peaceful and lovely, apparently collected admissions fees before sending rejection letters to the poor fools who hadn't stepped onto the non-existent campus. All of its online materials and images were basically stolen from another college.

The University of Bums On Seats, a fantastically-named fictional university, resides entirely at the fantastically-named website cynicalbastards.com. 

Which brings us to a different kind of fake university, one that exists in its entirety to award students' worthless degrees.  That list may be endless, especially if one tries to combine the outright scam artists with the schools lacking accreditation but believing themselves to still be providing a credential.  I'm not saying the one kind trumps the other kind, or that one still can't don the appropriate high-falutin' academic clothing when graduating, but still buyer beware: the john is the one who pays when he gets fleeced by the prostitute.*

Some of my favorite "scam" colleges, simply because of their names:

WARP University -- If it was a broadcasting school, I might even get behind it. "Baby, if you ever wondered, wondered what became of me?"

IOND University -- The acronym stands for International Organization for Nontraditional Distance Learning. Quite the mouthful. Its specific colleges offer a lot: College of Hypnosis; College of Unity; College of Unknown Phenomena Research, to name a few.

MUST University -- Why MUST we always have all-cap acronyms?

World Records University -- Winner for most bogus degrees awarded?  At least they set a new record everyday.

University of Action Learning -- Not to be confused with the pedagogy of active learning, especially since little of that probably ever happened there.

Institute for Creation Research -- Honestly, the hope here is palpable. . . or is that the hubris I feel.

Atlantic Pacific University -- For when you sail the seven seas looking for the right college.

Rochville University -- Actually nothing to mock in its name, but it became famous for issuing a degree for an MBA to a pug named Chester. Crazy Chester!

A page in Wikipedia lists about 550 scam colleges.  Who knows how many it missed?

Back to Gardner's novel: drugs, sex trafficking, gangs.  Those require me to suspend disbelief.  A fake college. That only requires you to suspend financial aid.

*no hidden message. Fake news.