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Response to Mother Jones

Response to Mother Jones

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Published by Tommy Burr

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Published by: Tommy Burr on Oct 11, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Response to Mother Jones article on Mitt Romney andGeorge Wythe University
October 11, 2012In response to the story published by Mother Jones this morning on Mitt Romney and GeorgeWythe University, the GWU Board of Trustees finds serious journalistic negligence with MotherJones’ distortion of the facts surrounding George Wythe University and Mitt Romney’sparticipation in the school’s 2009 gala.First, although Mitt Romney was gracious enough to introduce Mr. Beck via video at the event,the Board of Trustees is not aware of any endorsement of any kind. Furthermore, there was nocontact or dialog between the school and Mr. Romney either prior to or after the videointroduction itself.Second, George Wythe University has a strict policy of not accepting or awarding any lifeexperience credit whatsoever. The awarding of credit for life-experience documented outside of coursework was permitted only by the early administrators of the school such as Oliver DeMille.Such officials were forced to resign from the institution years ago, a fact that Mother Jones wasfully informed about prior to their publication date but intentionally neglected to disclose. Theformer tolerance of such credit has been unequivocally condemned by the school, just as welikewise condemn the irresponsible and deceptive pseudo-journalism of Mother Jones.Third, GWU only graduates a handful of students yearly, and over twenty alumni have beenadmitted to graduate schools across the nation, including Harvard Graduate School of Education, Michigan State University College of Law, George Washington University Law School,UCLA Law School, Pepperdine University School of Law, Washington & Lee University School of Law, and many more. A sample of these has been published on the GWU website for years, andthis was expressly pointed out to Mother Jones during their interviews.http://www.gw.edu/prospective/graduate-schools.phpGWU alumni who go on to study law doparticularly well, and that has become the primary niche of the school. Of course, this flies in
the face of the narrative Mother Jones wanted to tell of the school somehow being a “diplomamill” and so they intentionally omitted it.Third, George Wythe University is a classical liberal arts college with an expansive and rigorouscurriculum based largely on the Great Books of Western Civilization. Primary sources are itsacademic foundation, chiefly arising from works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Tacitus, andthe rest of the classical canon from antiquity up through modern times. Any works by CleonSkousen formerly included in the curriculum would have comprised an infinitesimal fraction of student readings, and of which students are always free to challenge, and often do in such arigorous and open academic setting. Indeed, students study Adam Smith alongside Karl Marx,C.S. Lewis alongside Nietzsche—always to contrast opposing views. Mother Jones was onceagain in full possession of the facts, particularly about Skousen’s writings, which was confirmedvia phone call, but they still attempted to brand the school with Skousen’s works, even thoughthey were deleted from the curriculum over two years ago. This again amounts to nothing morethan hack journalism on the part of Mother Jones.Fourth, Mother Jones’ citing of obscure writings of DeMille to draw some imaginary conclusionabout the school’s teachings demonstrates yet further disregard if not contempt for the facts.Mother Jones was made fully aware during the interviews that GWU has divorced itself entirelyfrom Oliver DeMille. GWU is a classical liberal arts school with not a shred of DeMille’s writingsin the curriculum. Moreover, no one has any recollection of DeMille’s obscure and speculativepolitical missives ever being part of the curriculum at any time in the history of the school.Fifth, when Mother Jones called, we expressly informed them over the phone and in writing thattwo degrees were in the process of being revoked. We also told them that if they wereinterested in knowing the names of the individuals after our board meeting scheduled for thefollowing day, they could include that information in their article. It’s clear, however, thatMother Jones realized that such details would thwart the narrative they wanted to tell aboutGWU being a “diploma mill.” Hence, their rush to publish prior to receiving those details.Shortly after the phone conversation, at 6:11 PM on Tuesday, the board member theyinterviewed sent them the full announcement including the fact that degrees were beingrevoked (not something that “diploma mills” ordinarily do). Still, Mother Jones intentionallyomitted those facts from their story, despite their utter relevance and timely arrival, but choseother, less relevant details to mention from the announcement instead.One of those degrees revoked was the doctorate awarded to former congressman Mark D.Siljander. Ironically, Siljander was a major part of the Mother Jones story. Of course, we alsocalled Mother Jones following the board meeting and left a message stating that we now hadthe information that was permissible to share. Rather than seek to obtain it, they avoided it. Of course, Mother Jones also knew that any degree revocations didn’t align with the narrative theywanted to tell.Mother Jones also cites an offhand comment made by an attorney named Beth Phillips, workingfor the Department of Justice during Siljander’s sentencing memo. While Phillips’ conclusionsabout Siljander’s degree were very similar to our own independent findings when revoking hisdegree, her offhand comment that GWU was a “well known diploma mill” was mere conjectureon her part with no basis or bearing, and in no way was an official “label” by the Department of Justice of any kind as purported by Mother Jones. No proceedings have ever been pursued or
even filed by the Department of Justice toward GWU in any way. This stretching of facts andmeaning borders on journalistic libel.If Mother Jones had any journalistic integrity, they would have told an evenhanded account of the story of George Wythe University and its rigorous curriculum, hardworking students andalumni. Their irresponsibility and lack of diligence is especially egregious by virtue of the factthat Mother Jones had expressly received all of this information days prior to their publication.Attached below you will find our official statement as of October 10 which we prepared over thesummer, which details the completion of the school’s four year transformation—including therevocation of degrees.Sincerely,The George Wythe Foundation Board of TrusteesContact:801.540.5016 Diann Jeppson Board Chair435.590.3727 Julie Earley – Curriculum Chair, PR ChairGeorge Wythe University275 E. South TempleSalt Lake City, Utah 84111

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