If you ever wonder what inspires our occasionally ripping on the hype surrounding the “Wharton brand” — it is people like this who stir our nerves.
Perhaps you’ve heard about this fellow Frank Reynolds, who has sued Penn because he claims the university didn’t give him the Wharton degree he signed up for. If not, let’s catch you up to speed.
We wrote about this whole ordeal in October, but now there’s another update.
Reynolds enrolled in the Executive Master’s in Technology Management (EMTM) program, which is a professional degree program run through Engineering with a Wharton cosponsorship. Students get a Master’s Degree in Engineering but a certificate signed by both the Wharton and Engineering deans. Still, it is an Engineering program–and seems like a good one at that.
After receiving his degree, Reynolds, who is 46, leveraged the Wharton connection into a senior position at Siemens, where he was apparently known as “the Wharton guy.”
Penn, however, wants to make sure EMTM students differentiate themselves from Wharton MBA students, which seems fair enough. They’re not the same thing. Reynolds, on the other hand, seemed to think “this wasn’t what he paid for” and called it a breach of contract. In October, Reynolds won $435,678 in his case against the university. And now, he’s been awarded another $66,000.
Legally, Reynolds’ arguments may hold up–but the case itself is a Catch 22. By essentially pimping out some semblance of a pseudo Wharton diploma, he’s nullified (and insulted) the value of the degree he was bragging about.
Reynolds said the Wharton cachet won him jobs and prestige, but once you start talking about the degree simply in terms of status, the merit fades fast. A Wharton degree may make you an attractive candidate for a financial job because employers understand that Wharton grads are armed with the skills to make them effective in a business workplace. But if you argue that the primary value of a Wharton degree is simply being able to say you went to Wharton, it seems pretty freaking worthless.
The whole notion is not only a blow-to-the-face insult to the Engineering School (which happens to be pretty amazing, no?), but it’s also a stab at higher education on the whole. After all, think of where that nearly half a million dollars could have gone. To scholarships, salaries, educational programs, guest speakers–the things that actually do give a Wharton (and any Penn) degree its value in the first place.