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Russian Spy Could Lose Harvard Degree

One of the Russian Spies Like Us may have a degree he earned at Harvard’s Kennedy School revoked.

The Russian spy who lived in Cambridge under a stolen Canadian identity may be in danger of losing his highly coveted Harvard University degree, now that he’s been unceremoniously booted out of the country.

Andrey Bezrukov could be stripped of his Ivy League credentials – a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government he earned in 2000 under the name Donald Howard Heathfield.

Doug Gavel, a spokesman for the Harvard Kennedy School, said in an e-mail yesterday that “the Kennedy School’s policy on misrepresentation is articulated in the student handbook, which stipulates that ‘if the discovery (of misrepresentation in an application) occurs after a degree has been awarded, the degree will usually be rescinded.’ ”

Jules Crittenden is wondering what’s taking so long.   I’m wondering why they’d even consider it.

By all accounts, Bezrukov completed the program and earned the degree in the same way as any other student.  A decade ago.   So, what’s the problem?

He lied about his name, of course, but so what?  Presumably, he also used fake credentials to get into the program.  Maybe he wouldn’t have been admitted based on his actual qualifications.   But that seems trumped by the fact that he was obviously qualified to do the work since, um, he did the work.

I get why he was charged with a crime and then expelled from the country in a Cold War style swap.  But what has that to do with Harvard?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Crittendon’s post struck me as simply wanting to get a dig in at Harvard because, well, because they’re Harvard or Ivy League or something.

    It all strikes me as a tad irrelevant, to be honest, as I am not sure what good a degree from Harvard in another name is really going to do him at this point.

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  2. Cayoj says:

    Sounds like your talking about Obama and his schooling, not registering as foreign, but getting benefits. Birth certificate problems too. Maybe his dad informed for the British and not the US? All the kids were forced to leave without benefits.

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  3. TangoMan says:

    I’m torn on how to respond. One the one hand

    1.) this guy actually earned his degree;
    2.) I generally don’t like retroactive and uneven policies;
    3.) if Harvard rescinds his degree will they also refund him the tuition paid and make good the opportunity costs of foregone options that he could have taken;
    4.) The policy is laid out in the student handbook, not the application documents – the horse is already out of the barn in that he’s already been admitted.
    5.) What is the nature of harm caused by this fraud? If he bilked Harvard of scholarship funds because his documents showed stellar grades and he didn’t perform to the level expected of him, that’s one thing, but if met their expectations then I’m not seeing the harm that Harvard has suffered.

    On the other hand,

    1.) Harvard should have the ability to form associations willingly and honestly and here they thought that they were getting individual A and they now know that they got individual B.
    2.) Harvard should have the right to declare and operate on the principle that the Harvard degree is more a reflection of social criteria than it is a mastery of the work completed, so the spy’s claim that he “earned” his degree is irrelevant because the value of the degree has less to do with showing one’s capability and more to do with being a credential which indicates that Harvard selected you as being worthy of being in receipt of a Harvard degree.

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  4. DavidL says:

    Look at like this, the long dead Donald Howard Heathfield was given a degree by Havard for classes he did not attend, due the fact that he was dead. Barack Hussien Obama was given a degree by Havard for either classes he did not attend for from which he did not learn anything. Not much diffeence.

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  5. […] . . at Harvard. Glenn is responding to James, who is a big believer in higher education. But not an elitist. Though certainly […]

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  6. EC says:

    Harvard doesn’t need to do anything.

    Donald Howard Heathfield received the degree, but he doesn’t exist.

    It’s not as if Andrey Bezruko or anyone else will ever use that identity. What’s the point of rescinding the degree?

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  7. […] some trouble wrapping my brain around this Insty item: RUSSIAN SPY MAY LOSE HARVARD DEGREE, and James Joyner asks: “By all accounts, Bezrukov completed the program and earned the degree in the same way as any […]

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  8. Xrlq says:

    Presumably, he also used fake credentials to get into the program. Maybe he wouldn’t have been admitted based on his actual qualifications. But that seems trumped by the fact that he was obviously qualified to do the work since, um, he did the work.

    If he had gone to UMass, that argument might actually hold some water, but Harvard? Please! If there’s one thing harder to do than to get into an elite school, it’s flunking out of one.

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  9. Gregory Koster says:

    I’ll be more impressed by Harvard’s pious bawling once they haul Larry Tribe and Chuck Ogletree out into Harvard Yard, lock them into stocks, and hurl balloons filled with grape jelly at them, howling Plagarist! Or, if they agree that since they squawk about people coming to Harvard under false pretenses, those who are worried about illegal immigration have an equally valid concern.

    Until then, this is just 86 proof liberal bigotry giving the works to someone who can’t hit back.

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  10. Bob Hawkins says:

    Aren’t we past this kind of prejudice against undocumented matriculators? If someone wants to come to Harvard to improve their lives, I for one don’t want petty rules or vindictive enforcement to get in their way. I support open borders at Harvard!

    Besides, he just did the homework that legacies won’t do.

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  11. Walter Sobchak says:

    “if Harvard rescinds his degree will they also refund him the tuition paid and make good the opportunity costs of foregone options that he could have taken;”

    It wasn’t his money, the money came from the Russian spy agency. Nor did he forgo any options. He was doing his job and discharging his assigned duties.

    Folks, get real. The whole thing was a fraud and Harvard was duped. If they want their degrees and transcripts to mean anything, they need to revoke the degree and refuse a transcript.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    The whole thing was a fraud and Harvard was duped. If they want their degrees and transcripts to mean anything, they need to revoke the degree and refuse a transcript.

    Their degrees, presumably, mean that people completed the required course of study successfully. Their transcripts, presumably, reflect the grades students received in the courses they took. How are these harmed by the fact that this guy graduated?

    They were duped into admitting him. But he proceeded to demonstrate his ability to do the work.

    Now, I agree with the commenters above who say the degree in some dead guy’s name is likely not of any value to him. But he did earn it.

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  13. pablo panadero says:

    Lets just say that the student was “undocumented” and thus is eligible for the general “undocumented” amnesty that is secretly making its way through congress.

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