Changed DU record raises concerns in Tennessee

By Kaye Burnet | The Duquesne Duke

Duquesne’s awarding of a retroactive degree to former student Lisa Haynes has brought the University into the heart of a controversy over Haynes’ work at Chattanooga State Community College in Tennessee.

Haynes, a Barbados native, was a senior at Duquesne in 2005 but did not complete the requirements to receive her bachelor’s degree, according to a Tennessee Board of Regents audit report. In 2013, she met former CSCC president Jim Catanzaro while he was vacationing in Barbados.

According to CSCC Faculty Senate Chairman Kenneth Goldsmith, Catanzaro hired Haynes for an executive position that required at least a bachelor’s degree, a move that confused many faculty members.

“It was our belief that she was hired for a position she was not qualified for,” Goldsmith said.

According to Goldsmith, the biennial Tennessee Board of Regents audit of the college first uncovered Haynes’ lack of credentials.

On Sept. 19, following the audit report, Haynes resigned her position. According to Goldsmith, Haynes and Catanzaro then proceeded to contact Duquesne’s Department of Academic Affairs, led by Provost Timothy Austin. Days later, Duquesne awarded Haynes a retroactive degree dating back to 2005.

“It was never clear why Duquesne would try to change her transcripts,” Goldsmith said. “What pressure could have been put on Duquesne? We are left wondering what happened internally.”

Austin declined to comment, but Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare said, “Duquesne awards degrees only to those students who legitimately earn them.”

Citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Fare declined to comment on Haynes’ specific case. However, Fare did admit that Haynes might have received a course waiver for whatever requirements she did not complete.

“Colleges and universities, with appropriate safeguards, occasionally permit the waiver of a degree requirement or the substitution of another course for one that is required,” Fare said.

Fare was unable to say how frequently or under what circumstances graduation requirements are waived at Duquesne.

The practice of waiving graduation requirements is rare or nonexistent at other colleges and universities, Goldsmith said. Penn State University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said, “Graduation requirements are very rarely waived at Penn State. The required number of credits to earn the degree is never waived.”

Goldsmith has never encountered a “retroactive degree” during his decades of work in academia.

“The whole thing didn’t smell right,” Goldsmith said. “She did not originally have the degree, which means that at the time she interviewed, she was deceptive. What courses did Duquesne substitute, if she missed requirements?”

Goldsmith also said Catanzaro’s involvement with Duquesne’s academic affairs bordered on unprofessional. Catanzaro resigned his position as president a few weeks before the audit report was published.

“[Catanzaro] was trying to influence the situation,” Goldsmith said. “It was too much personal involvement. It went beyond what’s considered ‘usual.’”

According to the audit report, Haynes earned $108,000 as Chief Innovations Officer at CSCC, a position that was created specifically for her and paid double the average full-time CSCC professor’s salary. Haynes was able to return to her position after Duquesne awarded the retroactive degree, but was dismissed last week, as announced by interim CSCC president Warren Nichols at a faculty senate meeting.

“She never should have gotten through the vetting process,” Goldsmith said.

Haynes claims she was unaware that she never received a degree from Duquesne. As a citizen of Barbados, Haynes’ work visa depended on her credentials, the Times Free Press reported.

Goldsmith and other faculty members are skeptical of Haynes’ ignorance.

“How could that happen?” Goldsmith wondered. “Any student knows if they have a degree or not.”