When is a master’s degree not a master’s degree? When it’s a graduate diploma.
That’s what Matt Arnold has been dealing with for months — accusations of academic fraud. Arnold is competing for the Republican nomination for University of Colorado regent against anesthesiologist Brian Davidson. And, quite ironically, he’s said in the past that he has a master’s degree, when in fact he doesn’t.
Among other instances, Arnold wrote in an email to the El Paso County Republican Party chief operating officer that his “Master’s is from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) – Bologna Center (in Italy).”
“I can show my diploma to anyone who’s interested,” Arnold wrote. He studied in Italy in the SAIS program from 1991 to 1992.
Arnold’s diploma, however, says that he earned a “Graduate Diploma in International Studies” from SAIS, which is an arm of the famous Johns Hopkins University, in Maryland.
That’s essentially the same thing as a master’s degree, said Arnold.
“I used the term ‘master’s’ as shorthand for ‘graduate degree,’” Arnold said. “This is of such minute, nit-picky level of detail. It’s a graduate degree. It’s a distinction where, you’re going to find maybe one person in a thousand that cares.”
John Bates, the assistant registrar at Johns Hopkins, confirmed that Arnold has a graduate certificate (also called a “Graduate Diploma” in Arnold’s program in Italy) but not a master’s degree.
That led Eli Bremer, the El Paso County Republican Party Chairman, to say Arnold’s claim looks like an “outright lie.” Bob Balink, the El Paso County Treasurer, sarcastically questioned Arnold’s integrity in a press release. And CU Regent Kyle Hybl, of Colorado Springs, said that if the allegations were true, it was of particular importance because of the regents’ role in conferring degrees on graduates.
And all three of them referred to the infamous CU Professor Ward Churchill, who was fired for plagiarism.
Bremer wrote in a press release that he was “obligated to report academic fraud,” despite his oath to maintain neutrality in party primaries.
“It’s like saying you’re pregnant when you’re not. Either you have a master’s or you don’t,” Bremer said. “In academia, this is really, really big fraud.”
After returning to the U.S., Arnold said he began work on a graduate thesis for a master’s degree, but he quit to go work for the Pentagon, where he said he worked for four years as a contractor.
“This is nothing but a personal vendetta by a small man, who wants to tear down someone he doesn’t like,” Arnold said of Bremer.
Sarah Arnold, Matt’s wife, was formerly the county party secretary, and she had a very public and loud falling out with Bremer last year. Arnold said the animosity between the two is driving the accusations of fraud.
And David Williams, the vice chair of the county party, said Bremer is out of line involving himself in a primary.
“It is very clear that officers should remain absolutely neutral. They should not say anything, regardless of whether it’s good or bad,” said Williams. “He needs to apologize.”
State Republican Party Chair Ryan Call declined to comment on Arnold’s situation and whether Bremer was right or wrong to come out so strongly against Arnold, but he did say it’s hard to mistake degrees for diplomas.
“It’s not a nuanced difference. It’s a clear difference,” said Call, who has three degrees, including two post-graduate degrees.
Call also said Williams was being hypocritical, because he came out at one point against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“It does seem a bit duplicitous that he would take a fellow officer to task for expressing an opinion in another primary,” Call said.