tressiemc

some of us are brave

A Few Notes On Kelly Price and Honorary PhDs

This will be fast.

Kelly Price is a powerhouse singer. Today, black Twitter announced that Kelly Price had graduated valedictorian with an honorary doctorate in philosophy.

If you know anything about black Twitter you can imagine what ensued. It was jokes, comedy and shade.

I was late because of the j-o-b. But here’s how my read of the announcement went when I did see it.*

There was no school listed in the first story but pictures of Price in regalia. Graduations don’t happen in most traditional schools in February. My first scan was for signs of the for-profits I know that offer PhDs – Capella, University of Phoenix and Walden especially.

Nope, the logo and regalia didn’t match those.

My next assumption was that it was an unaccredited bible or religious school.

I was close. Another link someone sent me finally confirmed the school as Global ODS University. [Edit to add: literally in the 20 minutes I was typing this the domain went down.] [Edit to add: domain registered is down but www.godsu.org is still live.]

Global ODS (or “God’s U”) isn’t exactly a bible school as I imagined either. It’s an old-fashioned diploma mill or a business that exchanges fees for credentials. In this case, the “applicant” provides two references, a resume and a fee.

I noted on Twitter that all of the administrators listed on the website are connected to various multi-level marketing businesses. These MLM businesses have a black religiosity twist. They market to black believers using the narrative of being overcomers in the vision of Christ. It’s a theme tightly bound with black prosperity gospel narratives (a strain of prosperity gospel writ large).

The hook is as old as time. Only the marketing is new age.

People like these administrators leverage the black religious belief in overcoming and the greater society’s education gospel, or the belief that credentials can insure against poverty and low status. They use the networking principle of MLM, where you leverage weak ties to sell shady, risky products that they package as “entrepreneurship”. The entrepreneurialism bit sounds in keeping with the greater cultural narrative of being a CEO of Me, Inc. Only MLM promises to minimize the risk of being your own boss by giving you a team, a leadership structure, and god’s blessing.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.56.03 PM.png

Dela’houssaye was also listed as an administrator on Global’s website. Notice narratives about overcoming and ties to two large MLMs.

 

If you are black or black church adjacent you’ve seen Pen and Pixel level flyers promoting events to fellowship but also learn to market your way into prosperity. For example:

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.57.09 PM.png

 

Global just seems to tack on the additional revenue stream of credentials. I suspect they get a pretty good data stream for potential MLM recruits by selling these credentials.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.32.32 PM.png

The frame of “letters after my name” figures prominently in narratives from black students in for-profit credentialing programs. There’s a whole chapter on this in “Lower Ed”.

 

I should note that the religious theme is deeply embedded in all black educational endeavors. I see it in traditional higher education, for-profits and all manner of questionable credentialing organizations like Global. That’s not new. What’s unique about this is their high profile customers, the ties to MLM and the apparent level of organization.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.30.11 PM.png

Diane Moore Eubanks is listed as the domain owner of Global, as well as 43 other domains for various speaking, marketing, MLM and promotion businesses. This is from a church bulletin.

 

No one hates honorary degrees more than the woman I’ve interviewed, mostly black and hispanic women, working hard on doctorates at for-profit colleges. The tend to reject the idea of any kind of honorary degree devaluing their hard work, a form of legitimacy they assign to their credentials.

I’ll say that in my experience black women fall into MLMs and diploma mills and credentialing promises when they fall on hard times. So, black twitter jokes aside, be kind. 🙂

 

 

 

*Note that even for a professional, finding and verifying credential legitimacy symbols isn’t very easy. Imagine trying to do it when it’s not your job to know.

 

ETA 3/28/16: After a phone call from God’s U, I thought it worth looking up the recent graduation ceremony.

gods u.jpg

Her Excellency, God’s U President, Dr. Eubanks is said to be a graduate of Georgetown Law and former White House legal affiliate (per her online bio and LinkedIn account). Those affiliations may matter to one’s assessment of God’s U.

An affiliation that might matter more is the accreditation agency. God’s U says it is accredited:  Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 5.43.44 PM.png

I would like to tell you more about NABBCS but could not find: a website for it, any record of it with the U.S. Department of Education, or any listing in the countries where God’s U has held previous graduation ceremonies. I did find other bible college websites listing the accreditation. I also found this story from the New York Post (I know, I know) about another NABBCS accredited school:

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 5.46.04 PM.png

As far as I can tell the graduation ceremonies do happen, the degrees ARE honestly marked as honorary (for the most part; a few pictures show certificates without the designation), and the woman listed as domain owner of godsu also owns other domains affiliated with various MLM companies, and Kelly Price does acknowledge her affiliation. And there you go. You can see Kelly’s graduation speech on Youtube.

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7 comments on “A Few Notes On Kelly Price and Honorary PhDs

  1. robertlampros
    February 27, 2016

    It’s always bad to hear about people or institutions using the Gospel for financial gain, but it is true that God rewards those who faithfully serve Him. Seek and you shall find, sow and you shall reap, and every prayer or act of charity gets a reward. I don’t want those truths to get lost because of Christian businesses.

  2. katherinejlegry
    February 27, 2016

    This is what matters: “No one hates honorary degrees more than the woman I’ve interviewed, mostly black and hispanic women, working hard on doctorates at for-profit colleges. The tend to reject the idea of any kind of honorary degree devaluing their hard work, a form of legitimacy they assign to their credentials.”

    Being kind to the sellouts of offensive religion is not necessary.

  3. Linden
    February 24, 2016

    There are plenty of traditional ACCREDITED colleges and universities that offer doctorates and have a graduation in the winter, such as the University of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Just because YOU don’t know about these institutions, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

    • tressiemc22
      February 24, 2016

      Bless your heart. Not in February. That wouldn’t be either a quarter or a semester system, which is the bulk of such programs. Accelerated programs can have mid-quarter and mid-semester program end dates but they would be, by and large, for-profits. These actually are things I’m likely to know given what I do for a living.

  4. Dahn Shaulis
    February 24, 2016

    What is happening in US higher education is no joke. For-profit higher education taking tens of billions away from public schools. HBCUs and tribal colleges in peril. community colleges facing cutbacks. Students facing a lifetime of debt peonage. Adjuncts feeling the squeeze. We have a slow-moving meltdown in higher education that will worsen as austerity increases. And no one in the media or in higher education is seriously looking at underlying issues: student loan asset backed securities, institutional bonds and bond ratings, and billions of dollars in endowment money going into shadow banking.

  5. mariammadamelibrarian
    February 24, 2016

    Thanks for such an interesting and informative piece. I have shared a link to this article with several people I know on social media who a) do not understand the context in which she received this degree or–even worse– b) still think that it is a full fledged PhD. Although, to be fair, I do reflect the same sentiments as thecollegemate.

  6. thecollegemate
    February 24, 2016

    Honestly surprised at what you found out here. Great research and investigation skills on your part. You’re a regular Sherlock Holmes.

    I don’t believe anything is wrong with honorary doctorates per se, but I do believe (a) people should display serious experience in and advancement in the area they’re getting the degree for and (b) they should at least have a bachelor’s degree prior.

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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