Sunday, May 5, 2013

Broken Fact: Fu Ping's Graduate Study at University of New Mexico

The Original Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping claimed that she became a graduate student at University of New Mexico after a year of studying English. On Pages 61-62, she wrote:
After completing the English as a foreign language course in a year, I was able to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and enroll as a full-time graduate student at UNM. I knew by then that I didn't want to study literature, but what should I pursue? ... 
Computer programming was a new field of study in the early eighties, and there were almost no women interested in it. I was accepted as a computer science master's student even though I had no prior course work in the subject. Nearly everyone was starting from scratch, just like me, which helped me to keep up.
Then, on Page 66:
Less than one year away from completing my master's degree in computer science, I dropped out of the University of New Mexico.
The Earlier Story:
In Drifting Bottle, she was (perhaps intentionally) vague about the level of computer science program she entered (Page 67):
There is a lot of freedom studying in America, students can make their own choices on changing majors or schools. I originally entered the master's program in the College of Arts of University of New Mexico. But I felt that it is ridiculous to study Chinese literature in America and I wasn't interested in English literature. So I decided to change majors. I went to College of Engineering and found that computer programming is closest to literature. Writing programs is a kind of art, it's logic is close to writing articles. 
I applied for Computer Science and was accepted without much trouble. My adviser gave me a long list of courses I had to make up, most of them in math and physics... 
The Debunking:
University of New Mexico has now confirmed that Fu Ping enrolled in that school as an undergraduate student. She was never a graduate student there, not to mention close to completing a master's degree.

Her own description above is also consistent with this fact. "Nearly everyone was starting from scratch" obviously applies to an undergraduate major. By the time students enter a graduate school, however new the major is, they should have already had a solid foundation for it.

Fu Ping had little to none math background by her own admission. It would be quite incredible for UNM to accept her as a graduate student in computer science right away.

It's not clear why Fu Ping needed to claim herself as a graduate student at UNM and then dropping out of there to enter UCSD as an undergraduate student of the same major later. It's truly puzzling.

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