Dongguk University fired another volley in the ongoing battle over the Shingate scandal on Thursday, refusing what it described as a settlement offer from Yale that included a public apology, repentant newspaper advertisements all over South Korea and the promise of joint education programs between the two schools.
It was the sharpest signal yet that the Korean university does not plan to back down from its $50 million federal lawsuit against Yale, which it claims was negligent in mistakenly verifying the authenticity of a fake doctorate crafted by Shin Jeong-ah, a disgraced one-time professor at the school who is now in jail for forgery.
To make the lawsuit go away, Yale officials offered to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for the scandal, spend $100,000 to publish a letter of apology in major Korean newspapers, and establish an educational exchange program between the two schools, Dongguk officials told Korean newspapers Thursday.
But that wasn’t good enough for the Korean school.
“We refused, as we thought we can regain our honor by winning the suit,” the Korea Times quoted an unnamed Dongguk official as saying.
Yale officials have claimed the lawsuit has no merit and said they will seek its dismissal. But a spokesman for the University, Tom Conroy, declined to comment on the Dongguk official’s description of Yale’s purported settlement offer.
“The University does not disclose information about mediations because efforts to resolve disputes are most likely to succeed if confidentiality is respected,” he wrote in an e-mail message Thursday.
Federal court records show a settlement conference was held in Connecticut District Court on Aug. 28 in front of United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez. No settlement was reached at that meeting, according to court records.
In any event, Dongguk’s claimed refusal of Yale’s settlement offer marks another chapter in what has now turned into a 14-month battle between the two universities since the scandal now known as Shingate erupted in the summer of 2007. At that time, Shin had ascended to the upper reaches of the Korean art world in part because of her supposed doctorate degree from Yale.
When Shin’s degree was revealed as a fake last summer, Dongguk immediately fired the professor. But the school attracted ridicule for being duped, something it claimed happened only because of Yale’s negligence. In 2005, Shin fabricated a letter from an official in Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences that documented her degree; when administrators at Dongguk contacted their counterparts here to confirm the authenticity of that letter, Yale officials mistakenly vouched for it.
Then, when the scandal broke in the summer of 2007, University administrators asserted they had never confirmed that Shin had graduated from the University. But later in the year, they determined they had indeed confirmed Shin had received a Yale doctorate — by a mistake in the rush of business, as they explained it — and apologized profusely to Dongguk.
“I am dismayed that Yale’s errors may have contributed to delays in detecting Ms. Shin’s fraud,” University President Richard Levin wrote to the school last winter. “I sincerely hope that we may soon put this unfortunate incident behind us, and begin to strengthen the ties between Dongguk University and Yale. Please accept my sincere apology.”
The school declined to oblige. “We can make good our friendship with Yale after we settle our losses due to them,” their president said at the time.
Shin, meanwhile, is now serving 18 months in prison for her faked degree.