Columbia Pacific University - Tacit Racism in California's CPPVE/BPPVE? The Case of CPU's Two African Deans Tacit Racism in California's CPPVE/BPPVE? The Case of CPU's Two African Deans
by E.T. Earon Kavanagh, M.S.
On August 23-24, 1995, a visiting committee representing California's Council of Private Postsecondary Education (CPPVE, now BPPVE) held a site visit at the headquarters of Columbia Pacific University. The site visit was due as CPU (holding state "full institutional approval" since 1986) had been grandfathered under the new private postsecondary education act of 1989, but was now forced to seek approval as a new institution. CPPVE was headed by director Kenneth Miller and deputy director Sheila Hawkins. The following are the people who participated on the CPU site visit team:
- Dr. L. Lolly Horn, Dean of Academic Administration, California National University; Ph.D. Administration and Policy, University of California, Los Angeles.
- Dr. Joyce Wilson Hopp, Dean School of Allied Health, Loma Linda University; Ph.D. Health Education, University of Southern California.
- Dr. Allan C. Lachman, Professor of Public Administration, University of la Verne; Ph.D. Public Administration, University of California, Santa Barbara.
- Dr. Everett Proctor, Professor/Faculty Advisor, The Union Institute; Ph.D. Religious Studies/Classics, University of California, Santa Barbara.
- Dr. Bill Wu, Associate Professor, Northwestern Polytechnical University; Ph.D. Geophysics, University of Houston.
- Les Axelrod, Council Liason, Senior Education Specialist, Degree Unit, CPPVE.
The team reviewed, as part of the site visit, the qualifications of the CPU faculty, and singled out the degrees of two Deans, both black Africans, as not being "comparable degrees to those earned by accredited institutions". The Deans in question are Dr. Ketsela and Dr. Tolossa. Dr. Ketsela is a graduate of the University of Wales and Dr. Tolossa is a graduate of the University of Bremen (West Germany). Both of the above are considered around the globe as first class institutions. This was clearly pointed out to the CPPVE director in a later report following an independent study of both CPU and the CPPVE team report by the Corporation for American Education's Dan Smith. In a 25 page report, Smith, a respected postsecondary education consultant, pointed out 86 "errors of fact" in the CPPVE report, including the erroneous conclusions surrounding Dean Ketsela and Dean Tolossa (report is large PDF File - slow loading). The CPPVE director Kenneth Miller ignored Smith's findings and issued CPU a Denial of Application for Approval.
There are four questions that arise from this instance:
- On Tacit Racism: Was the erroneous conclusion of the visiting team and the CPPVE directors Miller and Hawkins bound up in tacit racism, as evidenced by such beliefs as Africans (or "blacks") are inferior intellectually?
- On American Self-centeredness: Was the above erroneous conclusion just plain Ameri-centrist ignorance? On this subject Canadians, for example, frequently complain that many Americans actually think Canada is the arctic, complete with Eskimos and dogsleds. Some USA professors (and the USA's own president George Bush) have been caught on Canadian television programs making major gaff's with their knowledge of Canada (source: This Hour Has 22 Minutes-CBC-TV). This program actually approaches Americans of influence on camera with simple questions to test their knowledge of Canada.
- On Systemic Incompetence: Was the site visit team as a whole simply incompetent (given the sum of its parts)?
- On the Dreaded Witch Hunt: Was the whole effort of the site visit of CPU simply a witch hunt, where the team was instructed to seek out anything that looked inferior instead of concentrating on the bigger picture and assisting the institution to correct its flaws via a probationary period?
Think of the following facts surrounding the site visit:
- Facts suggesting visiting team incompetence: The visiting team was made up of five supposedly learned individuals possessing Ph.D's from regionally accredited institutions (the gold standard for postsecondary education in the USA); how could they not know something of these well-known first rate universities? The visit was conducted and administrated under the auspices of a wealthy government education agency (CPPVE/BPPVE - surely it has a research department).
- Facts suggesting bias - CPU as a competition threat (a): Three of the universities represented on the visit team were California universities that were direct competitors of CPU.
- Facts suggesting bias - CPU as a competition threat (b): A fourth university represented on the visiting team, the Union Institute, is a member of a small group of USA universities that are also in competition with CPU and charging much higher tuition rates (4-6 times higher than CPU). The Union Institute's mandate is distance and nontraditional delivery, as was the mandate of CPU.
- Facts suggesting possible bias - The Union Institute and the Stewart & Spille connection (1988): The above authors, in their book Diploma Mills: Degrees of Fraud, pointed out how unscrupulous diploma mill operators were claiming themselves as purveyors of non-traditional education and citing the same practices as established by appropriately accredited nontraditionals institutions. While Stewart and Spille make no direct reference to the Union Institute (TUI) it is well known that TUI has been a longtime nontraditional education institution, and was formed originally in 1964 as a consortium that included Hofstra University, Bard College, Antioch College, and Sarah Lawrence College, among others. Some of the nontraditional institutions that Stewart and Spille mention are Thomas Edison State College, Charter Oak College, and Regents College. Stewart and Spille state that the diploma mills were indeed a major threat to such established institutions of nontraditional adult-oriented education. Stewart and Spille also mention that one of the key contributors to the proliferation of diploma mills was the California education system, a place where such operations did, in fact, thrive. There was considerable pressure being placed on California to clean up its act - hence, the reformed private postsecondary education act of 1989. Under this new act CPU had to request approval as a new institution rather than one that had operated and passed approval inspections without incident for almost two decades.
- Facts suggesting possible bias - connection between the Union Institute faculty member Dr. Proctor, Dr. Steve Levicoff, and Thomas Edison State College: Visiting team member Dr. Everett Proctor taught at the Union Institute and is specialized in religious studies and classics. Interestingly, if not coincidently, another individual affiliated with the Union Institute is Dr. Steve Levicoff, a doctoral graduate of the Union Institute specialized in Religion and Law. While at the Union Institute, Levicoff wrote an exemplary dissertation on a activist prison church, "The New Song of Shilo". Levicoff emerged in the mid-nineties as one of the most outspoken and vicious internet-based critics of CPU (based in part on research grounded in his own opinions and hearsay). Did these men know each other?
Levicoff is also a BA graduate of the above-mentioned Thomas Edison State College (TESC), and a graduate of the nontraditional Vermont College of Norwich University (MA). I have in my possession a letter from the TESC Registrar's office (dated 1993) which implies a bias without evidence that CPU was a questionable school and that a CPU degree was of little value. Are Levicoff's ideas from TESC? Did Levicoff influence Proctor to participate on the visiting committee with a bias? Levicoff's ideas purportedly have influence with such powers as the US Dept of Education (one of his publications is residing on Dept. of ED's website), and the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization's administrator Alan Contreras.
Levicoff's major message is that only USA regionally accredited distance degrees can be trusted, and that unaccredited institutions (with few exceptions) cannot be trusted because of the lack of credible third party monitoring and the reality that most universities will not accept unaccredited degrees for advanced study. This is an ultra-conservative, but ultimately consumer-friendly attitude, and Levicoff's view is understandable when one thinks of consumers' safety. During the mid-nineties Levicoff operated under the name "The Institute of Religion and Law" and wrote viciously on unaccredited schools, diploma mills, and phony 'accreditation mills'. There is currently no available evidence to indicate if Levicoff was contracted by interested parties to discredit schools such as CPU. Levicoff's writings can be accessed by standard Internet search and by searching Deja.Com. Dr. Levicoff , by his own choice, is currently employed as a long distance truckdriver.
- Facts suggesting bias - Court evidence of witch hunt: California Court of Appeal heard evidence from Dr. Betty Dow that CPPVE deputy director Shiela Hawkins had claimed as early as 1992 that CPU would not be reapproved and that CPU was in for "a big surprise". The site visit finally occurred in 1995, three years after Hawkins began predicting CPU's future to Dr. Dow. See Dr. Dow's court testimony. It seems as though the CPPVE had been acting as an unchained renegade operation. In 1996 Governor Pete Wilson legislatively shut down the CPPVE, citing a "pattern of reprisals and vindictiveness" being waged by CPPVE staff against many institutions (from Governor's veto message dated September 30, 1996).
The two black Deans took offence to their treatment at the hands of the site visiting committee. On November 15, 1995, Dean Tolossa and Dean Ketsela wrote the following memo to Dr. Les Carr, then Dean of Faculty at CPU. Carr responded with this memo to Dr. Richard Crews, then President of CPU (PDF Files). Dr. Tilossa ceased his employment with Columbia Pacific University shortly after the incident with the CPPVE. Dr. Ketsela is now Dean of Business and Administration with Columbia Commonwealth University.
References Not Published Online
Stewart, David W., & Spille, Henry A. (1988). Diploma Mills: Degrees of Fraud. New York: American Council on Education and Macmillan Publishing Company.