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George Wythe Foundation Board of Trustees

Cleanup Documentation

 

This page is where the new leadership at George Wythe University provides updates on its academic cleanup for the benefit of students, alumni and the public. Since replacing the University administration and governance from prior to 2010 to prevent state closure of the school, the new Board has voluntarily taken on this task for the protection of deserving students and alumni from the lingering effects of earlier unlawful activities that compromised the integrity of students' degrees and transcripts. Although our investigations have yielded many surprises, we've found nothing that cannot be remedied with the judicious application of best practices, legal compliance, and the diligence of state authorities, whose conscientious and tireless work has been extraordinary. When needed, we have taken decisive action to revoke degrees, condemn malfeasance, and provide remedies, always in consideration of what is best for the students and alumni, especially those who need the credentials they properly earned.

Since volunteering to take on this difficult task, as a new Board of Trustees we have gained tremendous respect for these honest, hard working students.  Those of us on the Board who are alumni ourselves recall the long hours such a curriculum requires, and the rich engagement with our peers both during and after class—the kind of learning found in few places other than a colloquium-based Great Books program as adopted by GWU. Wherever found in academia, such programs deserve their high esteem and should never be compromised in their integrity and cheapened.  We express our deepest sympathy for students misled by prior administrations.  We also express our gratitude for those alumni who first stepped forward in 2009 and organized this concerted effort to protect these innocent students. 
 
In the six years since replacing the previous leadership, the institutional cleanup has been comprehensive. To clear the valid degrees of any doubt, and for the sake of transparency and a duty to the public good, we forthrightly offer the following for anyone who might benefit from it. Updates will be posted from time to time as they become available.

Laws Violated

  • Violations of Utah and Florida law by previous administrations.  An explanation from state authorities and legal counsel of the laws broken by previous administrations that jeopardized the survival of the school.
  • Many violations occurred in adopted standard 2.C.7 "Credit for prior experiential learning, if granted, is awarded only at the undergraduate level," and "limited to a maximum of 25% of the credits needed for a degree." In Utah and most states, variations of this standard are also copied directly into the statute. See details in Administrative Rules and the NWCCU standards referenced by law enforcement as Utah's standards by R765-171-4.1.2 also during the 1990s.  From then to the present, few laws in Utah affecting GWU's operations have actually changed.
  • 2010 Settlement Agreement with the State Law enforcement found that previous administrations had violated the Charitable Solicitations Act by misuse of funds and misrepresentation. The initial assessment against the school during the summer of 2010 was $20,000, which the state lowered in this settlement with the Board. Even though the perpetrators had been removed from the school over a year before, to prevent future violations the state required the Board to agree to prohibit specific previous administrators such as Brooks from ever returning to any position with control over funds. This provision is located in section 5.

Degree Revocation Files

  • GWU Investigation: PhD awarded to Mark D. Siljander.  Investigation summary and evidence.
  • Fabrication of Siljander's transcript.  Evidence timeline surrounding Siljander's federal conviction and the incriminating role of his falsified transcript by previous administrations.
  • Siljander's dissertation submission Investigation Exhibit D: Submitted by Siljander and approved by DeMille as a doctoral dissertation, this document consists merely of a marketing packet used in Siljander's business, plus application forms and a description. It is expressly post-facto "life-experience" for prior activities without academic supervision, originally for an audience of prospective clients. There is no scholarly aspect.
  • Siljander Federal Court Sentencing Memo.  Prepared by the U.S. Attorney documenting Siljander's history, including the illegal aspects of his degree awarded by DeMille, dubious business dealings, and the details of the federal case against him.  Siljander pled guilty on July 10, 2010 to lying to the FBI and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
  • GWU Investigation: PhD awarded to Ann Tracy.  Investigation summary and evidence. 

Reputation Damage to Students:  Barriers to Donors and Applicants

  • 2004 - Deseret News:  Life-experience PhD revealed.  Ann Tracy publicly admits that her PhD was awarded wholly for life experience.  This exposes a crime usually committed by degree mills.  This news was soon amplified on blogs.  All George Wythe degrees immediately became suspect.
  • 2006 - Diploma DeMille:  Allegations of illegitimate degrees.  First circulated during the battle over an Idaho charter school's approval, this gratuitous attack, though largely factual, exposed Oliver DeMille's own degrees from diploma mills.  It quickly spread in blogs, email lists, and so forth.  Because DeMille was president, suspicion of the school increased—casting further doubt on all George Wythe degrees.  His later admission removed none of the growing cloud over the school.
  • 2008 - The Real George Wythe.  A blog exposing questionable practices from academic to financial.  Likely an attorney, this anonymous blogger also edited Wikipedia articles related to the school.  Although misunderstanding the traditional liberal arts, his fact gathering was usually accurate, and exposed numerous degree titles from the 1990s that would have been illegal under the school's permit, outside of the school's expertise and programs, and for which there was no explanation other than diploma mill activity either mingled within or parallel to the regular educational program. This supported existing suspicions and raised serious concerns for new donors, applicants, and graduate schools seeking to evaluate GWU alumni for admittance.

Perpetual Recycling of Original Tarnish

  • 2012 - Mother Jones:  Fraudulent PhD degrees used by Ann Tracy, Mark Siljander and DeMille were showcased in the national media as an October surprise at the peak of the general election, using the school's tarnish to smear a presidential candidate connected to the school.
  • 2015 - Salt Lake Tribune:  Ongoing spotlighting of the school's previous checkered history of unearned degrees, used as a weapon to smear Utah's political leaders connected to the school.

Public Cleansing Procedures - Best Practices

In cleaning academic scandals, sunlight is the only disinfectant that works. Only a bold, highly public separation and purging of invalid degrees with full transparency can redeem and validate the integrity of the legitimate degrees that were properly earned by students acting in good faith. The final public announcement is made by the independent third party appointed to complete the validation of the records.  For a vivid case study of another school that went through a difficult cleanup process, see the links at the beginning of this paragraph.

As seen in the examples linked above, upon discovery of a single fabricated degree, an institution's fate is sealed for several years.  It is obligated first and foremost to conclusively clear all other student degrees of suspicions of similar fraud.  The standard practice is to audit all the years of student records under the administrators employed during the period in question and publicly detail the findings.  This is the minimum standard protocol to confirm that no other fraudulent degrees exist.  In our case, several more were found—all but one between 1992 and 2001.  Expanding the investigative audit to include ALL years simply added the most recent records, guaranteeing the clearance of every innocent student.

When scandalous degrees awarded by George Wythe were reported in the media beginning in 2004, this became a permanent public record easily searchable online, and visible to anyone choosing to investigate the credentials of our alumni. This is common practice in the due diligence for graduate school admissions, business partnerships, board vetting, candidates for public office, employment, and so on.  GWU's official final cleanup report will stand as a counterweight to this public media record, forever placing the earlier media history in the context of a diligent cleanup—showing that all invalid degrees were properly resolved and removed from the majority that were in fact earned legitimately and legally, and now verified independently as such.  This will render the older history obsolete.  For the benefit of the alumni, this published report will be maintained at the top of internet search results in perpetuity, neutralizing the effects of the prior history circulating online since 2004 that has called into question all GW alumni and unjustly burdened their reputations.

Unauthorized Loans, Asset Transfers, Other Deceptions

  • Unauthorized loan agreements.  These personal loans comprise debts exceeding $200,000 arranged by Brooks to bind upon the school without Board knowledge. A state audit failed to uncover an accounting of the funds.  Private information has been removed.
  • Unauthorized asset transfer of 50 acres of land.  A business entity called One Degree, LLC had been set up between George Wythe Foundation and a business named Arrow to the Sun, owned by an individual named Dee Atkin. This document shows minutes from a meeting held between Brooks and Atkin in which they privately agreed to transfer 50 acres of GWU's gift received in Monticello, Utah to Atkin's business.  This hidden agreement was made without the knowledge of the GWU Board of Trustees.  The Board discovered that Brooks had transferred this asset six months after the fact. 
  • Deceptions surrounding Monticello expansion plans of 2006 - 2008 (forthcoming)
  • Fictitious $100,000 donor in order to mislead board purchase of $202,000 ERP software (forthcoming)

Official Statements

 

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