Nov. 2, 2002 – Gubernatorial candidate Alicia "Chucky" Hansen placed a scathing full-page advertisement in Saturday's issue of The Avis in response to an article published by The Virgin Islands Daily News two days earlier that reported apparent misrepresentations by the St. Croix senator regarding her educational credentials.
In an interview, the Daily News said, Hansen told a reporter that she received her bachelor's and master's degrees from "Regis University," which is a Jesuit school in Denver, Colorado.
Officials of the school, however, told the newspaper they have no record of Hansen ever having been enrolled there, and that they checked records going back more than 25 years.
When questioned further, Hansen, who has served in the Legislature since 1987, would not specify to the Daily News whether her degrees are from Saint Regis University — an Internet site that sells diplomas.
According to the Saint Regis Web site, a "student" can purchase associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees for prices ranging from $500 to $1,200 without ever having to complete classwork. "No courses or residency required," the Web site's homepage says. "Earn a valid degree based on your present knowledge."
The school, which according to the Web site is headquartered in Dominica, claims to assess an applicant's present knowledge and compare it with that obtained in traditional college curriculums. And, the site says, degrees can be earned and sent via Express Mail in as little as one day.
Qualifying "experimental learning methods" listed on the site include career or work experience, childcare, overcoming divorce or devastating situations, homemaking, hobbies and travel.
Saint Regis University, according to its Web site, is accredited by the Education Ministry of the Republic of Liberia and is not associated with Regis University or any other higher education institution with the same or a similar name.
Hansen called the Daily News article "low-root" and attacked its owner, Jeffrey Prosser, as "trying to do to me what they did to Sen. [Adlah] Donastorg." She was referring to a recently reported investigation that Innovative Telephone, also owned by Prosser, made into Donastorg's personal life.
"Significantly to accomplish their foul deed, they contacted a Regis University from which I obtained no degree and they would consequently obtain a negative answer to fit their dastardly objective," Hansen said in the Avis ad. Had Daily News reporters called Saint Regis, she said, they would have found that "my credentials were sound."
In fact, the Thursday article said the newspaper did attempt to contact Saint Regis by calling its Washington, D.C., telephone number, but there was no answer.
But Hansen maintained in her ad that the Daily News did not reach Saint Regis "because it did not fit into their agenda." She called the article "slanderous" and "most likely a precursor for the editorializing to follow in the same Prosser newspaper just before election day."
Saturday's issue of The Avis also carried a front-page article about the senator and her so-called degrees.
On July 26, 1999, The Source published an article outlining the formal education of each senator in the 23rd Legislature. For that article — despite numerous requests from the newspaper over several weeks — Hansen was the only senator who did not provide the educational history requested of all 15. According to the article, "Education of legislators varies", Hansen "attended the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico and the University of the Virgin Islands, but further details were not offered."
The biography of the seven-term St. Croix senator that appears on the official Legislature Web site states that she graduated from Jose C. Barbosa High School in Puerto Rico and attended Inter-American University, then "went on to attend the Virgin Islands Police Academy, as well as the University of the Virgin Islands, through arrangement with the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands. She received training in criminal law and paralegal studies."
In September, after filing to run for governor with the Joint Boards of Elections, Hansen told a Source reporter that if she were to lose the race, her plans for the future included attending law school.
A degree document reproduced in Hansen's ad in The Avis states that Saint Regis University awarded her a master's degree in public administration on June 5, 2001. She reportedly was awarded a bachelor's degree in political science on the same day.
However, Hansen's degrees, if authentic, may not be for long, as a Saint Regis waiver on its Web site states that documents issued by the school "may not be published in any form whatsoever" and may not be used "to insult or defraud any government."
"'The Corporation' [Saint Regis] reserves the right to terminate any services, nullify or void any documents provided to you or transactions with you at any time or for any reason, with or without notice," the site advisory says.
The waiver language also states that residents of Dominica and of the British Virgin Islands are not eligible to obtain degrees from Saint Regis; no explanation is given as to why. While the Web site is unclear as to whether Saint Regis actually offers courses, Hansen said in her ad that the Daily News article could deter others from seeking higher education through distance learning.
"Perhaps the most loathsome thing in an otherwise loathsome article is that it may stymie the push, both here and on the mainland, for those who for some reason cannot sit in a classroom or attend a university to obtain a higher degree by use of the Internet . . .," Hansen said.
She charged that it was by design that Thursday's "foul, misleading and loathsome" article appeared in the Daily News the same day that polls — she didn't state which polls or provide any details — showed her and her running mate, Eddie Donoghue, leading the eight-way gubernatorial race.
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