Because of the quality and expertise of the faculty at UCI, U.S. News and World Report consistently rank UCI among the top public universities in the nation. However, a lecturer in the Henry Sameuli School of Engineering has not attained the level of education that he is listed as having.
John Stupar is a full-time lecturer in the School of Engineering and teaches upper-division writing courses that focus on ethics and communication. On page 167 of UCI’s 2003-04 General Catalogue, Stupar is listed as having a Ph.D. from the University of Devonshire.
‘Inside Edition,’ a nationally syndicated newsmagazine program, first revealed Stupar’s Ph.D. from the University of Devonshire on a May 7 edition of the show.
A simple keyword search on any Internet search engine reveals dozens of Web sites that list the University of Devonshire as a diploma mill. Oregon, which has one of the strictest policies on degree accreditation, lists the University of Devonshire as a diploma mill and on its list of degrees that are illegal to use in its state.
A diploma mill is an institution of higher education that operates without supervision from a state or professional agency and grants diplomas that are fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper standards, considered worthless.
With the expansion of the Internet, obtaining a phony degree from a diploma mill is easier than ever. In addition, with more institutions offering legitimate distance-learning degrees, it is more difficult for employers to verify degrees.
Stupar, citing requests from the school, declined to comment on the issue.
Upon notification of where the degree originated from, the School of Engineering has decided not to recognize his Ph.D.
‘No, we do not recognize this degree,’ said Nicolaos Alexopoulos, dean of the school.
However, Stupar’s job is not in jeopardy. Alexopoulos explained, ‘With very few exceptions, a Ph.D. is irrelevant to the appointment of lecturer. John Stupar was initially hired by the university as a lecturer in 1992 based on recognized degrees from credentialed institutions and nine years before he received his Ph.D.’
According to Iqbal Pittalwala, assistant director of media relations for science and technology, Stupar earned an Executive M.B.A. from the Claremont Graduate School and a Master’s of Arts from Fairfield University. Officials from both the Claremont Graduate School and Fairfield University confirmed that Stupar earned those degrees from their university.
Because a Ph.D. is not required for lecturers, the university does not check and evaluate them on a person’s application when making hiring decisions.
‘It’s an impossible job. We don’t have the resources to check on stated credentials,’ said Herbert Killackey, associate vice chancellor of academic personnel.
Administrators are puzzled as to why Stupar would list the Ph.D. because it would not have any bearing on his status as a lecturer.
‘I don’t know what his motives were, but he got no pay increases because of that Ph.D.,’ Pittalwala said. ‘I don’t know why he decided to list it.’
Despite the use of this degree, the university has no plans to reprimand or dismiss Stupar. Killackey explains that lecturers are hired primarily for their teaching abilities.
‘The very major thing that goes into hiring [for lecturers] is teaching,’ Killackey said. ‘Student evaluations, the departmental evaluations of the individual as a teacher, that is the major, major, major thing.’
Killackey notes that Stupar is regarded as an excellent lecturer.
‘I have not gone back and looked at his evaluations myself. But when he was recommended for the [job extension], all the numerical evaluations rated him well above six on a seven-point scale, leading me to believe that that he is an excellent teacher,’ Killackey said. ‘If [Stupar was] qualified to teach it before, this listing on his resume, I don’t see how that can disqualify him from teaching those courses.’
Nydia Maria, a fourth-year chemical engineering major and former student of Stupar’s, said that despite his Ph.D., she still regards him as a competent lecturer.
‘I don’t think it changes what I think of him as a lecturer because a fake diploma doesn’t change the way he teaches,’ Maria said. ‘It’s hard for you not to understand him because he makes everything clear.’
However, Maria did see something ironic in the whole situation.
‘I guess the only irony there is, is that he’s an ethics professor and this fake diploma thing is unethical,’ Maria said. ‘Nonetheless, I still think he’s a good professor.’