A Victimless Crime?

Recently, we found out that the late ‘Professor’ Daniel Cassidy, a lecturer in Irish Studies at the now defunct New College of California and author of an appalling and almost completely fictional book called How The Irish Invented Slang did not have a degree from Cornell, as is currently claimed on his Wikipedia biography. His sister Susan tipped us off and the fact that he failed to graduate was then confirmed by the registrar at Cornell, Cassie Dembosky. Some sources claim that he had a degree from Columbia University and I have contacted the registrar there to see whether or not Cassidy gained any qualifications from them. As only a few sources even mention Columbia and the details are garbled, I doubt whether there is any substance to these claims either. (For example, on the Irish Crossroads Festival website it says that he had a degree from Columbia and a Master’s in History from Cornell. It seems highly unlikely that Cornell would have given him a postgrad after he was kicked out of his undergrad studies there and most sources don’t even mention Columbia.) His sister also says that it was his brother Michael who studied at Columbia, not Daniel Cassidy.

I have also contacted the registrar at San Francisco State, where it is claimed Cassidy taught before he was given his Professorship at New College of California. I will post any further news here as it arrives. However, while we’re waiting for clarifications, it seems timely to anticipate some of the things that Cassidy’s supporters might have to say about these revelations in relation to their hero.

Firstly, I’m not expecting any of them to say sorry or accept that they’ve made a mistake. Cassidy’s supporters are far too arrogant and smug to apologise. Like Cassidy himself, most of these people seem to be of the opinion that they are incapable of making a mistake and that they know better than an ivory tower full of dons and experts.

I’m also sure that some of them will shrug and say that it doesn’t matter. After all, some people thought that Cassidy was a great teacher and nobody realised that he didn’t have the qualifications a professor is supposed to have. So where’s the harm?

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the harm is. Maybe Cassidy seemed competent but the book suggests he had no idea about methodology or genuine research. And even if he was very able and a great lecturer, so what? I believe in equality of opportunity. If a person meets the criteria for a job and has better experience and skills and qualifications than the other candidates, they should be given the post, regardless of their colour or sexual orientation or whether they have the approbation of the local Grand Poo-Bah of the Orange Order. When people lie about their qualifications, what right do they have to lecture others about ethical and decent behaviour?

After all, suppose that Cassidy earned a salary of 50,000 dollars a year at NCC for a period of twelve years as a professor. And let’s assume that even in a badly-run and nepotistic outfit like NCC he wouldn’t have been given a professorship with no qualifications. That’s six hundred thousand dollars that went to Cassidy when it should have gone to someone with appropriate qualifications. This is a white-collar crime and didn’t involve violence but is it really so much better in moral terms than walking into a bank with a fake gun and stealing sixty thousand dollars?

The law still calls it theft. In 2014, a Professor of Business Studies at Polk State called David Scott Broxterman, 55, was arrested and charged with grand theft over $100,000 and cheating. That figure was based on his earnings for the job for which he was unqualified. The State Attorney’s Office said he submitted fake transcripts to Polk State claiming he earned a doctorate degree from the University of South Florida in 2007 and that he displayed a forged diploma in his office. Apparently the diploma was badly produced, with a signature from USF President Judy C. Genshaft that should have been Judy L. Genshaft, the wrong color and placement of the USF seal and the word “Board” misspelled “Baord.” Broxterman was a popular teacher and had an overall rating of 4.9 out of 5 on the popular website ratemyprofessor.com.

The only real difference between Broxterman and Cassidy is that Cassidy got away with it for a lot longer. That, and the fact that Broxterman actually had some genuine qualifications!

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