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The fake Interim President responds

This article was revised on 2/4/2013.

The author of a fabricated email posing as Interim President Joanne Creighton and announcing changes to the College’s financial aid policy for undocumented students has reached out to senior staff and Honor Council — but not to apologize.

“I don’t think my email was fraud – it created an alternative reality that was more just. It was a representation of the world as it should be,” said Edward Menefee ’15, a current sophomore on leave, reacting to a campus-wide email response from senior staff which called his email an act of fraud and “a gross violation of the honor code” which “threatens to discredit what is otherwise a meaningful and important discussion.”

While he doesn’t think his actions are a violation of the Honor Code, Menefee said Wednesday’s article was the first he had heard of any reaction from the administration. He said that he contacted senior staff and the Honor Council with the intent of answering “any questions and concerns.”

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 details his intentions in a letter to the community, which is posted at the bottom of this article. The full text of senior staff’s response can also be found below.

Menefee, who is the co-founder of SUDDENmovement.org, a Tri-College group advocating for “just and equal” admissions policies for undocumented students at private colleges, doesn’t think the email was deceptive or harmful to the community.

“I wanted to raise the issue – because Haverford’s strategy has been to be silent, for a year,” said Menefee. He’s disappointed by the lack of action since students passed a resolution at the Spring 2012 Plenary. “The community can’t separate itself from this issue. We can’t be comfortable with injustice. And maybe it would help the Haverford community move forward on this if they got a good look at what the world should be – would look like.”

For him, the core of the issue is unequal admissions standards for undocumented students. Currently, there are three slots for international students to receive aid from the College. Menefee argues that the way aid is distributed makes standards for admission unequal – undocumented students, who must apply as international students, are competing for just 1 out of 3 spots for admission to Haverford, where the average student is competing for 1 out of 800, he says.

Menefee’s email has received mixed reactions. Many students were excited by the fabricated announcement and disappointed when they learned it was a hoax, with some worried it would damage ongoing efforts to change admissions policy. For the most part, it has managed to make the issue – if not simply its controversial mode of distribution – a hot topic of conversation.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that Menefee contacted senior staff prior to their email response to the Haverford community. Dean of the College Martha Denney says she was first to reach out on January 3o, through an email.

Senior staff’s response, dated Thurs. Jan 31 1:49PM:

Dear Members of the Haverford Community:

As you may know, someone impersonating President Creighton went to great lengths in an attempt to deceive this community into believing that the College would be making significant financial aid policy changes relating to undocumented students living in the U.S.  The message was sent from a gmail account designed to look like one that belongs to the president, and was addressed to our email list servers in a further effort to make it appear legitimate.  Though the message did not get approved by our list moderators, those of you who received it may have deduced that a separate, bcc list (compiled by the sender) was used as a backup method of delivery.

This deception required deliberation, planning and forethought.  This was not a musing sent by accident; it was not a poorly-considered April Fool’s joke; it was not a private message gone viral. There is no other way to describe this other than as an act of fraud. The idea of impersonating the identity of the president as a way of ‘contributing’ to the betterment of this community is deeply misguided—a gross violation of the honor code. 

This act of fraud also threatens to discredit what is otherwise a meaningful and important discussion. But rest assured, this attempt to influence a dialogue will not taint our interest in the underlying issue which has been supported by students in a recent Plenary resolution and is the subject of conversations with the senior administration, the Faculty and Student Admission Committee, and among the Board of Managers.  

Kim Benston, Provost

Mike Casel, Associate Vice President of Finance and Director of Investments
Joanne Creighton, President

Martha Denney, Dean of the College

Michael Kiefer, Vice President for Advancement

Jess Lord, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Jesse Lytle, Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Managers

Chris Mills ’82, Assistant Vice President for College Communications

Joe Spadaro, Chief Information Officer

Dick Wynn, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Menefee’s full letter to the community is pasted below. The Clerk has not independently verified any of the content or claims made in this letter. 

“A Letter to the Haverford Community From the Fake Interim President”

On Monday, The World As It Is and The World As It Should Be met for a brief second and said hello. They took a good look at each other and the World As It Should Be said, “It pains me to look at you- so ugly, hateful, and unfair you are. Why don’t you accept me? Let’s be one in the same.” But The World As It Is decided this was not to be and yelled out, “You are a fraud! How dare you show yourself?! I am The World As It Is, and we are indefinitely separate and different!”

Many in the Haverford community have told me that they were thrilled when they read the email, “Official Apology to the Undocumented American Community” that appeared to come from the Interim President. Many felt that the implementation of admissions equality, which had been anticipated for a year, was long overdue.  One Professor responded saying the announcement had renewed his sense of pride in the spirit and mission of Haverford.  Others agreed with the announcement that Haverford’s history is “truly shameful” and said it was about time that Haverford stops acting like a country club in the Deep South.  Jose, a current undocumented applicant to Haverford, read the email which included a personally apology to him and was overcome by a sensation- a mix of relief, hope, and vindication that he had never felt before.

Unfortunately, the Interim President effectively retracted her apology by siding with the World As It Is. Many administrators and students echoed “Fraud! Lie!” and said that the email had been a breach of trust with the community. One student said she had been harmed because she felt lied to on an issue she cares about. Words like “inappropriate” and “unjustified” were used to express judgment on the obtrusiveness of the unsolicited email or the impersonation of the Interim President.  Others expressed that the email was embarrassing and harmful to Haverford and made them feel uncomfortable.

I, Edward Menefee (Sophomore on leave, BMC Sociology major) have reached out to administrators and the Honor Council and claimed full responsibility for the email. I have nothing to hide and will answer any questions or concerns they have as I cooperate fully with their proceedings.  I will meet with any administrators or students who felt harmed or uncomfortable by the email (you can contact me at edward.menefee11@gmail.com). In general I can say that the email was not intended to deceive or harm anyone, and that I don’t think it did either one. I was surprised and disappointed to see the Senior Staff jump to judgment without having heard my side of what happened. I found it very unhaverfordian.  Only the Honor Council can decide if it violated the Honor Code, and I trust that they will do a good job.  If Haverford decides to separate me from the community because of this then it is not the community, I thought it was and I no longer wish to be part of it.

Jess Lord and I have met and discussed the admissions policy numerous times for over a year and a half.  He has told me that he has never disputed that the admissions process is separate and unequal and that there are no longer any financial concerns with extending fair, need-blind admissions to undocumented applicants.  He has no financial concerns because he knows that giving undocumented admits the same financial aid package that a high need documented applicant would receive would keep HC’s costs the same.  Any concerns about legality are and always have been bogus- thousands of undocumented students go to public and private colleges every year and in every state- and any talk of lingering concerns about financial costs are admittedly insincere.

Morally, the question has always been decided.  While I doubt my email violated the Honor Code, I have no doubt that Haverford’s policy, which effectively bans undocumented students, and continued inaction are unjust and violate the very core of the Honor Code and the Haverfordian spirit.  Moreover, the ban is harmful- its hurts people. Haverford maintains a structure of violence that inflicts pain, hardships, and limited outcomes on people like Jose and many others whose homes, families, lives, coursework, and futures are in this country.  Usually their stories and their suffering remain silent. On most days at Haverford, the structural violence remains invisible and goes unnoticed as documented students go to class and documented administrators retire to their warm homes at five.

I have told Jess Lord that silence, inaction, and invisibility will not continue.  I have told him that if Haverford is proud of its policy then it should promote it, if it is ashamed of its policy then it should change it, but it will no longer be able to hide it.

Far from a lie, I think the announcement was honest. Sure it was fantasy or theater, but fantasy can contain a lot of truths; whereas silence is part of Haverford’s structural violence.  Silence is not a naturally occurring, neutral, passive emptiness. It is an actively created existence that oppresses people and hides uncomfortable truths like the fact that we’re all the same yet some people are being hurt.  Moreover, silence is a lie itself. It is not an honest look at the World As It Is because for many of the privileged it falsely conveys a sense normalcy and adequacy of the status quo.  Yet we who are privileged to be documented Americans and have been admitted to Haverford cannot separate ourselves from Haverford’s policy and the violence being inflicted on Jose and his community.

Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.” –Ginetta Sagan

Haverford’s pattern of actions- and indeed, strategy- has always been to be silent on this issue. Haverford’s historic plenary vote was featured on the front page of the USA Today but was not mentioned on Haverford’s website or publications.  On the rare occasion, an administrator has mentioned in an email or an interview a sentence of two saying, “We’re looking at it. We have financial concerns.” I’ve met with Jess Lord and Joanne Creighton and both have told me that they do not know any undocumented person and do not know of any possibility for an undocumented voice to help inform Haverford’s decision. Neither of them would agree to testify as part of a Haverford Truth & Reconciliation Committee (HTRC) that would also accept testimony from undocumented Tri-co and high school students.  Despite that they’ve been looking at this issue for a year (behind closed doors with no timeline or report offered), no administrator has bothered to talk with a single undocumented American.  Next week, Fords for Immigrant Justice will begin collecting testimony (in the form of youtube videos) and committee member applications for the HTRC which will be open to the public on Haverford.eu- “where we take the D out of Haverford’s edu.” D for discrimination.

The announcement was an honest look at the World As It Should Be.  It included Jose’s undocumented voice and the self-evident truths embedded in his story.  Far from a lie, this email upheld the true spirit of the Honor Code and of the Haverford community.  I hope the Interim President will reconsider her decision. I urge her to copy and paste my email above her signature and to send it back out to the student body immediately. If she has doubts, I urge her to call Jose and ask him what he thinks is the right thing to do.

Sincerely,

Ed Menefee