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A matter of degree

City Council member Carol Alvarado is now an official college graduate some 13 years after finishing her coursework at the University of Houston.

The councilwoman said she believed she had a degree until her November election opponent released University of Houston documents showing she did not graduate.

Late Friday afternoon, however, in response to a Houston Chronicle request under the Texas Open Records Act, the university released “directory information” showing that Carol Ann Alvarado was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in political science.

It did not give a date for the degree, and a university spokesman and one of its lawyers said the school was prohibited from providing additional information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

[…]

In voter’s guide information submitted to the Chronicle when she first ran for City Council in 2001, 2003 and this year, Alvarado says she attended UH from 1987 to 1992 and received her degree. Her City Council Web site and campaign literature also list the degree.

Alvarado’s District I opponent, lawyer John Parras, said Friday he began looking into Alvarado’s educational credentials after an anonymous tipster left a message on his campaign office phone that she had not graduated.

“As a lawyer, I decided to investigate and share the information with my campaign supporters. I personally went to UH to get written verification,” said Parras. “I was shocked when I learned that it was true.”

The UH verification documents, dated Thursday, say that Alvarado attended the college of social sciences from 1987 through 1992. “The student intends to pursue a degree, however has not yet formally declared a major and degree objective,” the document states, adding it reflected Alvarado’s academic record as of Thursday.

Any individual, for example, a prospective employer, can obtain verification of a student’s previous enrollment by making a written request in person, unless the student has asked that the information be withheld.

After Parras obtained and publicized the verification documents, Alvarado said, she called the university and learned that she had completed her course work, but hadn’t fulfilled a “written proficiency exam.”

“I was never notified by university officials that I needed this,” she said.

The requirement has since been dropped, Alvarado said.

She moved to Washington, D.C., soon after completing her course work, and did not request a diploma, she said. “I’d like to clear this up,” she said. “This has no bearing on the job I’ve done over the years.”

Parras called for Alvarado to resign the seat she has held since 2002.

“She’s betrayed the public trust, and I believe she should do the only honorable thing, which is withdraw from the race and resign her seat,” he said.

There are a few details that are still unclear, but this doesn’t currently feel to me like a big deal. Completing the course work is what matters, and Greg‘s description of the “written proficiency exam” makes it sound like a minor thing. Based on this, it’s at least possible to me that she could have genuinely believed she’d officially graduated. Without some evidence that she knew (or should have known) she was stating a falsehood. Until and unless that happens, I’m inclined to give it a pass.

Stace, who is a supporter of Alvarado’s opponent John Parras, takes a broader view of the issue.

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One Comment

  1. Red Dog says:

    Got a copy of what John Parras was passing out. Few quick notes:

    1) Mr. Parras does not blot out CM Alvarado’s Social Security Number. For whatever one’s opinion about her situation, to distribute someone’s private information in a effort to show how they were irresponsible is inexcusable. Isn’t Parras a lawyer? Do they teach privacy in the Ivy League?

    2) If he is handing this out a part of his campaign, shouldn’t it have a tag line (ie “Paid Political Ad by John Parras Campaign….). Not putting a campaign tag line on campaign material isn’t exactly the kind of judgment I want in a council member. For the record, the document he is passing out isn’t just a copy of a university statement; it has highlighted areas and extra comments. So I don’t believe a “this is just FYI” claim would stand up.