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The Endless Battle between Dongguk & Yale

"We have concluded that our silence could negatively influence our suit," said Han Jin-soo, Vice President of Dongguk University, in his opening remarks to a press conference on November 2nd.  The conference was held in the Main Hall for two reasons: To respond to Yale's imprudent statements and to announce Dongguk's "motion for leave to amend" complaint. 

According to an October 30th article in The New York Times, Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said that there was no negligence or recklessness on the part of Yale and if the case went to trial, the jury would certainly take into consideration the fact that the chairman of Dongguk's board had been convicted of soliciting and receiving an illegal government subsidy from Ms. Shin's lover, an adviser to the Korean president.  Another letter to The New York Times, released on November 8th, had Conroy again referring to the Dongguk's chairman's receipt of an illegal subsidy from Ms. Shin's lover, but added, damningly, that Dongguk's lawsuit was an attempt to distract attention from Dongguk's original misdemeanor by inflating Yale's innocent mistakes. 

The conviction had absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit.  "The whole point of this suit is that Dongguk wants damages from Yale for supplying false information about Shin Jeong-ah's doctorate.  But Yale sidetracks this in order to cloud the issue," said Lee Jin-young, the leader of the Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations agency representing Dongguk.  Also, Lanny Davis, an attorney for Dongguk, said that Yale compounded things by attacking the victim on a completely irrelevant matter rather than taking responsibility. He expressed disappointment over Yale's putative commitment to "light and truth."
Moreover, Yale's statement, written in Korean, said that Dongguk made an unnecessary suit and that the university (Yale) expected to win the legal battle.  This was published in the "Weekly Choson" on October 13th.

Dongguk regards the aforementioned, e.g. the attention-diverting counter-accusation of an illegal government subsidy, as an additional defamation and has made a formal request for Yale to drop this point. 
 First, Yale should show basic ethics when talking to the media.  Second, Yale should remember that the government subsidy is not related to this lawsuit.  To cover up their mistakes by reverting to an unrelated incident is a dishonorable act.  Therefore, Dongguk urges Yale to stop doing this.  Third, Yale should keep in mind that such a tactic is a double-edged sword.

"Pre-trial Discoveries": What Dongguk found out?

In the press conference held in Dongguk's Main Hall, the Vice President announced that Dongguk had recently amended its complaint with the Connecticut District court in New York with new findings.  The pre-trial session is a way for lawsuits to collate more information on the opponents.  Dongguk found out six new pieces of evidence during the session.  Cho Eui-yon, an officer of Dongguk, said "this new evidence not only reveals Yale's negligence, but also their reckless disregard of standards."

The following outlines the new evidence.

First, Yale already knew that this case would provoke fierce criticism.  On June 10, 2007, Dongguk sent an email to Susan Emerson, the Registrar for the Department of Art History at Yale.  In the email, Dongguk again sought to determine whether Yale had a record of Shin's Dissertation and proof that Shin had earned her Ph.D. degree from the Graduate School.  Later that day, Emerson sent an email which stated that Shin had not received a Ph.D. from Yale University.  Moreover, Emerson forwarded Dongguk's emails to the inner company, saying that: "I don't know how Yale handles such matters but it seems to have "litigation" written all over it."  In July, 2007, while preparing a response to President Oh's letter, Susan Carney, a Deputy in the Yale General Counsel, sent an email to Edward Barnaby, a graduate school assistant dean, stating: "I remain concerned [sic] about the apparent fax lines on the document transmittal sheets and the apparent receipt within the Dean's office of the 2005 inquiry."  Following up on her concerns, Carney responded to Dongguk, stating that Shin had not received a Ph.D. from Yale, and that the Certification letter was a "forgery."  Perhaps the reason why there are so many qualifying statements in Yale's reply to Dongguk is because they were probably already considering the possible legal implications.
Second, very early on Yale organized an internal response team to cope with this case.  On June 15, 2007, because Barnaby was concerned about Yale's reputation, he sent an email to, among others, Emerson and Schirmeister, with a copy to Carney, which gave instructions about how to handle inquiries regarding Shin.  "Should anyone contact you regarding Jeong ah Shin, please decline to offer information.  Once a contact in Public Affairs has been named, you can refer inquiries to that person."  On that day, Yale assigned Tom Conroy, the Deputy Director of Yale University's Office of Public Affairs, to handle all Korean media inquiries regarding Shin. 

Third, although Yale had several opportunities to check that the registered mail Dongguk sent in 2005, along with the September 22nd fax, was authentic, it made no effort until the United States Department of Justice served an information subpoena on the University.  Cho said: "If Yale had disclosed the facts in the first reply of July, 2007, Dongguk may not have received such harsh criticism from the public."

Fourth, it was only because Yale University received the Information Subpoena that it conducted a thorough investigation and discovered that the registered letter and the fax had always been in Schirmeister's files.  Yale had told the public that the September 5 registered letter was never received by Yale and that the September 22 fax was a fake.

Fifth, even after Yale verified the case, it did not straighten things out.  Even though Yale sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice, it did not issue an official statement correcting its past errors nor take any corrective action whatsoever.  More than six weeks after Yale knew the truth, Carney sent a terse letter by email to President Oh of Dongguk in which Yale acknowledged that it had been in error when it stated that the September 22 fax was a fake.  The email also categorically stated that the September 22 fax is "indeed authentic."  In an effort to explain away this action, Carney stated that the fax had been sent in "the rush of business."  And on December 29, 2007, approximately two and one-half months after Yale discovered its error and almost six months after Yale denied the truth, the university finally issued a formal public statement admitting that it had committed an "error." 

Finally, it is surprising that Yale continues to circulate false reports.  According to a public statement on December 29, 2007, "Yale has changed its protocols for verifying graduate degrees."  And, "a more thorough investigation and document search has concluded that Yale indeed erroneously verified the purported May 2005 letter as a result of an administrative error."  However, the report was false because, at the time of its dissemination, Yale had not "changed its protocols" and did not conduct a "thorough investigation" based upon Dongguk University's request.  Additionally, when Dongguk asked for an explanation of why it took so long for Yale to discover the true facts, Carney again failed to tell the truth in a responding letter.  She explained the reason, stating: "That evidence became available only later, at the end of August and early September, when you located a delivery tracking document and provided it to us. Thereafter, our renewed inquiry turned up the original September 22, 2005 facsimile cover sheet." 
But, the documentation that Dongguk sent to Carney had nothing to do with Yale's discovery of its errors nor was there a "renewed inquiry" based upon such documentation.  Based on these evidences, Dongguk handed up its application on October 20 of this year. 

There are some reflective voices about the scandal surrounding Yale University.  Yale Daily News, a newspaper published by Yale University students, took a neutral attitude when reporting this issue.  And the replies of the article "South Korean degree scandal escalates" in Yale Daily News, released on October 30th, were varied.  ID 'J' said: "If you lie in the academic world, you are done. I believe that Yale's reputation is worth much more than 50 million.  Don't avoid the problems, deal with them.  If you made mistakes, take responsibility."  ID 'cheekyB' said "Yale is at fault, but $50M is a bit much." 

The deposition is scheduled for December. A pre-trial conference will be held, but if Dongguk and Yale fail to reach a settlement during the conference, a summary judgment will commence.  Cho said: "The compensation for damages is not the number one goal in this trial.  If the judge gives Yale a verdict of guilty, the judgment itself will recover Dongguk's tarnished reputation."

History of the Case

September 5, 2005, To verify the fact that Shin had received a Ph.D. from Yale, DU sent a registered letter to Yale together with a copy of the Certification Letter provided by Shin.
September 22, 2005, Schirmeister sent DU a three-page fax consisting of a transmittal sheet as well as a copy of DU’s September 5 Registered Letter and the Certification Letter that had been provided to DU by Shin.
June 14, 2007,  DU informed Yale that DU was contacting Yale on behalf of DU and that DU was seeking “help” in “verifying whether Shin attended Yale University and received a Ph.D.”
July 5, 2007, President Oh asked President Levin to verify whether Shin attended Yale University and received a Ph.D. and if the answer to the inquiry is “No,” then how Schirmeister came to issue the Ph.D. certification letter for Shin.
July 10, 2007, Yale stated that Shin did not receive a Ph.D. from Yale, the Certification Letter was a forgery, the September 22 Fax was “not authentic” and Yale had no “knowledge currently regarding the creation or issuance” of the September 22 Fax.
August 31, 2007, Dongguk sent Yale an email stating that DU had located the United States Postal Service’s tracking record that established that the September 5 Registered Letter was signed for by “M Moore YCM,” and that “M Moore” was Michael Moore, one of the YCM staff members.
September 1, 2007, Yale sent a responsive email to Dongguk stating “There was no one by the name “Michael Moore” working there in 2005, and “YCM” is not an acronym related to the Graduate School Dean’s office, where Dean Schirmeister works.
In a return email, Dongguk informed Yale that the acronym “YCM” stands for “Yale Central Mailroom” and he provided a website link to Yale University’s website that established that Michael Moore was a person employed by Yale University in the Yale Central Mailroom.
October 11, 2007, Shin was arrested by the Korean Prosecutors, and was accused of fabricating a doctorate degree and other documents from Yale University.
October 18, 2007, Schirmeister’s assistant searched his files and found the original of the September 22 Fax as well as the original September 5 Registered Letter including the envelope in which it had been sent.
October 29, 2007, Yale sent a letter to the United States Department of Justice, informing that Yale University had received the September 5 Letter and had sent the September 22 Fax. However, Yale did not issue an official statement correcting its past errors or take any corrective action whatsoever.
December 29, 2007, approximately two and one-half months after Yale discovered its error, Yale finally issued a formal public statement that it had committed an “error.”

The Post  .

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