Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Resume Enhancement Quandry

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reminded me of an interesting "resume enhancing" story that involves me, which has been the subject of much discussion among friends & family.

Apparently, questions have been raised regarding the credentials of the chief medical officer of a local hospital system, Doctor who checks credentials faces questions over his own resume. In his role as chief medical officer, this physician vets the credentials of the other physicians on staff at the Hospital, yet there are questions about the veracity of his own:

But the Navy's former surgeon general has long faced questions about the accuracy of his own resumé.

At least four official biographies have credited Arthur with a nonexistent master's degree - one that he agrees he never received.

Over the years, his resumé also has listed a Ph.D. and a law degree from two unaccredited schools, including one that closed after its leader pleaded guilty to fraud.

To the dismay of some veterans, Arthur has told Congress and others that he served in combat during the first Gulf War, though records show that his unit was never in battle.

And now for my story. A few months ago, my brother (he, who attended the Super Bowl with my husband) called to ask if I recognized a certain name from my law school days. I responded that the name sounded familiar, but that it's been a while since I was there. He said that he had read a nice feature article in the local paper about the guy, who was recently appointed CEO of a big business in South Florida. He then added that the piece mentioned that this guy was the valedictorian of my law school class. My brother (who went to the same school) said he checked his Alumni directory and sure enough, we were in the same graduating class. He said he was surprised to read that, since he recalled that I was the valedictorian (and that there wasn't a co-valedictorian).

Unlike this guy, who has apparently borrowed my class standing, I have generally never been one to emphasize that particular credential. In fact, I didn't even include it on my resume for many years. After he confirmed that the guy did in fact graduate with me, my brother & I laughed about it and thought of various methods that he would contact the guy to ask if he remembered me. After our conversation, I then googled the guy & discovered that he had been promoting himself as valedictorian of our class for many years.

I have to say that it's certainly amazing what a small world it is. Here's this guy, who steals my credentials & moves to Florida, only to be discovered. Not many people would even have remembered who was the valedictorian in any particular class year, so I'm sure he figured he was pretty safe. My brother, of course, would be one of that small group who would know & he just so happened to read the article.

Of course, I've been telling this story to friends & family, with various reactions. It certain raises a number of interesting ethical issues -- about the guy's conduct, as well as my own "obligation" to come forward. The opinion of most (by a significant majority) is that I should expose the guy as a fraud.

My favorite is my daughter's view -- that I should tell my mother what happened & let her take care of it -- and him. She imagines my mother marching over to his office & giving him hell and then spreading the news to the company. She just delights in the thought of the fireworks she would cause. My mother is nothing if not feisty (I get it honestly). During my visit with the family, my daughter just had to tell the tale to her grandmother. The family then came up with various scenarios for approaching the guy, some pretty humorous.

Obviously, this was totally unethical on his part and he deserves to be exposed for the fraud that he is. On the other hand, I don't want to be responsible for him losing his job, which may well occur if it were to be exposed. Does his "crime" really warrant the loss of his job and perhaps his career?

I already had that experience once, thank you very much -- related to the very same law school. In my last year of law school, I was an editor on law review & happened to see a law review article that had been plagiarized. It mysteriously disappeared when accusations were made by the editor of law review (before the days of computerized copies). As one of only two people who witnessed the plagiarism, I was the main witness in the disciplinary action (the other person was accused of bias), which resulted in the student's dismissal from law school. He deserved it, but I hated the fact that I was a major cause of this kid's expulsion.

In the end, it's just amazing to me that someone would be stupid enough to do something like this. Why was it necessary? He probably was in the top of our class, so did he really need to add the little extra bit of puffery to his resume?

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