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A professor granted tenure by Northeastern Illinois University got his doctorate from a school the federal government later labeled a “diploma mill,” but the state university says it granted him the lifetime job security under a rule that allows “exceptional” teachers to be hired without a doctorate.

Given the glut of out-of-work Ph.D.s in recent years, that’s a rarely used provision. Northeastern Illinois officials said that only one of the school’s 280 other faculty members doesn’t have a doctorate.

The granting of tenure last year for Theophilus “T.Y.” Okosun, a professor of justice studies, has caused rumbles among faculty members at the 12,000-student public university on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

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Okosun got his doctorate from the now-shuttered Pacific Western University in Los Angeles. In a 2004 report, the congressional agency then known as the U.S. General Accounting Office said the school was unaccredited, offered degrees for a fee and didn’t require any classroom instruction.

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