Earlier this week, Kenny Jones — a former administrator in the Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life — was found to have misrepresented his academic credentials on multiple occasions. In past blog posts, presentations and other job-related documents, Jones had claimed to have earned a Ph.D. from Morgan State University this past March and spoke of his time as a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Jackson State University.
This information about Jones’ background was revealed to be inaccurate after Onward State, an independent blog at Pennsylvania State University, printed a retraction of an article about a speech that Jones had given at the school’s main campus earlier this month. In the retraction, Onward State indicated that Jones himself had contacted the publication, asking the writers to remove mentions of his doctoral degree and his affiliation with Phi Beta Sigma.
Eventually, Jones admitted that he had not been awarded a Ph.D. Sources from Phi Beta Sigma also dispute the timeline of Jones’ membership in the organization. As The Daily Pennsylvanian reported on Jan. 21, Jones had been taking measures to remove references to his doctorate on his Twitter page, Facebook account and in his email signature. Penn had also begun removing mentions of his doctorate from the OFSL page and other pages.
Just days after these aspects of Jones’ background were called into question, the Division of the Vice Provost for University Life released a statement confirming that he was no longer an employee at Penn. In a follow-up post, Onward State wrote that Jones had been fired from his position.
We commend the University for taking swift action in terminating Jones’ employment. In misleading both his colleagues and the students he served, Jones committed a serious offense, one that should not be taken lightly. Penn’s response to this situation shows that the University will not tolerate such deceit and upholds the values outlined in its Code of Academic Integrity.
Still, this incident has raised other questions. When did the University become aware of Jones’ fabrications? Did administrators know about Jones’ false credentials prior to the Onward State blog post? If University officials did not learn of Jones’ misrepresentations before the news broke several days ago, we would question the efficacy and thoroughness of the University’s vetting process. The fact that Jones was able to seriously misrepresent his academic background for months suggests that Penn may not be as aware of its employees’ backgrounds as it should be. And if Penn had known about the error but had not acknowledged it until now, it brings the importance of transparency in acknowledging mistakes to the forefront.
Jones’ departure from OFSL may show that Penn needs to be more vigilant in verifying its employees’ backgrounds and perhaps more transparent in acknowledging oversights.
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