Cornell U. Faculty Members Criticize Prosecution of Student Whistle-Blower

Updated (4/17/2017, 6:56 p.m.) with comment from the university.

Faculty members at Cornell University are speaking out against its decision to hold a hearing to determine whether a student who shared an internal working document with the campus newspaper should be punished, The Cornell Daily Sun reports.

The University Hearing and Review Board, a pool of people on the New York campus who review cases brought by the university’s Office of the Judicial Administrator, will hear the case of Mitch McBride, a senior, on Wednesday. According to the office, Mr. McBride allegedly violated the campus’s code of conduct when he shared documents from a working group on admissions and financial aid on which he served.

The document detailed proposed changes in the university’s undergraduate admissions policy, notably the idea that Cornell consider reviewing transfer applicants’ financial need in deciding whether to admit them. Mr. McBride told the Sun that he had shared the document because the university community “needed to be involved before such a drastic decision was going to be made that was going to change the mission of the university from ‘any person, any study’ to any rich person.” The reference is to the university’s motto — “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study” — formulated in 1868 by Ezra Cornell, its founder.

John J. Carberry, a Cornell spokesman, said Mr. McBride’s action was “detrimental to the stakeholder process and limits the ability of the university to investigate all possible policy options.” He added that the university would respect the outcome of the independent hearing and review board’s proceedings.

Kevin Clermont, a law professor at Cornell who told the Sun that he had worked on the team charged with revising the code of conduct, said that the administration was “trying to stretch the code to reach behavior that the code does not cover.” Faculty members who spoke with the campus newspaper remarked that the prosecution of Mr. McBride was “trivial” and “unjustified.”

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