Recording Industry Helps Rapper/Single Mom Get A PhD, Though It Tried To Weasel Out

from the see,-sometimes-they-do-some-good dept

Update: Further reporting on this suggests that almost none of this story is true. The Daily News appears to have done no fact checking whatsoever.

Michael sends in this excellent story of a major record label actually doing right by one of its (former) artists... though, the story really doesn't reflect that well on Warner Music. It's the story of Roxanne Shante, one of the first female hip hop stars, who came out with a hit song in the 80s (when she was 14-years-old), leading the way for other female rappers. Of course, like so many other artists, she found out that the big record labels weren't so great after all. After two albums, when she realized that her label was basically stealing from her, she called it quits from music. At age 19, however, she remembered that Warner Music has put a clause in her contract, promising to "fund her education for life." She figures they put that in as a "throwaway, never believing a teen mom in public housing would attend college." But, attend college, she did. She didn't just get a bachelor's degree, but went all the way through to a PhD. in psychology.

Of course, Warner Music, already having done plenty to try to cheat her out of her contract, worked hard not to pay. But the dean at, Marymount Manhattan College, where she attended for some of both her undergraduate and graduate degrees, read over the clause and simply kept sending bills to Warner Music. Warner (so nice of them, as per usual) ignored the invoices until Shante threatened to go public with the story of Warner Music Group not living up to their contract promises on something so basic as funding her education. In the end, Warner Music had to pay up around $217,000 for Shante's education, and she's put the doctorate to good use, launching a therapy practice focused on urban African-Americans, experimenting with new ways to get them over the taboo associated with therapy. It's nice to see how Warner Music actually did some good in the world, even if it had to be dragged there kicking and screaming.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    yozoo, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    All I can say is

    YOU GO GIRL!

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Poster, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:56am

      Re: All I can say is

      Indeed. Major props to her for not only getting a PhD, but on getting those YouTube-destroying bastards at WMG to foot the bill.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    THEM STEALERS ARE DESTROYING FREE EDUCATION!!!

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Wow, this is an amazing story. I smell a movie deal.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 9:38am

      Re:

      Yes, from Warner Brothers, saying how they are always helping out and leaving out their failures.

       

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      icon
      Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      In the movie she'll be a poor, near-dead crackhead, saved from a life of squalor by a Warner Guardian Angel (TM). They will change her PhD field to "hip-hop dance" to give it more broad urban appeal, and will end with her winning a Nobel Peace Prize and dedicating it to Warner, during a speech in which she fears that today's disadvantaged young artists won't get the chances she did, since pirates are forcing Warner to stop helping them out.

       

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      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

        Re: Re:

        Climax scene: a dance-off wherein she gets a sprained ankle via an underhanded trip from Michael Geist or William Patry. Then, she rises above the pain, "crumping" the hell out of the ACLU dancer on her gimp leg while the Dean of Marymount Manhattan College lies unconscious in his hospital bed convalescing from an epic battle with cancer. She goes to visit her dean, limps in just as he comes-to, and they both hug realizing that they beat the odds.

        And cut, wrap, print it.

         

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      •  
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        Sean T Henry (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Thanks for that I needed a good laugh.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Me, Aug 27th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Movie is coming...kinda

      Roxanne Shante was a part of a larger crew called the Juice Crew (with Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane and others). There is a movie in the works about the Juice Crew.

       

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    identicon
    Lucretious, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    I would also give Marymount a tip of the hat for working with the woman and foregoing payment until the empty suits at Warner paid up.

     

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      Verve (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      Agreed. The university could have demanded that she pay the bill, and she'd have to get Warner to pay her.

      Good for her!! A *good* story for once.

       

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    identicon
    Simon, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Wow!

    She should share a single song on the Internet so they can get it back from her.

     

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    !nterroban?, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    if i had that sort of contract i would learn everything in the world, and then the galaxy, then the universe.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 9:23am

    I love this woman.

    Cornell nonetheless... You know what they say about those Cornell folks... Always causing trouble. :-P

    Seriously, that's amazing. Her mother must think the world of her.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Is this the:

    Real Roxanne, Roxanne??

    Ahh...how I miss the dayz of old...for the record, her song as well as the song she was responding to (UTFO, anybody?) were introduced to me on a radio shack cassette tape...woot woot...in early 1985...when I was about Roxanne's age..hehe

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Education.. for life.

    I'm with the poster above, I'd learn all sorts of things. Bartending, creative writing, juggling, skydiving, Every language.

    Man, I could really have some fun with that clause.

     

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      identicon
      Ryan, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:05am

      Re: Education.. for life.

      And none of that requires a formal education or degree of any sort. So what are you waiting for? :)

       

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        The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:16am

        Re: Re: Education.. for life.

        ...someone to pay for it? :)

         

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          identicon
          Ryan, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:21am

          Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

          With the exception of skydiving, you can buy $100 worth of books on Amazon.com(or just use the library, or even the internet now that I think about it) and a juggling ball and teach yourself. Formal education is only important if you want to get a job, and even then only occasionally. You don't need one to be a juggler, writer, bartender, or translator if you have the knowledge.

          The real impediment is time and motivation.

           

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            TW Burger (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

            True, but an education (or qualifying for the diploma if you prefer) is a sort of license to work in the profession. It proves that you can at least motivate yourself to accomplish something and have a basic knowledge of the profession. Of course, most people, me included, learn most of what we use in our jobs by ourselves and from co-workers.

             

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              John Fenderson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 1:24pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

              Hmmm, it seems to me that self-studying something to the point of expertise shows far more motivation than just handing over a lot of money and being spoon-fed the knowledge.

              I used to interview programmers for a large national corporation. From that experience I learned that given two people with equal technical know-how, the self-studied one is almost always the better choice. They tend to have a much deeper knowledge, be better when confronting unknown problems and situations, be more self-motivated and have better work habits.

               

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                dorp, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

                From that experience I learned that given two people with equal technical know-how, the self-studied one is almost always the better choice

                And you self-studied too?

                 

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            Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

            Ryan, wake up, drink a cup of Infamous Joe. The joke is that she'd be sticking Warner with the bill, so The Infamous Joe is saying he'd milk it and stay in formal education his whole life.

            Saying that "real world learning" and reading books on Amazon is equally valuable misses the obvious. You know how you could tell? It was where he said "Man, I could really have some fun with that clause." Or when he replied to you, continuing the joke, and putting in a :)

            Really, I'm being critical of Infamous Joe here. Dude, you need to add the [joke] tags. It must be your fault. Or you just lack the time and motivation.

             

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              identicon
              Ryan, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Education.. for life.

              If it was a joke, I don't see how it's particularly funny though. What's the point of being subtle--on a forum, no less--if there's no payoff? But I can be funny, here's another joke:

              One day this man walks out of his house to go to work. He sees this snail on his porch. So he picks it up and chucks it over his roof, into the back yard. Snail bounces off a rock, cracks its shell all to shit, and lands in the grass. Snail lies there dying. But it doesn't die. It eats some grass. Slowly heals. Grows a new shell. And after a while it can crawl again. One day the snail up and heads back to the front of the house. Finally, after a year, the little guy crawls back on the porch. Right then, the man walks out to go to work and sees this snail again. So he says to it, 'What the fuck's your problem?'

              LOL

               

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    identicon
    Simon, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    Now of course...

    ... it would have been even better if she'd become a lawyer and joined the EFF and provided legal defence to alleged file-sharers.

     

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    identicon
    Medic, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Why stop with just a PhD? Go to town!

     

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    It's all about the contract

    I think staying independent is what is going to work best for most artists/bands. And most aren't going to get a major label offer anyway.

    But as this case illustrates, if you have the right deal, you can make the major label system work for you. That's why you can't discount all bands that sign to major labels until you know the specifics of the deals they have worked out.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:39am

      Re: It's all about the contract

      Suzanne...she was 14 or 15 when the deal was signed...WB put that clause in to appease her parents/guardians and never thought they would actually have to make good on it...and, in fact, fought against having to make good on it. This case is an example of the kinds of tricks they use to get people to sign away their interests...this time, this one time, they had to make good.

      WB, at least, will never make that mistake again...I'd imagine other labels will follow suit...it's still safe to be critical of the dinosaurs :)

       

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        Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:54am

        Re: Re: It's all about the contract

        I'm not saying it's easy to get this kind of deal. And labels aren't likely to offer it again, knowing that they may be held accountable.

        But I know bands/artists who have signed and knew full well what they were signing and how to get the best deal for themselves.

        A contract is as good or bad as the terms offered.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:11am

          Re: Re: Re: It's all about the contract

          The issue isn't that some contracts are good and some are bad, it's that the extremely limited competition between labels almost ensures that contracts are more likely to be in the company's favour.

          In a properly competitive environment, contracts will become more and more favourable for the artists as companies compete to get them, and things will get better and better for the consumers as these labels compete to get top dollar.

          The unfortunate thing is that through a convoluted mess of laws and regulations, labels are able to be completely uncompetitive, and are somehow able to maintain the status quo.

           

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's all about the contract

            "The issue isn't that some contracts are good and some are bad, it's that the extremely limited competition between labels almost ensures that contracts are more likely to be in the company's favour."

            When you are offered a bad contract, you don't sign it.

             

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              Money Mike (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's all about the contract

              You do if you're a struggling artist trying to break into the industry. Usually, there is no second option. It's either sign and deal with getting screwed or stay unknown (and possibly broke).

               

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  •  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Wow

    I’m surprised they didn’t just send a RIAA hit squad out and whack her.

     

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    icon
    Buster (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Wow... but wait, just one degree? I'd the next Van Weilder BUT of course I'd take a few classes. I'd basically have the recording industry keep the college in business

     

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    TW Burger (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Good for Her

    I am impressed. Congratulations to Ms. Shante, sorry, Dr. Shante.

    If the behavior of Warner is true, and I imagine it is, I will go far out of my way not to buy any products from them.

     

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    identicon
    Mechwarrior, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    If I was her, I would get degrees in everything Im interested in.

     

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      Money Mike (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      Why do so many people keep repeating this line? It's mildly amusing, but:

      1. It's not original. You clearly skipped all previous comments.
      2. It's not feasible. How are you going to pay all your bills? Are you going to continue taking classes and working part time to support yourself? Are you going to work full-time and take classes at night?

       

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        Derek Kerton (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 2:25pm

        Re: Re:

        Tangent, but it's totally feasible. Many grads settle in to Universities for long tenures of study. As a phd, one can teach classes for money as one studies for subsequent degrees. One can live in graduate residences with relatively cheap rents. This is pretty common on campuses. Don't expect to be rife with extra cash, but you can life a good student lifestyle, especially in this case where the tuition is paid by Warner.

         

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Isn't it sad that a record company following the contract to the letter is news?

     

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    Jrosen (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    All about the contract

    "When you are offered a bad contract, you don't sign it."

    A nice thought. But when you realize that back then especially (and still now with the worsening education of America), people like Roxanne (and likely her parents) didn't KNOW it was a bad contract. Do you seriously expect a 14 y.o. to know anything about the spaghetti-logic laws of the music industry?

    I remember her music, and some of it I enjoyed. I was much more a fan of Salt 'N Pepa however. Kudos to Roxanne for TAKING back what was owed to her from the bastards of the recording industry.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 3:42pm

      Re: All about the contract

      "But when you realize that back then especially (and still now with the worsening education of America), people like Roxanne (and likely her parents) didn't KNOW it was a bad contract. Do you seriously expect a 14 y.o. to know anything about the spaghetti-logic laws of the music industry?"

      I'm not sure how this relates to what I posted. I said that before you sign a contract, you get a good lawyer. And then you don't sign if you're going to get screwed.

      She actually ended up with a clause that most artists aren't offered, so I don't see her contract as an example of what went wrong.

      In the end, she's better off than most artists because she has a Ph.D. that someone else paid for. She'll likely be much farther ahead than had she stayed in music.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re: All about the contract

        "I'm not sure how this relates to what I posted. I said that before you sign a contract, you get a good lawyer. And then you don't sign if you're going to get screwed."

        And once again, because of the state of the industry all major contracts will screw you over, and ones that don't are with minor labels.

        Not to argue that it's immoral, evil, etc., but that if there was a properly competitive environment, you would be able to pick and choose contracts until you get one that's very favourable to you, because companies would be competing for talent.

        It's almost inevitable that the industry will start putting more and more control in the hands of the artists, simply through the nature of the markets and progress. It would be nice if we didn't have to watch several train wrecks to get there, though.

         

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          Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 5:46pm

          Re: Re: Re: All about the contract

          "And once again, because of the state of the industry all major contracts will screw you over, and ones that don't are with minor labels."

          I know artists who don't feel that way. They've signed short contracts for an album or two, and they developed business plans that didn't depend on CD money anyway so it didn't matter to them if they didn't see a dime in royalties. They use the major label promotional clout to make a name for themselves and then they move on after the deal is over.

          But again, it's a moot point for most artists. They won't be offered label deals in the first place.

          All I have been trying to point out is that if you don't like the contract, don't sign it. And to protect yourself, get a good lawyer first. No one is forcing anyone to go the major label route. There are alternatives.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 11:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: All about the contract

            "I know artists who don't feel that way. They've signed short contracts for an album or two, and they developed business plans that didn't depend on CD money anyway so it didn't matter to them if they didn't see a dime in royalties. They use the major label promotional clout to make a name for themselves and then they move on after the deal is over."

            But that doesn't mean the contracts weren't severely unbalanced. Once again, my point isn't that artists can't make good money, because that's obviously not true. The point is that contracts would be far better if there was decent competition in the industry.

            Yes, you don't have to go to a major label. But that's not the point. The point is that you wouldn't have any reason to avoid a major label in a competitive market.

             

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              Suzanne Lainson (profile), Aug 26th, 2009 @ 2:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: All about the contract

              "The point is that contracts would be far better if there was decent competition in the industry."

              There is decent competition in the industry now. It's the DIY model.

              If you don't want to deal with the major labels, you don't have to.

              I'm not sure what else you hope will happen. People who want to go outside the current major label system are doing exactly that.

               

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    Tony E (profile), Aug 25th, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    Warner Music did no good.

    If they fought to not have to pay for her schooling though they had a contractual agreement, they did no good. They lived up to their word after trying to break it--repeatedly. I realize that the point of the article isn't to make Warner Music look good by any means, but saying that they did any good is sort of a bastardization of the notion of "doing good."

    Doing good means doing the right thing for the right reason, and they tried to do wrong but got caught. Warner Music basically "did good" to save face and most likely a hell of a lot more money than they would have by continuing to fight her.

    Way to do the right thing, Warner!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 5:42am

    This just in.......

    SINGLE MOM MAKES HEADLINE ONCE AGAIN !!!

    Who is this masked single mom? Find out in Next Weeks Episode: "Single Mom Gets A Job And Works!!!!"

     

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    identicon
    NullOp, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Mark it PAID!

    Jesus H. Christ! It's good to hear something like this. Not only does a rapper/hip hop artist have a world class mind and is using it but a music company 'takes a round in the ass!' Some days, life is good, very good!

     

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    ph.debbie, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Lovely story, but it's a scam. First of all, she never went to Cornell. Check Cornell's records -- you can do it online: http://www.cornell.edu/search/ Secondly, Ph.D programs are typically 100% funded, there would be no reason for WMG to pay for it in the first place. Finally, she sounds absolutely ridiculous (see youtube) talking about psych, doesn't know the first thing about it.

     

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    Dave, Aug 26th, 2009 @ 11:40am

    Ouch!

    I bet that made the accountants squirm a tad!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2009 @ 1:26pm

    You, need, to, read up, on, the, use of, commas.

     

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    identicon
    Sick an tired...., Aug 27th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    when will it end?

    I wish caucasians would start opening up practices focusing strictly on urban caucasian youth. That would be okay, right?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    John Watson, Aug 27th, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    Amazing

    Wow, that is some cool stuff dude! I
    like it!

    www.online-privacy.es.tc

     

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    identicon
    forneja, Aug 27th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    Mike, you are now sayin' that she went to Marymount for a Ph.d? Is that what this chronic liar is tellin' you now? Marymount is "a liberal arts university." You can look at their website and see that. "a liberal arts university" can't grant a Ph.D and if Cornell is turning out psychologists as illiterate as this woman, something's got to give.

     

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    f_Alconer, Aug 28th, 2009 @ 1:34am

    way to go girl well done

     

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    Pony Extent, Aug 31st, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    Mr Masnick, what have you found out?

    just curious.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 1:16pm

    Update

    Here is Slate's update on this story: http://www.slate.com/id/2227090/pagenum/all/

     

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    identicon
    aruna bhandry, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 1:25am

    ok
    yes

     

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    identicon
    Brad, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    "But, of course, we need those big important newspapers with their professional reporters and fact checkers, or the blogs would run wild with lies, right?"

    Pot calling the kettle black? While Techdirt didn't originate the lies, it propagated them (see article entitled "Recording Industry Helps Rapper/Single Mom Get A PhD, Though It Tried To Weasel Out").

    Who are you to criticize?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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