Allegations that a former adjunct professor faked his credentials is leading the University of Victoria to review its hiring practices. It was reported yesterday that Jason Walker, who also had an administrative role with a Victoria area health clinic, was charged with “fraud, forgery and swearing a false affidavit for allegedly faking his credentials.” Walker has claimed he holds two doctoral degrees.
In 2006, Walker taught three undergraduate courses, and one graduate course at the University of Victoria. Although a PhD is a prerequisite for teaching graduate level classes, the university says there is no clear policy for hiring adjuncts. As the Times Colonist reports:
University policy requires professors to have a doctorate if they’re teaching a graduate course, [university spokeswoman] Patti Pitts said. But the requirements for part-time adjunct professors vary widely from one faculty to the next.
“Quite often, the appointment is based on the reputation of the individual, recommendations from other researchers, and the person’s ongoing affiliations with other institutions or organizations,” Pitts said.
A similarly laissez-faire attitude was taking by the health clinic Walker worked for, which says it saw no reason to verify his credentials because he was working in an administrative role:
Before hiring Walker, VIHA checked his employment references, but not his academic credentials, Marshall said.
“Credentials of potential employees in non-clinical and some mid-manager positions are not routinely verified,” she said. “Mr. Walker’s credentials were not verified as his responsibilities were of an administrative nature, and there was no indication that they needed to be verified.”
By contrast, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other clinicians must provide proof that they’re licensed and registered with one of the professional colleges.
If adjunct hiring is as spotty as suggested by this story, that is a pretty obvious policy change. Why wouldn’t universities have a formalized procedure for hiring casual faculty? They are taken to be experts in their fields, just like regular faculty, and they are responsible for using that expertise to transfer knowledge to students.
It is unnecessary to subject adjuncts to the sort of grueling hiring process tenure-track candidates go through, but a simple phone call to the institution where a prof. says he earned his doctorate would suffice. Relying on faculty recommendations alone is just lazy.