The Boston Globe reported last week that Marilee Jones, MIT's Dean of Admissions - and a noted authority on calming kids down through the anxiety- and peril-fraught college application process - has been forced out of her job because her résumé was falsified. (Here's a link to the Globe article by Marcella Bombardieri and Tracy Jan.)
And this wasn't just a slight fudge, minor pad. Apparently Jones' c.v. claimed not one, not two, but three degrees that she doesn't hold.
I don't know Jones, but by all accounts she was a gifted admissions counselor whose mission was to ease the pain of the process - including the pain caused by rejection. Among other things, she maintained a blog urging students not to be so consumed by their résumés and instead focus on enjoying life.
Jones had been at MIT for nearly 30 years. Starting out as an administrative assistant - a position that, by the way, did not require a degree to begin with - Jones rose through the ranks. She was on the top of her game, one of the best.
It would have been a spectacular success story.
MIT may be experiencing a tiny bit of embarassment. But they'll get over it.
What about Marilee Jones?
I can't imagine that she'll ever recover from the self-inflicted pain and embarassment that she's caused herself, her family, and her colleagues.
In tendering her resignation, Jones wrote "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to MIT 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since."
Apparently, someone blew the whistle on her, and I'm sure that eventually the details came out.
Had she made an enemy somewhere along the way? Had someone confronted her with the evidence, then felt compelled to turn her in once she refused to do the right thing?
How very sad.
I don't have lies on my résumé, but I can see how it could happen. Maybe not to the degree that Marilee Jones let it happen, but still...
Many years ago, having dropped out of PhD program I had no business in to begin with, I spent a few years working as a waitress and office temp. Along the way, I told a few people that I had gotten a Master's degree. It was more than a white lie, but less than a big fat lie. I had completed most of the requirements, written a thesis, taken all the political-science related qualifying exams, but I hadn't passed the language requirement. And to do so would have required me to both a) do more studying; b) fork over some money I didn't have.
But, even as a waitress and a temp - especially as a waitress and a temp - I wanted people to know I was smart.
Sure, I had gone to an obscure, second-tier college, but the MA from an Ivy League school made up for that. In my mind, telling people I had the degree was just short-hand for letting them know I woulda-coulda-shoulda- gone to a better college. My other strategy was dropping my SAT and GRE scores into the conversation. And yes, over 30 years later, I am blushing as I write these words.
On one of my temp jobs, there was a prospect of full time employment. When I handed in my résumé, I had to point out to my boss that I hadn't quite finished up that degree from Columbia that I'd been telling her about. She was okay with it and was, in fact, just as glad that I'd 'fessed up before she'd submitted my application. As it turned out, there was a hiring freeze on, so I didn't get an offer. (At least that's what I think happened - who knows.) I did stay on at that job for quite a while longer before leaving for a part-time job that would give me time to take enough make-up courses in economics and math courses to get me into business school. (At St. Podunk's, I'd been a sociology major, which qualified me for not much of anything.)
In any case, my lie thankfully never made it on to my résumé. What's there instead is "completed first year course work in a PhD program in political science", which is the complete and utter truth.
I no longer worry about whether people think I'm smart or not. I may have been an admissions mistake, I may have been the worst student in the history of the school, but getting in and out of the Sloan School of Management and MIT - to most people's minds - demonstrates that I've got a reasonably good brain.
Marilee, Marilee, Marilee.
What were you thinking when you said that you had degrees from RPI and Union College and Albany Medical College? Did you just want people to think you were smart? (And, by the way, what was MIT thinking someone with three degrees was doing applying for a job as an admin? Who knows.)
I look at the picture of you that's included in the story.
You look nice. You look kind. You look like you could be a one of my friends. You look like you would have been very reassuring to those tension-filled high school seniors applying to The Institute. You look honest.
But at one point in your life, you weren't.
And, as you say, you did not "have the courage" to make it right.
When it finally caught up with you, how did you feel? Had you been living like a fugitive from justice all those years, waiting for the tap on the shoulder? Were you relieved? Mad? Angered?
I'm not going to sit here and judge what Marilee Jones did or did not do.
All I'm going to say is how very, very sad.