27 April 2007

Pop Goes Another Business Model

MIT has fired its Dean of Admissions for having lied about being a college graduate when she was first hired -- for a job that didn't require a college degree -- 28 years ago. Everyone (or at least everyone fit to print in the New York Times seems to agree that she was a good Dean of Admissions, although what the story really indicates is that the performance of the Dean of Admissions is probably irrelevant to MIT.

What I find most interesting is that Ms. Jones' satisfactory performance proves that there is no need to have a college degree in order to be a satisfactory Dean. Requiring a college degree for that job is meaningless credentialism. Does MIT realize that, and is it advanced degree protectionism that requires them to boot her out?


Ali said...

I think the problem was she lied about her qualifications.

David said...

Sure, but the qualification is obviously unnecessary. Isn't her crime more showing that a college degree is unnecessary for any number of jobs for which it is a prerequisite -- even quite responsible jobs in higher education -- rather than lying 28 years ago about a qualification that wasn't even required for her then job?

David said...

Put another way, couldn't a trained monkey be the Admissions Dean at MIT?

joe shropshire said...

couldn't a trained monkey be the Admissions Dean at MIT?

Probably not; but you just admitted that you see the matter the same way MIT does.

David said...

How so?

joe shropshire said...

You've decided that if a job is being done sucessfully by someone without a degree, then that job can't be as demanding or skilled as it seems to be. At least, that's what the "trained monkey" comment implies. That's the same thing you (correctly) accuse MIT of doing. As to the importance of that job, if you believe the signalling model then a good Dean of Admissions is probably worth a Nobel winner or three.

pj said...

A trained monkey could make the admissions decisions, but might not be that good at recruiting in competition with other elite schools. And a proven liar might not be competitive with Harvard's recruiter, either.

Now, of course, Bill Gates would be a much better recruiter than anyone with a college degree.

I see two likely reasons for MIT's position in response to David's question:

1) The candidates without college degrees would be too expensive; MIT is restricting itself to college degree holders in a cost-cutting move.

2) Since part of the college recruiting message is the value of a college degree (specifically, an MIT degree), shouldn't the dean of admissions have a degree (from MIT)? And, if you want to replace the degree-less dean with someone with an MIT degree, isn't it better to say your firing her for lying than for not having an MIT degree?

Harry Eagar said...

Lubos Motl (motls.blogspot) is one who does not agree she was doing a good job.

Hard to figure out how to judge the results of an admissions office. You cannot ever know what the ones not admitted or not recruited would have done if they had come.

My brother had considerably lower SAT scores than I did -- so low that today I doubt he could have gotten into MIT, but he did get in and now holds an endowed chair there.

I, on the other hand, might fairly easily have gotten into MIT but there's no way I could have stayed there.

It's a crapshoot. While newspapering, I have worked with people of various qualifications, from Rhodes Scholar to drug-addled high school dropout. The very best I ever competed against was the drug-addled dropout, as long as he lasted, which wasn't long. The Rhodes Scholar was middlin' fair.