Thursday 24 September 2009

Try me

No, sorry to disappoint you, this isn’t an offer of romantic or sexual favours. I mean I want you to pretend I’m in the dock in court and you are the judge. It’s your job to decide my guilt or innocence and then to decide on my punishment. It’s a heavy responsibility I know but I’m sure you’ll cope.

So, are you ready to sit in judgement? Here goes.

This is a strange case because I am going to present both the evidence for the prosecution and for the defence. I promise I won’t try and distort the evidence for the prosecution, I won’t try and suggest that they are crooks, cheats and liars, honest.

Firstly the background.

A few weeks ago I reported on the qualifications you can obtain from the so-called “University of SouthCentral Los Angeles”. This establishment places Google Ads on the web in all sorts of places including the BBC news site.

These offer what they call “scholarships” to get a range of degrees, up to doctorate level, all within 12 months and all for the bargain price of $850.

I’m not one to turn down a potential bargain so off I went to investigate. Their rather flashy web site web site did indeed suggest that I might be eligible for one of these degrees so I filled in the online form and within hours I got an email confirming that “After careful consideration, we are happy to extend our formal offer of acceptance to you”. Did I mention that when I filled in the online application form I made as many spelling mistakes as possible, claimed to have a degree already from “Calamus University” (a well-known fake university) and generally tried to portray myself as an ill-educated idiot. Yet nevertheless they accepted me to study for a PhD. They didn’t ask to see any evidence of my qualifications, they didn’t want to see anything I’d written, they didn’t want to talk to any referees.

So, based on this experience I wrote about them and accused them of not being a real university. I accused them of offering fake degrees.

Yesterday I got an email from them, which I’m going to publish in full. It went like this.
"To Whom it may concern,

We have come across your website and are in the process of taking legal counsel.

As you clearly do not understand the education law in the US which may vary significantly from your country, you are not in a position to identify our institution as ‘fake’ or associate it with ‘scams’. We therefore ask you to remove those statements from your website.

We aggressively pursue for damages those committing libel and defamation against us (including those located in Botswana), and we note this mail as a precursor evidence of our willingness to settle the matter amicably if the matter later arises to a costs order. (In other words, if this proceeds to court, and you did not heed the warning, it will be used as a means for us to obtain our legal fees from you as well as substantial damages).

University of SouthCentral Los Angeles"
Let’s get this straight. This so-called “university” that is not accredited by any real accreditation body, that states on it’s own web site that in fact it "is registered in the British Virgin Islands" and that says I can get my doctorate by "written assignment and multiple choice based questions through self learning & distance learning" is threatening ME with legal action for defamation?

I’m not alone. Many other people have questioned the validity of this so-called university. If you look at our web site I’ve placed links to several other sites that question it. (1 2 3 4)

I suspect that whoever write this ridiculous email didn’t know about the law regarding defamation in Botswana. The adorable Section 195 of the Penal Code of Botswana states that a publication is not defamatory if:

“the matter is true and it was for the public benefit that it should be published".

In case you’re wondering I did respond to their email. It went like this:

“Sorry for the slight delay in responding to your message but my email client automatically filed it in the Deeply Silly folder. I then had to stop laughing.”

So, over to you, my reader and judge. Do you think I defamed them? Have I done them a terrible wrong? Have I damaged the reputation of a respectable organisation? Please let me have your verdict and, if the news is bad, your proposed punishment, by emailing me at


An update. The advertisements for this “university” have all suddenly disappeared from the BBC web site. I wonder if this is anything to do with my complaint to Google about this particular advertisement? However, another almost identical advertisement has appeared for the so-called “University of the Caribbean”. It’s all very similar, the same approach, the same degree for cash (this time a mere $720), the same base in the British Virgin Islands. Maybe even the same people?


Another update. I contacted the BBC complaining about the advertisement. Within a couple of hours I got an email from the BBC saying:
The BBC does not accept responsibility for adverts which are supplied by a
third party. However we do work closely with Google to try and ensure that
inappropriate advertising, such as the one you refer to, is screened out. A
number of similar adverts have already been blocked but this one appears to
have evaded the filter. I have asked Google to remove it immediately.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention
Good for the BBC!


Just because organisations like this so-called “university” have their advertisements on web sites as respectable as the BBC, that doesn’t mean they are entirely trustworthy. Other ads I saw in the same place linked to all manner of disreputable organisations such as other diploma mills, the Scientologists, online betting sites and peddlers of pseudoscientific rubbish and miracle cures. It just shows that you can’t always rely on the Internet for truth.

This week’s stars
  • Charles from Ackermans at Game City for going out of his way to be helpful to a customer.
  • Gaborone cycle shop for doing what they do really well.
  • All the team at Firefox Gaborone for quick and efficient service.

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