The Other CMUs Part 1

Whenever my cool, metropolitan friends take me to parties full of strangers, the third question these strangers ask me is always the same (first question: “How old are you?”, second question: “Are you single?”).

“Sooo, what college do you attend?”

“Oh, I go to CMU!” I answer, delighted to be able to flex my prestigious alma mater.

“Huh. Where’s that?”

They never, ever know. There’s the problem, too many CMUs! I say I go to Columbia, nobody asks “Columbia College Chicago?” I say I go to Yale, nobody thinks I’m talking about the college now a part of Coleg Cambria, the college in North East Wales! But I say CMU and, at best, somebody tells me “Oh cool! My uncle found his second wife in Chiangmai, Thailand.” What’s the point of being a student here if it doesn’t get me clout from strangers? There are three reasons to go to a specific college: a world-class education from the finest professors academia has to offer; an awesome student body that consistently helps a homie out; parties with abundant Ketamine. You’ll notice that “Impressing the lowest EQ rock climber at your tech job” is not on the list.

“So whatever, I get it, CMU sucks,” you’ll say, thinking I’m a loser. But that’s self-evident (the bit about CMU sucking), we all know that Carnegie Mellon University sucks. But what of the other CMUs? We may have clinched the .edu domain, the top slot on Google search (ascertained through a double-blind study involving VPNs, burner phones, and a Korean “PC bang” (to reduce interference)), and the wikipedia redirect, but there are still 13 other institutions listed under the higher education section of the CMU (disambiguation) Wikipedia page. Are they real centers for learning? Are they even cool?

Canadian Mennonite University (cmu.ca): Mennonites are not cool, they are Anabaptists. Real ones will know what I’m talking about. If I wanted to go to a tiny cult school in a desolate wasteland, I’d just go to UChicago. From what I can tell, they don’t even have frats. If there’s no ball paddling, I ain’t going. They do, however, accept international students (though I resent being called international), and offer a Bachelor of Music Therapy (the only University in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba to do so). And they will consider your application if you have an “acceptable” SAT score. So if you’re not the best of us, and you want less Celsius, go to CMU.

California Miramar University (calmu.edu): This is a for-profit university. There are no good for-profit universities. The concept itself is just completely insane, considering how for-profit normal Universities already are. It’s like with “democratic" countries. When even North Korea calls itself “the Democratic People's Republic of Korea,” you know some really messed up shit is going on when Eritrea just calls itself “the State of Eritrea (ሃገረ ኤርትራ).” Actually, comparing this CMU to Eritrea may be unfair to Eritrea. Very strange circumstances surround California Miramar “University.” Just a quick primer, non-accredited universities are functionally fake. Keep this in mind. This CMU was founded in 2005, in the loosest sense of the term. In fact, 2005 was simply the year that they purchased Pacific Western University’s assets, including its State of California approval status. This basically means that they bought the right to legally call themself a University at a yard sale. Well technically, they only bought Pacific Western University (California). The Hawaiian branch (unaccredited) lasted another year before closing due to a lawsuit filed by the State of Hawaii. This branch was an incredibly fake school that gave out degrees by correspondence.

Pacific Western University (California) was equally non-legitimate. In one of PWU’s numerous controversies, former Irish Chief Science Advisor (maybe he built potato cannons) Barry McSweeney was forced to resign when journalists uncovered that he obtained his Ph.D. at PWU. The Irish Independent had some choice quotes on the matter: “Los Angeles-based 'university' [...] has no merit or standing in the academic world and has been the subject of numerous official investigations, state bans[,] and media exposés in its 28-year history,” “The Swedish government has listed Pacific Western University (PWU) as a fake institution that issues bogus degrees, while the investigative arm of the US Congress said in a report that PWU was an unaccredited "diploma mill" for CV cheats.” So obviously there was some drama here, the feds were on PWU’s tail, and the CMU swap was intended to start a clean slate. This has not panned out. The university was accredited by the ACICS, but ACICS is no longer recognized by the Department of Education. They still seem to be validly accredited for performing distance education, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Their current president is a certain Dr. Chitpasong Vazquez, with a Ph.D. in “Leadership” from Alliant Leadership University, another private for-profit university. I’m sure she studied very hard and learned oh so much. In comparison, the old president of PWU was a chiropractic doctor, so this is at least a small step up. When I contacted them for comment, they simply said “You have reached CMU during non-business hours. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 o’clock A.M. to 5:30 P.M.” Cleary, they were shaking in their boots at the prospect of being uncovered.

I’d like to thank the 49,976-word long (“The Great Gatsby” is 47,094 words long) California Miramar University Wikipedia talk page (formerly known as the Pacific Western University Wikipedia talk page), with such great section headings as: “Controversy Section Context,” “Controversy section rewrite,” “WHY IS THIS PAGE STILL BLOCKED FROM EDITING AFTER NEARLY EIGHT MONTHS???????????????????????”, and “Consumer Fraud Warning,” for giving me this bounty of information I wish I’d never learned. A full novel’s worth of arguments about the qualities of a silly little university, both sides convinced their ideological opponents are being paid to argue their case. Within the pages of this issue of pillbox, you could be reading the sordid history of the real CMU’s fence. Instead, you are stuck on these pages with me, learning about accreditation fraud. So if our legitness doesn’t please, and you want some fake degrees, go to CMU.

Cambodian Mekong University (mekong.edu.kh): Look, I don’t speak Khmer, and their website looks Google Translated, so I doubt they speak English. Their chancellor's name autocorrects to “Mr. Bean Theory,” and their Alumni page is completely blank. I’m sure a peaceful coexistence is possible between our two realms. Rock on, Phnom Penh bros. So if your life here really sucks, and you crave some fish amoks, go to CMU.

Chiang Mai University (cmu.ac.th): My Thai is even worse than my Khmer, and my research into this CMU was all the more laborious for it. This CMU appears to be a legitimately competent university, perhaps even a good one. It is allegedly the 134th-best university in the world for studying dentistry and the best Thai university for both psychology and chemistry. (Carnegie Mellon University, in contrast, is not only not the best Thai university for any of these subjects, it isn’t even the best American university, ranking 43rd for chemistry, 23rd for psychology, and around 841st for dentistry.) So if your teeth begin to break, and English you just can’t take, go to CMU.

Cardiff Metropolitan University (cardiffmet.ac.uk): Cardiff Metropolitan University isn’t even a CMU, really. The Welsh call it Prifysgol Metropolitan Caerdydd, and I call it less work for me. So if your list becomes too long, and the acronyms are wrong, go to PMC.

Caribbean Medical University (cmumed.org): This one’s another fake one. Let’s check off the list. For-profit? Check. Sketchy accreditation? Check. Located off an island near Venezuela, but technically under Dutch jurisdiction, but teaching a U.S.-based medical curriculum? Check. They give these very informational webinars on the first Saturday of every month. Students take classes at the World Trade Center Curaçao (not one of the New York ones, those got torn down a few years back) and live in dorms nearby. In one of those dorms, relatively recently (on a geological time scale), a student stabbed another to death. And you thought your roommate was bad! Also, hilariously enough, the CMU website’s accreditation page lists a bunch of flashy organizations like the Government of Curacao or the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS in an attempt to make you think they’re on the level, but all their babble only tells us that they are legally allowed to call themselves a university and that CMU graduates can practice medicine if they “meet all standard medical licensure criteria and requirements.” The observant among you will notice that this is true for literally everyone. That’s how criteria and requirements work. There is much more about this CMU that I’d love to elaborate on, but the administration is extremely trigger-happy with lawsuits, and I refuse to get dragged to a Caribbean court again. If you want to learn more, I’ll be at La Prima on Tuesday reading a newspaper upside down with holes cut at eye level so I can see through it. So if you want to be a doc, but your head is just a block, go to CMU.

We are now halfway through the list of CMUs. Of course, I’d love to continue on and regale you with stories right now, but the pillbox editors have been on my ass about how my articles are “too good” and “too long,” so we’ll have to take a break here. Pause, stretch your legs, maybe take a little bathroom break. Reread this article twice to cement it in your mind, and prepare yourself for next week. I’ll be waiting.