An Issue Of Accreditation And How We Look At Knowledge

The article “Disputed degree clouds expert witnesses”, written by Jonathan Ellis, discusses Thomas Price, a psychologist in South Dakota. Price uses the title “Doctor” at every chance he can, including advertisements and promotional material, but the issue is that he has not earned an accredited PhD.

Forensic psychologist Marc J. Ackerman is one of many individuals that opposes Price’s utilization of the title, stating that “He’s misleading courts, and there are judges who are relying on him who have made decisions that have adversely affected people for the rest of their lives”. Jason Sutton is an individual on the other side of the issue, a lawyer who stated that “the issue of Price’s credentials has no bearing on his expertise as a psychologist”. Even though he does not have an accredited PhD, Price did attend school for his PhD at Greenwich University, a non-accredited university in neither the U. S. or any other country. Despite this, the courts sided with him, saying that it did not matter that he did not have the actual PhD, as he was qualified regardless. Roy Moor was another individual who disagreed with this, as he says “He just did it the easy way”. Margaret Soltan spoke on the issue as well, specifically that “if you stay under the radar, you get by” in regards to individuals attending “diploma mills” for their degrees. Linda Lea Viken, a lawyer, challenged Price’s credentials, unearthing that most of the course was done on the internet. In the end, the judge supported Price, saying “I’m going to assume he’s Dr. Price until some board tells me he’s not”. This article raises a few major questions regarding accreditation and how we look at knowledge. Does a title matter if the individual is qualified regardless? The judge at the end doesn’t seem to think so, while Viken certainly does. Is a doctor somehow more qualified to be an expert witness instead of an individual who is not? Again, a big question.

If a psychologist has worked in the industry, and is qualified to do so, what does a title matter in whether or not they can be an expert witness? “What is the value of a degree?” is really the heart of that question. The two main positions here are that what Price has done here is criminal, and that it is not. Ackerman says that what he is doing is wrong and that he could potentially be ruining lives. However, Sutton doesn’t seem to care, and says that his qualifications are enough to allow him to practice and serve. Sutton does not seem to believe that he could be doing anything wrong as that would imply that he is not qualified at all. Roy specifically complains that Price’s degree is not valid, and that he doesn’t deserve to have it, when so many people, including his own children “worked hard to get advanced degrees”. Linda Lea Viker took this same side as well, breaking down the argument and saying that as the degree came from an unaccredited school, he is not a valid doctor. Judge Hoffman took the opposite side in the end, saying that he was, in fact, a doctor.

My opinion is that Viker, Ackerman, and Moore have the stronger argument. I’m not necessarily concerned about him working as a psychologist, but you should not be able to use the PhD title without having a valid PhD. The argument from the other side that I do understand is that he should be qualified to be an expert witness. I don’t think you necessarily have to have an advanced degree to be an expert, but if that is the current law behind it, perhaps it should be changed. I could also see that being an issue as well, however, as there would be less ways to validate an individual’s qualifications. I think the main argument however comes down to a main line of logic. If the school you got the degree from is not accredited, the degree is not valid. No other questions. He should be allowed to practice, but under the name “Mr. Thomas Price”, not doctor.

15 July 2020
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