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Should I wear a wire?

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Someone got in touch with me recently about an allegedly undeserved PhD awarded locally a couple of decades ago.

It seems the doctoral student in question has gone on to a much more desirable career than the person who contacted me.

Allegedly, says my correspondent, the PhD student got some accommodation by claiming to have a severe and sometimes fatal illness, but supposedly did not display some of the symptoms commonly associated with this illness. The alleged accommodation was that the doctoral student was in a different graduate seminar than my suspicious correspondent, and thus shouldn’t have been allowed to write the mandatory comprehensive exam in that field — which, my informant suspects but cannot confirm, the doctoral candidate may not have written anyway.

Following all this?

My correspondent is not willing to come forward, has never laid a complaint to the appropriate authorities, but wants me to break the story and presumably have this individual’s PhD withdrawn.

What I should do, says my correspondent, is call up this PhD and set up an interview ostensibly to do a story about the individual’s current area of research, then after lulling the person into complacency, spring the accusations and force the doctor to confess....

On to other matters....

I was ranting about convocations last week, and amid all the local graduations, I received an email from McGill University, one of the many mailing lists I seem to have joined over the years without quite being able to remember how I did so. That could be a plot jump-start for The Hangover 17. Anyhow, McGill was giving me a heads-up over the security protocols should I wish to fly to Montreal and cover the awarding of an honorary degree to someone named William Shatner, a process more stringent than I reckon it would take to cover a royal tour or an Obama state visit.

Although, from what I’ve read, this guy Shatner was funny enough that it would have been worth it.

Pause while the anonymous people hiding behind Internet handles go to work with their scorn and sarcasm.

Yes, I do know who Shatner is, I was a Trekker — not a Trekkie — before most of you were born.


On another convocation matter, I was surprised I didn’t get what’s generally an annual complaint about U of M convocation coverage this year. Seems I hear every year from one or two people, demanding to know why we didn’t publish the names of all grads in the paper. Apparently we used to do so, though not, I’m told, since back in the day when Louis St. Laurent was still prime minister.

Shifting gears again....

Just a word to young teens crossing Keewatin and Arlington in the mornings, in mid-block through moving traffic, on their way to schools to which we’ll assign hypothetical names such as Cecil Rhodes and (this isn’t my deliberately being ironic) Isaac Newton: kids, you might want to pay attention in physics class, when the teacher covers such topics as motion, mass, how much time and energy it takes for large moving objects to become motionless, the physical force manifested when a large moving object of the mass and velocity of — for instance — a bunch of cars comes in contact with the mass and velocity of a sauntering young teenager zoned out on earphones and looking neither to the left nor right.

Time for another topic, eh?

While child the elder has returned from his eight months of bicycling around the U.S., and is at his summer job in Peterborough, people are still reading his online journal, which you’ll find by going off to the right there and clicking on Crazy Guy on a Bike. It’s just gone over 300,000 hits. Of the more than 5,800 journals from touring cyclists, says child the elder, it’s number 33 all-time in the number of people following it, and it’s an amazing third overall in average hits. Towards the end, his daily posts were getting 1,500 or more people.

And now for something completely different....

I was the only reporter sitting in a downtown hotel meeting room this week when the grievance hearing of U of M math Prof. Gabor Lukacs resumed, this time with U of M president David Barnard giving testimony about his role in Lukacs’s unpaid suspension over the controversy surrounding a math student suffering from extreme examination anxiety who was awarded a PhD.

Arbitrator Arne Peltz recited the witness oath and asked Barnard to affirm... and there was a long pause... and the long pause continued, with Barnard saying nothing.

Finally, Barnard quietly repeated three words from the oath, "the whole truth", looking quite intellectually puzzled, and eventually observed that he was trying to get his head around that phrase as a concept.

Barnard pondered a while longer, and finally affirmed.

Peltz observed that he’d never had anyone do that before.

Sounds like a topic for a doctoral thesis, maybe in philosophy.

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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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