Academic credentials need greater scrutiny, expert says
Louis LaPierre controversy has stirred debate about academic credentials
Universities must be more vigilant to ensure their professors have the academic credentials that they claim, according to an expert.
The authenticity of academic credentials has become an issue in New Brunswick after questions were raised about the degrees held by Louis LaPierre, a professor emeritus at the University of Moncton.
LaPierre’s biography has long claimed he holds a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine.
But the University of Maine confirmed LaPierre does have a master's degree in science education, but does not have a master's degree in wildlife ecology. The university also confirmed LaPierre does not have a doctorate from the institute.
It turns out LaPierre’s doctorate came from Walden University, an online institution, and was in education, not science.
Teresa Fishman, the director of the International Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University in South Carolina, said there need to be many checks and balances in place to guarantee academic credentials.
"It's bad in any field but it's particularly bad in education because you know it's very hypocritical for someone to say we value these education ideas, we value the integrity of the academy when their credentials are not in order," she said.
Fishman said it's becoming less common for people to claim they have credentials they don't because it has become so easy to check online.
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LaPierre has been out of the country and CBC News has not been able to reach him to discuss the questions about his credentials.
The University of Moncton’s vice-president academic is examining LaPierre's academic credentials and is expected to report this week.
The university says the first it heard of any questions about LaPierre's academic biography was late on Sept. 4.
LaPierre has been an adviser to federal and provincial governments on environmental issues.
In New Brunswick, LaPierre is a director of NB Power and was named to a special panel to review the failed NB Power deal.
Premier David Alward hired LaPierre to hold special hearings to review his shale gas regulations. LaPierre’s report called for a new energy institute to study the issue and in January Alward named him as its first chairperson.
"Dr. LaPierre is an internationally recognized scientist, and he is the right person to provide leadership on this file while working with communities, experts, and industry," Alward said on Jan. 31.