by Max Brantley
Careful readers may have noted an interesting sidelight that turned up in comments yesterday on Dr. Johnny Rhoda of Clinton, the Republican executive committee member, preacher and financial adviser who GOP chairman Doyle Webb enlisted to be plaintiff in the lawsuit over free state cars for constitutional officers.
We learned from Tim Griffin's touting of Rhoda as his campaign chairman in Van Buren County that Dr. Rhoda's doctorate, a Ph.D., comes from Belford University, an Internet operation which Dr. Rhoda acknowledged in a phone interview with us has had its critics. He countered that some people don't think much of the University of Arkansas, either. (He was just making a point, he said, with the remark about UA, that many schools have both supporters and critics.) He said he holds an Arkansas Tech undergrad degree.
A friend of ours, a member of the state's education establishment, got so interested in Belford University a while back that he tested its course offerings by having his English bulldog, Max Sniffingwell, apply for a degree in "theriogenology/animal reproduction." On payment of $549 by money order, a diploma, transcript and letter of recommendation shortly would arrive from the United Arab Emirates. The proud doctor is shown in his graduation photo above. You will definitely want to continue to the jump to read Dr. Sniffingwell's degree application.
PS — Max's owner is Dr. Ben Mays, a Clinton veterinarian and member of the state Board of Education. He explains that his investment was to make a point (though he declined the opportunity to make Max an honors grad for an extra $75.)
Fourteen states have laws that make it illegal to use this kind of false credentials in one's line of work. But in Arkansas, stud dogs like Max, and unscrupulous individuals in other fields can use fake diplomas to dupe their clientele.
Dr. Sniffingwell's diploma, graduation picture, and application biography all hang nicely framed on the wall in my clinic's reception room.
Dr. Sniffingwell's letter of application to Belford University:
March 1, 2009
RE: Online Application for Doctorate Degree in Theriogenology/Animal Reproduction
Description of Experience in the Requested Degree Program
Dear Applicant Reviewer:
My very first job was working in an AKC breeding kennel. Later I went to work for my current employer, a veterinarian whose special interest is reproductive veterinary medicine. Although I have never benefitted from formal education in the breeding sciences, I have learned much in life from my successes and failures both clinical and in the field. My job as a breeding specialist has primarily centered around predictions of ovulation timing based on observations and sensory detections of hormone/pheromone cycles, vaginal changes, and courtship clues—all very important indicators for successful insemination either by natural or artificial means. I have come to believe that I have a natural ability in theriogenology, especially in the field of canine reproduction where my successes are well documented with the American Kennel Club. I have done some experimental field work with felines. However these studies, while highly insightful, have served primarily to underscore the scientific value of postulations gone bad, and led to my somewhat reluctant realization that my talents and natural inclinations are best suited for canine reproduction. Also since my employer is a pet doctor, I have experienced only limited exposure to the ins and outs of farm animal breeding services. So in my chosen field of theriogenology, which of course includes all animals, as much as I would like to just “do them all”, I’ve come to understand the prudence of specialization. However, I do not know if the doctoral degree program at Belford University recognizes species specialties. If not, and, of course, only if I qualify, I respectfully request that you grant my doctoral degree in either “canine” or “general” theriogenology/animal reproduction.
Thank you for considering my application. Your payment of $549 will be mailed as soon as I hear good news from your board of examiners.