Are Universities Increasingly Liars And Con Artists?

The civic institutions that are at the core of our society are weakening, with negative consequences for both our comity and economy. Church attendance is down, the Ten Commandments are viewed by some as archaic, and membership in service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis is stagnating. The set of moral imperatives that provide the glue that allow our nation to work so well, for elections to be honest, business contracts effective, and political disagreements civil, is weakening.

Moral relativism is in ascendancy, moral absolutes are declining. Our political leaders seem increasingly and excessively partisan, harsh, uncharitable and uncivil. I think one consequence of the moral decline is that universities increasingly lie and cheat, both their customers (students) and the general public. It is arguable too that universities are a partial cause of the moral decay, but I will leave that question for another day.

We have learned that the University of Oklahoma lied for about 20 years regarding the proportion of its alumni contributing to the university, used in determining the U.S. News college rankings. The motive was clearly to overstate the school’s reputation–to mislead the public. Lying to enhance rankings is not confined to Oklahoma: Temple University systematically lied for years to enhance its business school’s ranking, and I recall that when I ran the Best College rankings for Forbes, a very distinguished liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna, lied in data provided to the U.S. Department of Education, trying to improve its already excellent rankings.

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