This week’s entry: List of animals with fraudulent diplomas
What it’s about: There’s no rule that says a mule can’t play football! And there’s apparently nothing stopping household pets from earning a college degree, assuming the college’s standards are low enough. Thirteen animals—that Wikipedia knows about—have matriculated from various institutions of low repute, making them the only college graduates who routinely pee on the floor, unless you count Dartmouth alumni.
Strangest fact: Multiple certified hypnotherapists have been cats. Dr. Zoe D. Katze was granted several hypnotherapy certifications in 2001, a story that was reported by the American Bar Association and CBS News. Katze’s owner, Steve K.D. Eichel, then consulted a BBC investigation led by presenter Chris Jackson, who registered his cat George with the British Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming, the United Fellowship of Hypnotherapists, and the Professional Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association with very little difficulty.
Biggest controversy: In nearly every instance, the animals’ owners applied for their pets’ diploma to expose a diploma mill. These unaccredited colleges hand out impressive-sounding diplomas after little or no coursework beyond a crucial written test—putting your name on the bottom of a check. And while many of these are degrees in not-terribly-rigorous fields like hypnotherapy, Trinity Southern University in Dallas gave an MBA to a housecat named Colby Nolan. Colby’s owner filled out an application claiming the cat had taken community college classes, and held typical teenage jobs babysitting, delivering newspapers, and working in a fast food restaurant. TSU decided that that crucial work experience, and an extra $100, qualified Colby for a master’s degree. Unfortunately for the school, Colby’s owner was a deputy attorney general investigating fraud, and the college’s owners were fined over $100,000 by the courts.
Thing we were happiest to learn: It’s very easy to pad your dog’s resume. Sonny, a dog who earned a medical degree from Ashwood University, listed as a qualification, “significant proctology experience,” which mostly involved sniffing other dogs’ butts. Investigative reporter Peter Brancato, from WRGB, Albany, signed his dog Wally up for Almeda University, which gave the furry freshman “life experience” credit for a resume that included: “Teaches [kids] to interact better with each other… Teaches them responsibilities like feeding the dog.”
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Having a dog in your graduating class is bad enough; but having her finish ahead of you has to be hard to live with. In 2010, Mark Howard’s dog Lulu earned a degree from Concordia College in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Howard was part of a legal team suing the school, and the defendant’s key witness falsely claimed to have taken classes at Concordia, and admitted his made-up GPA was lower than Lulu’s.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: In 1975, Jack Hetherington was a physicist and mathematician attempting to get published in scientific journals. When a friend advised him he’d be more likely to be published if he listed a co-author, rather than actually enlist a collaborator, he simply invented one. F.D.C. Willard was the pseudonym of his cat Chester (the initials stood for Felis Domesticus Chester), and with his feline collaborator sharing a byline, Hetherington was swiftly published. Three years later, Willard managed a solo article, publishing a piece on Helium 3 in a French popular science magazine. Once Willard’s identity went public, the cat became somewhat of a celebrity within the small world of academic physicists, and Chester was thanked in footnotes to numerous publications, and even offered a professorship, a fact that’s no doubt encouraging to anyone who’s ever attempted to find a job in academia.
Further down the wormhole: Continuing on from F.D.C. Willard, you can click through to Wikipedia’s list of notable individual cats. Alongside internet sensations like Keyboard Cat and Grumpy Cat, and notable Letterman guest Dusty The Klepto Kitty, are the Canadian Parliamentary Cats. While we had high hopes that they might be house cats who were elected to high office in the Great White North, they were in fact a group of stray cats living on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. But their proximity to their nation’s leadership links them to United States presidential pets. Every president has had at least one pet while in office, and several had quite the menagerie, which we’ll explore next week.