English Translation by Jonthon Coulson, Fellow, Institute of Current World Affairs, Doctoral Student, Teachers College, Columbia University
As was the case with my previous articles, this fairy tale comes to you from the land above the clouds. It is being told only to entertain my friends and relatives, and is not intended for public consumption.
Long ago, in the kingdom of Demak Bintoro, there was a sultan named Trenggono who was highly respected and feared. His supernatural powers could reach up to the sky and penetrate right to the core of the earth. No one dared stare directly at his face. Anyone who mentioned his name behind his back died the next day.
As it turns out, even fear sometimes saves the day and brings about a happy ending.
One day, as Joko of Tingkir was playing a game, minding his own business, he was startled by the footsteps of the great Sultan Trenggono, who was on his way to Friday prayers. Joko was immediately overcome with fear. He was so afraid to look at the great sultan’s face that without hesitating, he jumped away from the king’s path. Luckily for him, he jumped with such force that he somehow managed to land on the other side of a small pond. He landed so powerfully that the earth quaked. The sultan fell to the ground and became covered with mud, but was too far away to retaliate.
Alhamdulillah! Praise be to God, I am blessed with such fear. Never once was I brave enough to say the name of any university and/or its renowned rector. In this era of chaotic legal systems, even in speaking to the media one must exercise care and avoid saying names.
The nature of communication is to help people see and understand—not to excite emotions. Time and again, I have proven that people understand words that come from the heart. By explicitly stating that my writings are not factual accounts, but merely fairy tales from the land above the clouds, people have gained trust in me, and have become more fond of my writing.
As your television may already have told you, I was recently reported to the police again. Allegedly, I have defamed a former university leader. But how could this be, if I never mentioned the name of any person or university? Never in my life have I heard such a story of a leader who felt such ownership of an institution that any critique of it would be received as a personal attack on him.
Fortunately, the seeds of my fear of saying names are finally bearing fruit: According to the police, the complaint they received cannot be executed because it lacks adequate evidence. What’s more, it has been noted by officials that the submission of a complaint that does not include any fact proves only one thing: that the complainant has become lost in his own emotion.
The Academic Performance Evaluation team has become accustomed to meeting with law enforcement officers, and this is certainly not the first time we’ve been reported to the authorities. As representatives of the government, our team respects the right of every citizen to defend themselves against us because this is a right conferred by our nation. Besides, bringing academic issues into the halls of law gives us a valuable opportunity to educate the public about the work we do for them.
Religious teachings tell us not to be arrogant. Pride weakens the truth and relies on lies to push into others’ minds. In all my life, this is the first time I’ve seen anyone lie so naturally.
Our entire team was stunned by this leader’s explanation of his alleged impropriety. His primary reference was to minutes from a meeting that were signed by the university leadership and our evaluation team. Those minutes verify our discovery that between January and September 2016, the university leader conferred doctorate degrees upon 118 students, that he completed seven open examinations of doctoral candidates in a single day, and that over the last five years, this one man granted Ph.D. degrees to 327 people.
The findings listed in that document do not include any of the data our team found subsequently. If it had, it would also account for additional program participants from Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Singaraja, and two cohorts from Mataram. However, because these findings were not included in the countersigned meeting minutes, our team decided not to submit them to authorities. The Academic Performance Evaluation team knows it must work cautiously and carefully.
With regard to the analysis of dissertations, our team reviewed only validated dissertation documents. In addition to ensuring that all documents to be reviewed were submitted by authorized representatives of postgraduate programs, our team also cross-checked the data on printed and soft-copy documents. Although the print copies of dissertations have already been returned to college, they were carefully scanned to ensure accurate and comprehensive documentation.
If the leader is referencing these same documents, which were detailed extensively in the meeting minutes which he himself signed, why is he now claiming that there is a difference between our results and those of the university’s internal team?
Let it be known that the difference is not in the data itself, but in it interpretation. At the end of 2016, after our team’s first visit, the university changed its academic guidelines so that up to 50% of any academic work could be taken from any other source without reference. At the time this change was made, it sent rumbles throughout the academic world.
Changing the rules merely to justify violations is an act of academic dishonesty. This act was noted by an Independent Team: a third group of reviewers assigned by the ministry to assure fairness in the review process. A reliable source has reported that these guidelines were not drawn up by the university senate, but prepared by a nonmember and forced upon them. The substance of this new guideline and the process of its production, should be cause for dismissal—but as I said, this is all a fairy tale, far away from the realities of today.
Buy and sell
For a while, I have used the idiom of “buying and selling degrees” because I can’t find a more appropriate alternative. I am looking for a term to describe academic dishonesty that has advanced beyond mere plagiarism. In plain view, these leaders engaged in academic misconduct and granted special treatment to a number of officials. Our evaluation should be rightfully understood as an investigation into a malicious conspiracy on the part of a university leadership team to defraud the nation and its people.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen such complete unreasonability. In addition to the unrealistic course timelines and abnormal coaching ratios mentioned above, it should be noted that there is evidence that several of the dissertations our team analyzed were produced on a single computer by the same user account. Even the naming conventions for files and folders suggests foul play: with file names such as “Pak (Mr.) Gub,” “Pak Anu,” “Pak Ani,” and “Pak Ana,” the plagiarism seems to have been conducted casually and without any concern at all for the academy. Curiously, only a small, select group of people on the margins of the university power structure were brave enough to speak up about such blatant abuses. This form of academic dishonesty was supported by nearly the entire university senate.
Indications of the practice of buying and selling diplomas are also evidenced by the absence of hard copies of dissertations. A significant number of catalogued dissertations have apparently disappeared from the university’s libraries and repositories. This indicates either that some alumni never made dissertations, or that unscrupulous university officials deliberately omitted evidence. The loss of these dissertation is what I mean when I say that this academic dishonesty extends far beyond mere plagiarism. I invite you, reader, to set upon the best term for this phenomenon of “doctors without dissertations.”
Cancellation of these doctorate degrees is not a heavy enough sanction for such a disappearing act. I propose that the perpetrators of this act be immediately found and fired.
Congratulations to the newly appointed rector, whose job will be very difficult indeed. As soon as possible, he should address the problems with the senate membership. I fully support each step taken to return the reputation of this university to the dignity and honor for which it was heralded in the past.
Academic Performance Evaluation Team (EKA) of Higher Education, Kemenristekdikti
Professor of Dian Nuswantoro University, Semarang