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A doctoral grudge

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I’ve blown a chance at a major story, and now my less-than-impeccable source is seeking out other media to shop her story.

Boiled down to a short version, this person has held a grudge for quite a few years, and urged me to help her ruin the career of an academic who she alleges fraudulently obtained a PhD by faking cancer.

Alas, she offered no evidence, no documentation, no additional sources.

I won’t offer even the slightest hint of the discipline involved, or when alleged events occurred. Only one university in this province awards PhDs, but I won’t even confirm the province in which this allegedly happened.

Bear with me, and I’ll let the person tell some of her story. Any redactions are mine:

"I have a Ph.D. from (redacted). A woman who was a student with me did not participate in the graduate seminar in the major field we were both in. She claimed at the time she had ‘cancer’. We thought it was odd as she did not appear to have any symptoms like hair falling out."

Skip some of what she said.

"She did participate in another graduate seminar, but it was not our major field. I wondered how she could write her comprehensive exam when she did not attend the graduate seminar. However, I thought it was to my advantage to attend as I learned a lot and I thought she would be disadvantaged when she did not attend."

OK, we’ll skip some possible identifying bits, and let her continue:

"Then she got a job teaching at (redacted) and I did not."

Skip some more.

"I did not get a teaching job after I graduated although I believe I was well trained and well educated, better than most of the people who are currently teaching (redacted). I do feel bitter about it, there is no doubt about that.

"I personally think that the woman I am referring to scammed the university. I do not believe she had cancer. I don’t think she suffered from any more stress than anyone else. She used this regulation to get out of attending the graduate seminar and I bet she did not write the exam. Someone needs to expose this fraud. It will be difficult to get anyone to admit that she did not write the comprehensive exam in her major field."

And, finally, "Unfortunately, I cannot prove anything."

I asked my source for evidence, documentation, proof. I asked for dates. I asked for names, such as other people in the graduate seminar, the professor who led the graduate seminar, the head of the department/faculty at the time, the dean of graduate studies at the time, the information I would need before we even considered taking this any further. None was forthcoming.

I don’t have a PhD, but I wouldn’t think that a graduate seminar is anywhere near the most onerous or challenging part of the process.

The source can’t prove anything, and doesn’t have a clue whether this scholar failed to write her comprehensive exam, and has no idea whether the woman received any kind of disability accommodation. Those would be holes in the story, glaring holes.

The source’s solution?

She advised me to phone the PhD under the pretense of interviewing the scholar about her current research, then, after lulling her into a false sense of calm throughout the interview, suddenly and cunningly pounce and force her to confess.

No, I think not.

So, disgusted with me, my erstwhile source will seek out other media. You may read or hear or see it reported somewhere else in Manitoba, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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