Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
In this week’s case, we head up to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York – the Finger Lakes region. It is located 50 miles southwest of University Hill, Syracuse; and, 230 miles northwest from the now-empty cloud-capped towers of Manhattan.
Cornell is one of New York’s two Ivy League schools. One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., attended Cornell for three years until he was drafted by the Army to fight in Germany during WW II.
One of Kurt’s futuristic novels was Slapstick, which is not held to be among his best work by critics, but it a great read and some might find it peculiarly relevant these days – the theme is loneliness. Vonnegut did not believe that traditional religions can cure loneliness or provide significant comfort. In the story, a religion exists called the “Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped – the followers believe that Jesus has come again but has been kidnapped by the “Forces of Evil” and is being held captive. The members of religion distinguish themselves by constantly jerking their heads around, as if to discover the Kidnapped Jesus looking out from behind a tree or building. In the novel, Western civilization is nearing collapse as oil runs out and a plague has descended. The Chinese are making vast leaps forward by miniaturizing themselves, first to the size first of dwarfs, then of dolls and elves, and finally of germs. The plague, it turns out, “was caused by microscopic Chinese, who were peace-loving and meant no one any harm. They were nonetheless invariably fatal to normal-sized human beings when inhaled or ingested.” The Chinese ambassador, just under 2 feet tall, severs diplomatic relations “simply because there was no longer anything going on in the United States which was of any interest to the Chinese at all.”
Jack Bennett (javelinist from Crestwood) now attends Cornell.
Ray applied to Cornell in 2017. He had been a student at Kansas State University but was expelled for violations of its code of conduct. On his application to Cornell, Ray did not mention his problems at KSU and lied that he had never been expelled from any school or academic program since 9th grade. Ray was accepted to Cornell. But soon after, when Ray’s lies on the application form came to light, the offer to join Cornell was rescinded. Ray sued Cornell.
TESTIMONY OF CORNELL ADMISSIONS DEPARTMENT:
Q. Why did you change your mind about Ray’s admission to Cornell’s program?
A. Notwithstanding Ray’s attestation that the information on the application form was true.
Q. Like what?
A. He wrote that he attended Kansas State, but failed to mention that his time there ended in expulsion.
Q. How did you find out about Ray’s issues at Kansas State?
A. I realized that Ray has left out essential facts from his application form after reviewing his transcript from Kansas State.
Q. If Ray had told the truth about KSU would he have been admitted to Cornell?
A. No. It was almost certain that he would not have been admitted, especially in view of what exactly his issues were at KSU.
Q. What issues?
A. KU expelled Ray and banned him from campus for 10 years, and put a notation on his transcript that the expulsion was for “nonacademic misconduct.”
Q. Did you investigate what that misconduct was?
A. He met the women at gatherings of different college Christian organizations. He sent dozens of unwanted messages to one woman, such as this one: “I have a crush on you … I will be giving you a list of my desires. I will also make sure to point things out to you about why do I like you or why am I attracted to you as well.”
Q. Anything else?
A. Yes. To the second woman, he texted messages, selfies, Bible verses and audio files of songs from a religious website focused on marriage and sexual purity. She replied, “Stop talking to me.” And, according to the report, Ray did not stop. Ray contacted her, and others, through unknown phone numbers and social media profiles with made-up names.
Q. What other behavior of Ray caused you concern?
A. To the women’s friends, relatives and church group leaders who tried to intervene, Ray responded with curse-filled messages and by tacking up fliers at Jayhawker Towers calling them “pedophiles” and members of a “fake ministry.”
Q. Did you give ray a chance to respond to those allegations and give him some kind of opportunity to explain?
A. I did. But ray did not respond other than to ask us to reconsider. That request was denied.
Q. Does Cornell have a written policy about leaving out information on applications for admission?
A. No. We have a Campus Code of Conduct, but that is only applicable to registered students. Ray was not a registered student. There are no written policies governing the post-admission review of a prospective student's application.
Q. Thank you. Nothing further.
TESTIMONY OF RAY:
Q. You do not deny that you had attended and were eventually expelled from Kansas State?
Q. And that you did not disclose that information to Cornell?
A. I did not put that on the application because I knew that it would have been misunderstood.
Q. You have a history of being misunderstood, don’t you Ray?
A. It has happened, yes.
Q. In fact, at your hearing at KSU, you did not deny repeatedly contacting a female student after you were told not to right?
A. If I had been able to continue contacting her, the whole mess would have been cleared up.
Q. In fact, the Sedgwick County District Court in Kansas issued an Order of Protection against you because of stalking that student in addition to two other unrelated no-contact directives at KSU.
A. Misunderstandings, sir. There was no real proof that I did anything at al. It was a kangaroo court.
Q. Well, after meeting the first woman in spring 2016, you sent her Facebook and text messages.
A. I did.
Q. And she didn’t respond, but you continued, right?
A. I thought something happened to her.
Q. In this one, you wrote, “I have a crush on you.” And this one says, “I am thinking of you and I am praying for you as well. I will be giving you a list of my desires. I will also make sure to point things out to you about why do I like you or why am I attracted to you as well.” You wrote that, didn’t you?
A. I did, but there were circumstances that I choose not to discuss so as to protect her.
Q. Well, she blocked you, right?
A. I’m not sure.
Q. And then leaders of her church, asked you to stop contacting her?
A. Someone did, yeah.
Q. And then you sent messages to her via Facebook accounts with other names?
A. I wanted an opportunity to explain to her…
Q. Well, let’s see. You wrote, after being blocked, “I felt hurt seeing you a little distant, as I have let you known my interest towards you and I never had a chance to talk to you.” You wrote that?
A. I did.
Q. And then you had flowers sent to her off-campus address, right?
A. I did. What’s wrong with that?
Q. She didn’t give you her off-campus address did she?
A. No. But, you know, it’s out there.
Q. Well, you got it by following her home, didn’t you?
A. There is no proof of that.
Q. And then one of her relatives called you and asked you to stop, right?
Q. And you responded to that relative, didn’t you?
Q. With these curse-laden texts. And I want to direct your attention to the screen here, okay.
Q. Now, just to step back a little, when you first met this student you told her that you were lonely and didn’t have friends in Lawrence, right?
A. I may have mentioned that.
Q. And then she invited you to a Bible study saying there was “a great group of guys” he might be able to plug in with.
Q. Now, that is you on the KSU campus putting up fliers at Jayhawker Towers disparaging various people associated with the people from the student’s church, calling them “pedophiles” and members of a “fake ministry.”
A. I can’t really make out who that is…and it was all unfair. KSU had to show proof that I committed both sexual harassment and sexual violence to prove I violated the conduct code, which KSU did not. And they breached its contract with me as a student by prohibiting him from campus.
Q. Nothing further, Your Honor.
ARGUMENT BY RAY’S ATTORNEY
Your Honor, Cornell acted in bad faith by not affording him the opportunity to explain how the information about his time at Kansas State was inaccurate. Cornell accepted Ray as a student because he is an extraordinary student who had been himself victimized by a biased system at Kansas State and he should be given an opportunity to show that he was railroaded there with no proof….
JUDGE: Counsel, didn’t Ray file a lawsuit against KSU for discrimination arising out of his expulsion?
ATTORNEY: Yes, Your Honor, I believe that is accurate.
JUDGE: And that case was dismissed, correct?
ATTORNEY: I believe that is also correct, but I can check…
JUDGE: That will not be necessary.
ATTORNEY: Thank you, Your Honor. And for the aforementioned reasons, I ask that you nullify Cornell’s decision to rescind their offer to Ray. Thank you.
ARGUMENT BY CORNELL’S ATTORNEY
May it please the Court. Your Honor, in reviewing a determination rendered by a private educational institution like Cornell, where no hearing is required, the court should not disturb it unless a school acts arbitrarily and not in the exercise of its honest discretion; or if it fails to abide by its own rules; or imposes a penalty so excessive that it shocks one's sense of fairness"
A student is defined under Cornell’s Code as a person "currently registered" or as a special student, "currently enrolled in or taking classes." Ray was none of those things when he lied about his academic background on the application for admission to Cornell. Neither the Code nor the procedures created by it were applicable to Ray’s misconduct
RULING OF THE COURT
Because of Ray’s blatant dishonesty, Cornell rescinded his admission. Ray could not present any no legitimate reasons for the omissions on the application form because there were none. Ray's attempts to shift the blame for his deceit to Cornell's admissions officials is incredible. There is nothing arbitrary or capricious in Cornell’s eminently rational determination to rescind the offer.
Ray will not be attending Cornell. Ray, is lucky he is not in jail. The lesson: Never lie on an application for school or for employment. That is a guaranty that you will not get the position you seek. At least by being truthful you have a chance to at least be seen as someone who tells the truth. And truthfulness is a much sought-after trait anywhere.
I wanted all things to seem to make some sense, so we could all be happy, yes, instead of tense. And I made up lies so that they all fit nice, and I made this sad world a par-a-dise.Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country