Email hoax sparks campus debate

Since publicly claiming credit for a widely-circulated email impersonating Interim President Joanne Creighton, the student behind the hoax continues to lobby the College to change its admission and financial aid policy regarding undocumented students.

Since last week, Edward Menefee ’15 has launched his new site, “www.Haverford.eu.” He was on campus Tuesday afternoon, posting fliers which list the “creighton.joanne” gmail account as contact information.

Last November, Menefee handed out fliers critical of the College to tours of visiting students, until Dean of Admissions Jess Lord asked him to stop.

Menefee, a sophomore on leave, sent an email last Monday from “creighton.joanne@gmail.com,” announcing the “much needed development” of extending the need-blind admission policy to undocumented students. Currently, undocumented immigrants must apply as international students, and are ineligible for any kind of federal financial aid. Haverford offers financial aid from its own funds for just three international students a year.

Last Thursday, in a campus-wide email rebuking Menefee’s actions, senior staff called the email “an act of fraud” and “a gross violation of the honor code.”

“It seems very reprehensible to take on the identity of someone, especially the president of an institution, to comment on a policy issue. It’s indisputably a violation of the integrity of the institution, not only of the presidency but of [the Admissions Office],” Creighton told the Clerk Monday.

Menefee’s actions have re-opened the debate on the College’s policies regarding undocumented students. After the passing of a Plenary resolution last spring, senior staff handed the issue to the Board’s Student Affairs Committee and the Faculty and Student Committee on Admission.

But since the Plenary resolution was passed, student debate has been virtually absent, until now.

In discussions online and across campus, students are divided over both the significance of the email for the honor code and whether it’s relevant to the policy debate at all.

Others are calling on the College to address questions about the legality and financial feasibility of extending need-blind admissions to undocumented students.

The story has reached parents and Bi-Co alumni as well, through word-of-mouth and reporting in local media outlets, including Technically PhillyHaverford-Havertown Patch and the Philly Post.

Lord believes that the financial cost of extending need-blind admissions to undocumented students is a significant barrier.

In addition to tuition and room and board, since undocumented students are unable to receive federal work-study and cannot be legally employed by the College, aid would need to account for students’ summer earnings requirement, Lord said.

“The cost, even for just a few [undocumented] students, is substantial,” he said.

Lord pointed to other areas where it’s unclear what services or opportunities undocumented students would be able to access. For example, undocumented students can’t study abroad, since they don’t have the papers to apply for a visa.

“It really calls attention to the need for change to national policy – that’s really the way this has got to go,” said Creighton, calling President Barack Obama’s recent calls for immigration reform “encouraging.”

She says that while the president of the College is responsible for setting the policy agenda, it’s ultimately subject to the Board’s approval.

“No one acts unilaterally, including the president – interim, fake or real,” Creighton said, laughing in a moment of levity.

Creighton said senior staff’s memo on Menefee’s email has been circulated among members of the Board of Managers, and that they would discuss policies regarding undocumented students at the initial session of their meeting this weekend.

“I will definitely alert them to the timeliness of this,” said Creighton. “But it’s a pretty full agenda.”

The Board, with incoming president Daniel H. Weiss present, is tackling a full slate of issues this weekend. They’ll discuss preliminary phases of major strategic planning – academic programs and spaces, student recruitment and support, and the college’s finances.

Asked whether the College would pursue legal action against Menefee, Creighton said senior staff have not yet decided what action to take.

“We haven’t sorted it out how we’re going to handle it – but it’s really between us and the student,” said Creighton.

Dean of the College Martha Denney says it was not until Thursday Jan. 30 that senior staff had any correspondence with Menefee. “Ed did not reach out to anyone in the administration; he responded to my e-mail of January 30 asking if he had sent the fraudulent message,” she wrote in an email.

Menefee, who says he has contacted Honor Council, is adamant that the email was not meant to deceive.

“I wouldn’t have sent out the email if I wasn’t going to take credit for it,” said Menefee, adding, “[Senior staff] say it was a fake email, when really it was real fake email.”

At least nine states currently have laws on online impersonation, Time magazine reports, with other states soon to follow. One recent bill, currently tabled in the Pennsylvania House, would make it a third-degree misdemeanor to use another person’s name or identifying information without consent. Bucks County Rep. Katharine Watson, who introduced the bill, emphasizes that “the crime would only apply if an individual uses malice with the sole intent of harming another person. This isn’t meant to criminally penalize those who are joking around but those who are, in essence, cyber bullying classmates, colleagues, people in authority, and others,” according to a press release.

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