Earl de Blonville has been trying, since 2008, to gain academic credibility for himself and his concept of “Postformal Leadership”. “Postformal Leadership” is a term that de Blonville just made up with little or no presence in the literature, other than circular references back to de Blonville. In other words, de Blonville has declared himself an authority on an obscure field of study he invented. Earl did not graduate from his high school, Ballarat School, and has no traditional academic credentials beyond second year of high school. No college time, no BA, no MA. He is, apparently, a certified practitioner of a scientifically dubious discipline called Neurolinguistic Programming.
In 2008 Earl enrolled in Rushmore University, an unaccredited online university commonly understood to be a “diploma mill” and sought a Phd on the subject “Seventh Journey”. This is also the title of his self-published book about leadership. According to Rushmore, de Blonville completed his assignments (such as they were) and would have received his degree if he had paid the tuition he owed. Three years later in 2011, Earl applied to a Phd program at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where his new girlfriend, Jennifer Gidley, was on the faculty. de Blonville was accepted in spite of his lack of traditional credentials and his thesis was on “Postformal Leadership”. No mention of his previous tenure at Rushmore was on his CV. After questions were raised about the vetting process and the veracity of de Blonville’s CV, he left RMIT without a degree and under murky circumstances. In RMIT documents obtained through the FOIA process de Blonville himself refers to being “kicked out”.
In 2017 de Blonville and Gidley moved to Lismore, NSW and convinced the administration of Southern Cross University to grant them both adjunct professorships. Jennifer Gidley was previously on the faculty of SCU from 1995-2002. It is clear from internal documents obtained through a GIPA (FOIA) request that those appointments were integrally linked to the creation of Oceanic Research Institute with acknowledgment by SCU that they have entered into a business relationship with ORI. In plain language the appointments and the business connection to SCU are a package deal. Again, given that Earl has no discernible credentials in “oceanic research” this all begs the question of what kind of vetting process convinced SCU to make the appointments. Jennifer Gidley does have a PhD but in a field (Future Studies) that has no apparent link to “oceanic research”. That did not stop SCU Vice-Chancellor Nancarrow from recommending de Blonville to other staff as “very high profile in oceanic research” (GIPA document). Not long after questions were raised by multiple individuals about the process and propriety of de Blonville’s adjunct Professor appointment, Nancarrow changed de Blonville to “Professional Fellow” without explanation. Of the five levels of adjunct appointment, Professor has the highest level of requirement and Professional Fellow the lowest. This in and of itself begs for some explanation of how the original vetting of someone with no traditional qualifications could be so off the mark.
Invoking privacy laws, SCU administration refused to explain anything about what the roles and responsibilities of Gidley and de Blonville would be and required this author to file a GIPA request to try and ascertain the answer to that question. Several months after filing, partial results were released, heavily redacted including the most obviously germane document, Earl de Blonville’s CV, which presumably makes the case for him being “very high profile in oceanic research”. Other GIPA release documents suggest that there were doubts raised about the CV. Here’s what John Jenkins, the other Vice-Chancellor signing off on the appointment had to say 30 minutes after getting Nancarrow’s email about “very high profile”. “The CV indicates he has an extraordinary professional CV as well as written, audio, and other published works though not much I can see that is truly scientific.” Not much time to do any actual checking of the CV before passing judgement! Both Nancarrow and Jenkins have now left SCU.
This is de Blonville’s CV from 2011 and the annotations speak for themselves. There is nothing in the 2011 CV that speaks to “oceanic research”. Mr. de Blonville has made no effort to explain or refute the annotations and the various examples of embellishment, inflation, falsehood and disingenuous claims. Between when he was “kicked out” of RMIT and his arrival in Lismore, Mr. de Blonville has accomplished the following; 1. talked his girlfriend into buying the Tarnan/La Boheme, 2. tried and failed to launch 9sails.com, 3. tried and failed to sell the Tarnan/La Boheme and 4. purchased a second damaged sailboat (Carola) and made no repairs. And somewhere in there he became “very high profile in oceanic research”. Anyone Googling “Earl de Blonville” would have come across the 2011 CV and could have compared it to the CV that he submitted to SCU. BUT it is now clear that months before approaching SCU about the appointments, Mr. de Blonville had succeeded in his fraudulent efforts to have this website blocked from Google searches IN AUSTRALIA only. So any vetting of Mr. de Blonville using Google search would only have shown results of his own website and self-serving interviews. SCU administration has been fully informed of this gap in their vetting and has chosen not to respond.
Multiple sources describe de Blonville as smart, well spoken, charismatic, charming and a prolific name dropper. Just like the administration at RMIT, SCU Vice-Chancellors seem to have just taken de Blonville’s CV at face value. And this for qualifications that must, according to SCU’s own guidelines, be the equivalent of a genuine Phd.
If SCU’s Marine Studies program wanted to enter into a business relationship with a dive boat owner in order to regularly use his boat for research or student training, that would be entirely reasonable. But you would not expect that agreement to include making the dive boat captain an adjunct Professor! So it appears that the “deal” very much intends to link SCU’s prestige with ORI’s fund raising efforts by creating the impression the two institutions are joined at the hip. Without the adjunct appointments, de Blonville and Gidley’s chances of obtaining funds to run ORI would be significantly reduced.
If, in fact, SCU failed to properly vet de Blonville and Gidley, vesting them with the prestige associated with adjunct status and thereby boosting their business credibility, that could be an institutional embarrassment. And it can’t be discounted that invoking the privacy laws over a question as basic as “what will this guy be doing for SCU?” could be explained as an effort to cover that embarrassment.
All of the above is not to say that it is impossible that de Blonville will raise the millions of dollars needed to refurbish the Carola, that he will successfully move the Tarnan to Australia and start eavesdropping on cetaceans with SCU students handling the hydrophones. It could happen but pigs may also fly. Perhaps ORI and SCU are eyeing the basket of dollars to be dispensed by The Great Barrier Reef Project? Based on de Blonville’s record over the last 20 years the real question is what liability does SCU or any other organization potentially face from partnering with ORI?