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Critic questions AQMD board member's doctorates

AQMD board member who is to vote on whether to ban Newport, Huntington fire pits has two Ph.D.s from 'diploma mills'.

May 17, 2013|By Jill Cowan and Alicia Lopez
  • A screen grab of Clark E. Parker's biography on the South Coast Air Quality Management District's website.
A screen grab of Clark E. Parker's biography on the… (Screenshot, Daily…)

A critic of the region's air-quality agency is questioning the academic credentials of a board member empowered to vote on the fate of the fire rings in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.

Clark E. Parker, who sits on the South Coast Air Quality Management District board, lists two doctorates in his online biography on the agency website. Parker, who was appointed in June by the state Senate Rules Committee, is referred to as "Dr. Parker" throughout the document.

But the listed doctorates are from so-called diploma mills that provide degrees in exchange for payment, contends epidemiologist Jim Enstrom, a researcher who has criticized the science behind some of AQMD's regulations.

Enstrom sent a letter March 21 to Parker questioning his credentials and posted it online.

Parker did not respond to the Daily Pilot's repeated requests for comment over the course of several days.

District officials said the biographies are self-submitted and not checked for accuracy.

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The biography lists — among other accomplishments — a "doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Central Arizona, and a doctor of laws from Laurence University."

Both the University of Central Arizona and Laurence University are now-defunct organizations that allegedly operated as diploma mills, meaning they were unaccredited, for-profit colleges accused of selling degrees, in the 1970s and 1980s, according to an expert on nontraditional education and reports from that time.

Parker's biography says he received an honorary "doctor of law" from the Laurence University in 1971. He received a doctor of arts in management from the University of Central Arizona in 1980.

"I earned [my Ph.D.] from Stanford University, putting in five of the hardest years of my life," Enstrom said. "He doesn't deserve to call himself a Ph.D., and he doesn't deserve to say he has doctoral level knowledge in anything."

An official at the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education said the agency had no official record of University of Central Arizona's existence, aside from one 1982 letter to the state Board of Regents warning of the school's illegitimacy.

That letter was from John Bear, Ph.D., who has written extensively on correspondence education and degree mills.

Bear said that he recalled that the University of Central Arizona and Laurence University occupied a "gray area" between straightforward money-for-diploma exchanges and unaccredited schools that require some amount of work.

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