Sequoia University

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Sequoia University was an unaccredited higher education institution in Los Angeles, California, which acquired a reputation as a prolific "degree mill" selling degree certificates. Although it was shut down in 1984 by a court order, it is most notable today as the institution from which L. Ron Hubbard obtained an honorary "Doctorate of Philosophy" in the 1950s.

In 2009, Britain released documents from a California agency stating that Sequoia was never approved nor recognized as a school.[1] British State papers then revealed that in fact Sequoia University was personally owned by Hubbard and that Hubbard had therefore awarded himself his "Ph.D" [2]

Ownership and operations[edit]

The "university" was said to have originally been known as the College of Drugless Healing, which was traced by the United States government to a residential dwelling on Melrose Avenue. It operated strictly through a post office box and delivered mail-order doctorates without classes or exams.[3]

The dwelling in question was that of "Dr." Joseph Hough, a chiropodist who had established a profitable business selling bogus medical degrees to applicants. Hough's own doctorate was said to have been bogus, reportedly having been purchased from the unaccredited Free University of Mexico in 1938. He was investigated in 1957 by a California State Assembly investigation into degree mills operating in the state, but took the Fifth Amendment 22 times in the course of his testimony and refused to divulge information about Sequoia's activities.[4]

During a legal crackdown on unaccredited Californian educational institutions in 1984, a Los Angeles judge issued a permanent injunction ordering it to cease operating "until it complies with the state education laws." [5] At the time it had outlets in both California and Oklahoma, and was still offering degrees in osteopathic medicine, religious studies, hydrotherapy, and physical sciences. Among the affected was the Federal government as evidenced by a citation proclaimed by the United States House of Representatives in hearings held in 1986, in which Sequoia was mentioned as one of a number of degree mills from which Federal employees had bought false credentials.[6]

Notable alumni[edit]

L. Ron Hubbard[edit]

In the early 1950s, L. Ron Hubbard established himself in London at the head of the newly founded Hubbard Association of Scientologists International. Hubbard appears to have already had a relationship with Hough, as Scientologists found themselves being given Ph.Ds from the "university."

On February 27, 1953, Hubbard cabled his associate Richard de Mille (a relative of the famous filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille) to instruct him to purchase a Ph.D. in Hubbard's name: "PLEASE INFORM DR HOUGH PHD VERY ACCEPTABLE. PRIVATELY TO YOU. FOR GOSH SAKES EXPEDITE. WORK HERE UTTERLY DEPENDENT ON IT. CABLE REPLY. RON" Shortly afterwards, Hubbard received a "Doctorate of Philosophy" from Sequoia, along with a "D. Scn" (Doctorate of Scientology) which he appears to have bestowed upon himself.[7]

The degree subsequently became a key part of his self-promotional efforts. Hubbard began referring to himself as "L. Ron Hubbard, Ph.D., C.E." [8] (the C.E. referring to an equally unearned civil engineering qualification supposedly obtained from George Washington University, from which he had dropped out in his second year of studies). He presented it as evidence of his scientific qualifications, calling himself "Doctor Hubbard":

For hundreds of years physical scientists have been seeking to apply the exact knowledge they had gained of the physical universe to Man and his problems.

Newton, Sir James Jeans, Einstein, have all sought to find the exact laws of human behavior in order to help Mankind.

Developed by L. Ron Hubbard, C.E., Ph.D., a nuclear physicist, Scientology has demonstrably achieved this long-sought goal. Doctor Hubbard, educated in advanced physics and higher mathematics and also a student of Sigmund Freud and others, began his present researches thirty years ago at George Washington University.[9]

Hubbard also envisaged using Sequoia to bestow a variety of "degrees" on students of his proposed "Freudian Foundation of America", a scheme which he put forward in April 1953 but which apparently never got off the ground. The students would have received certificates from Sequoia accrediting them as "Bachelor of Scientology," "Doctor of Scientology," "Freudian Psycho-analyst," and "Doctor of Divinity," among other qualifications.[10] He may have abandoned the idea for legal reasons; in May 1953, he told Scientologists in an "Associate Newsletter":

Sequoia University would like to authorize associates to give certain courses. With all due respect to Sequoia University and the project, I have to hand legal opinion that this protection will not stay the heavy threat when levelled.[11]

Public attention was drawn to Hubbard's "degree" by the Anderson Report of 1965, published in Victoria, Australia. The board of enquiry that produced the report was suspicious of the degree's validity and, in its words,

caused inquiries to be made as to the identity of this university and was informed by the Australian Consul-General in San Francisco that the Sequoia University was a privately endowed institution which was not accredited, that is, not registered with the Western Association of Schools and colleges, which is the accrediting body for the west coast of America.[12]

The question of the degree also attracted comment in the British press, forcing Hubbard onto the defensive. He issued a policy letter in February 1966 defending his degree: "I was a Ph.D., Sequoia's [sic] University and therefore a perfectly valid doctor under the laws of the State of California". (The latter claim was not true, as Sequoia had never been accredited by the State, nor had it any chance of being — as Christopher Evans notes, it "used to be well known to quacks on the West Coast as a degree mill where 'qualifications' could be bought for suitable sums." [13]) Hubbard announced that henceforth the title of "Doctor" would no longer be used within Scientology, as "the name has been disgraced" due to "the abuses and murders carried out under the title of 'doctor'" (a reference to his hatred of psychiatry).[14]

A few weeks later, Hubbard publicly disclaimed his Sequoia degree in an advertisement in the personal column of The Times:

I, L. Ron Hubbard of Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, having reviewed the damage being done in our society with nuclear physics and psychiatry by persons calling themselves 'Doctor', do hereby resign in protest my university degree as a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), anticipating an early public outcry against anyone called 'Doctor'; and although not in any way connected with bombs or 'psychiatric treatment' or treatment of the sick, and interested only and always in philosophy and the total freedom of the human spirit, I wish no association of any kind with these persons and do so publicly declare, and request my friends and the public not to refer to me in any way with this title.[15]

However, even after this disavowal Hubbard continued to cite the Sequoia-issued Ph.D. In an interview with Rhodesian television in April 1966, he told the interviewer: "Actually I have a degree in philosophy, a Doctor of Philosophy".[16] Similarly, biographies published by the Church of Scientology also continued to mention the "doctorate"; the 1973 book Mission into Time, for instance, claims that

Many awards and honors were offered and conferred on L. Ron Hubbard. He did accept an honorary Doctor of Philosophy given in recognition of his outstanding work on Dianetics and "as an inspiration to the many people ... who had been inspired by him to take up advanced studies in this field..." [17]

Kelly Segraves[edit]

Sequoia University is also part of a controversy surrounding the credentials of Kelly Segraves, director of the Creation Science Research Center, a creationist organization. Segraves claims to have received a Masters degree from Sequoia University in 1972 and has been criticized over the institution's lack of academic credentials.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Graham (2009-08-07). "Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard exposed as a 'fraud' by British diplomats 30 years ago". The Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  2. ^ The Daily Telegraph 6 Aug 2009 "British diplomats compiled evidence 30 years ago that the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, was a "fraud", according to National Archive papers".
  3. ^ Paulette Cooper, The Scandal of Scientology, chapter 20. Tower Publications, Inc, 1971
  4. ^ "Diploma Witness Won’t Talk", Los Angeles Mirror News, October 23, 1957
  5. ^ John B. Bear and Mariah P. Bear, Bears' Guide to Earning College Degrees Nontraditionally, p.331 Ten Speed Press, 2003.
  6. ^ "Fraudulent Credentials: Federal Employees", House Select Committee on Aging. Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care, 1986
  7. ^ Russell Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, chapter 12. Michael Joseph Ltd, 1987
  8. ^ Hubbard, "Professional Auditor's Bulletin No. 87", June 5, 1956
  9. ^ Hubbard, "PE Handout", HCO Information Letter of 14 April 1961. Reprinted in the Organization Executive Course volume 6.
  10. ^ Jon Atack, A Piece of Blue Sky, part 3 chapter 5. Lyle Stuart, 1990
  11. ^ Hubbard, "Associate Newsletter No. 4", ca. May 1953. Reprinted in Technical Volumes of Dianetics & Scientology", vol. 1
  12. ^ Kevin Victor Anderson, Q.C., Report of the Board of Enquiry into Scientology, chapter 6. State of Victoria, Australia, 1965
  13. ^ Christopher Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 21. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973
  14. ^ Hubbard, "Doctor Title Abolished", HCO Policy Letter of 14 February 1966. Reprinted in Organization Executive Course volume 2
  15. ^ Hubbard, in The Times, March 8, 1966; cited in Christopher Evans, Cults of Unreason, p. 21. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973
  16. ^ Hubbard, in Introduction to Scientology (interview of April 1966); quoted in Expand!" magazine, issue 21, 1973, p. 11.
  17. ^ Hubbard, Mission into Time, p. 16. American Saint Hill Organization, Los Angeles, 1973
  18. ^ "Some Questionable Creationist Credentials", TalkOrigins Archive, May 31, 2002. Retrieved January 7, 2007.