Campus was abuzz Tuesday as students discovered thatone of their own may have been an impostor.
Dozens of students interviewed said they were startled to learn of the former Morse College junior who was arrested for forgery and larceny last September after the Yale College Dean’s Office concluded he had lied in his application. The word from Bass Cafe on Tuesday night: surprise, disappointment, bewilderment.
Many said this case raised serious questions about the administration’s diligence — questions that have so far gone unanswered.
“It seems like Yale is avoiding talking about this,” Andy Levine ’08 said. “It seems like they need to minimize this for their own embarrassment. It seems like maybe they don’t have their act together.”
But the administration remained tight-lipped Tuesday. University officials did not respond to another request for further comment on the issue.
The only thing that surprised students more than the suspect’s alleged forgery was the University’s failure to detect it for a full year after he began attending Yale.
“I was surprised that they just kind of stumbled onto this,” Talia Gooding-Williams ’09 said. “I think they should check transcripts, because this is ridiculous.”
Students said the case called into question the integrity of the admissions process, but they said they do not know whether the risk of forgery can be eliminated entirely.
“It’s unfortunate that somebody can basically steal the spot of somebody more deserving,” Kyle Briscoe ’10 said. “It’s worrisome that Yale doesn’t have more safeguards against applicant fraud — not that I know how they could.”
Asked Amber Joseph ’09, “How do they know how many other people did the same thing?”
They don’t, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said in an interview last week. He said there is no way to know how many frauds go undiscovered, but he said he believes such incidents are very rare.
Peter Vizcarrondo ’11 said he was shocked that someone could allegedly defraud Yale, but this case may have been too extreme to anticipate, he said.
“I think this was just a freak accident of someone who slipped through the cracks,” he said.
Some students could not resist comparing the case to other high-profile flaps in recent memory.
To Jeremy Harris ’10, it recalled Aleksey Vayner ’07, the Yale senior of IvyGate infamy who produced a fictional video resume in his quest to land a job at an investment-banking firm. To Ben Muller ’10, it evoked Yale’s current legal tangle with a Dongguk University over the confirmation of a forged doctorate.
Others saw the case through the lens of this year’s record-low admission rates.
“I think this guy’s case is representative of increasing pressure for a finite number of spaces in a finite number of schools,” Joseph said.
If the intense competition tempts more students to cheat, Allison Jones ’08 said, maybe admissions officers should scrutinize applications more carefully.
“I’m surprised and a little disappointed that something like this could slip through the cracks,” she said. “It makes me second-guess the gate-keeping process. I don’t think the admissions office should go through extraordinary measures, but they should take further measures to safeguard and make sure applications aren’t made up.”
Even though the system may have some vulnerabilities, they might not be worth the time and effort needed to fortify them, given how rare outright admissions fraud appears to be, Levine said.
The suspect in the case, whose admission was rescinded last June, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He has a hearing scheduled for Monday to request that the charges be dismissed and his record wiped clean if a judge concludes the offense was not serious and is not likely to be repeated.
—Martine Powers contributed reporting.