Tag Archives: Columbia University

More On Columbia University

A little over a month ago, I wrote a letter to Columbia University’s registrar, Barry Kane, and informed him that there is evidence that Daniel Cassidy claimed to have a degree from Columbia. Readers of this blog will remember that we wrote to Cornell a few years back and the registrar there immediately confirmed that Cassidy was kicked out of Cornell without a degree. Unfortunately, we have still heard nothing from Columbia. However, (serendipity again!) I happened across this story, about a well-known Irish ‘celebrity’ therapist, who has had to take down his website after it was revealed by the Irish Mail on Sunday that he had a fake doctorate.

‘Dr’ Fergus Heffernan, who lectured in family therapy, had been a guest on some of Ireland’s most popular radio programmes. He had also toured the country, lecturing on mental health to corporate and community groups. Sounds like Cassidy, who also toured the country giving interviews on the radio and lecturing on his fake etymology and pretending to have university qualifications!

However, this is the bit that really interested me. This newspaper’s investigation revealed that Mr Heffernan had falsely claimed to be a ‘visiting professor’ to a number of top International universities, including Trinity College Dublin, Boston University, and New York’s Columbia University. According to the article, ‘all three university institutions ­claim that they have no record of any employment or affiliation with Mr Heffernan.’

So, Columbia does sometimes answer questions about people who are claiming links with Columbia which they don’t really have. Like the way the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival claims that its founder, Daniel Cassidy, had a degree from Columbia which I am quite certain was entirely fictional. So, why haven’t we heard anything yet? Perhaps Heffernan thought he could get away with it because others have got away with it before!

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An open letter to the Columbia Registrar

A couple of years ago, I wrote to Columbia University to warn them that Cassidy and some of his supporters claimed that Cassidy had a degree from Columbia. Obviously, it is important for academic institutions to protect the integrity of the degrees they offer and no self-respecting university would want to be linked to an obvious fraud like Cassidy. I’ll assume that my previous communications with Columbia went astray and I have decided to contact them again. To that end, I have sent the following letter (by post) to Barry Kane, the Registrar:

Dear Mr Kane

For the past two years I have been working on attacking the late Daniel Cassidy, his supporters and his book How The Irish Invented Slang through a blog called cassidyslangscam on WordPress. You probably haven’t heard of Cassidy but most people with an interest in Irish language and culture have heard of him. Cassidy worked (if that’s the right word) for over 12 years in New College of California, a small and now defunct liberal arts college, as Professor of the Irish Studies department. He was a darling of the American left, friendly with lots of important figures like Ishmael Reed, Peter Linebaugh, Alexander Cockburn and Peter Quinn and he garnered a lot of publicity throughout the English-speaking world. He was also a manipulative, narcissistic fraud who invented nearly every Irish phrase in his crazy book and apparently had no academic qualifications at all.

Most sources say that he had a degree from Cornell. Others say that he had degrees from Cornell and Columbia. For example, the In Memoriam section on the website of the San Francisco Irish-American Crossroads Festival says that his primary degree was from Columbia. Most other sources suggest that he had a postgraduate degree from Columbia. Acting on a tip-off I contacted Cornell where the registrar told me that he never completed his degree there, though he spent between three and four years studying there. (There are full details of this on the blog.)

In a Q&A, you say that: “More than anything else, the Registrar is the guardian of the academic record and is responsible for its accuracy and integrity. There is no room for error in what we do. Our work must be perfect.” This is true but if people are allowed to gain respect, academic positions and financial gain unchallenged by falsely claiming to have Columbia qualifications, this seriously undermines the value of that work. I realise that you must be very busy but I would ask you to investigate Cassidy’s Columbia degree and issue a statement on the question, either through this blog or through your own official channels.

It will be interesting to see if we receive any reply from Columbia this time. It would be fantastic to demonstrate finally that Cassidy’s Columbia degree was just as fraudulent as the degree he claimed to have from Cornell!

Another Update

Well, it has been several weeks now since I last updated people on my search for the truth about Cassidy’s qualifications. However, before giving a further update, I will just run through the background for the sake of anyone who has just joined us.

Daniel Cassidy worked as an academic in California for twelve years. He published a totally off-the-wall book which revealed that he knew absolutely nothing about Irish, Irish Studies or Linguistics. Sources online claim that he had a degree from Cornell. Others claim that he had a degree from Columbia as well. However, a couple of months ago, acting on a tip-off from his sister, I contacted Cornell, whose registrar Cassie Dembosky confirmed that Cassidy flunked out and never received his degree.

Since then, I have been searching for further information. I particularly wanted to find out if there was any evidence of what qualifications he claimed to have when he applied for work in California at New College of California and before that at San Francisco State (probably) and I also wanted to confirm that he had no qualifications from Columbia. So, I have written a few letters and emails to these institutions.

So far, the only reply I have had was from WASC, the body in charge of higher education in California. In a somewhat begrudging exchange (on both sides, after the first reply) I have established that WASC does not keep the records of the staff of the now defunct New College of California. Still, begrudging is better than no answer at all. Way to go, Danielle! Anyway, that’s one door closed.

Whatever dog-eared and largely fictional curriculum vitae this man submitted to these institutions has probably been shredded years ago. That’s assuming that there was ever a proper hiring process at New College. Perhaps they did something Californian – casting the runes or the I Ching, looking at Cassidy’s horoscope, or perhaps Martin Hamilton had a prophetic dream or decided that the vibes were good (“I have a good feeling about Daniel. The chakras are strong in this one…”) Who knows?

Anyway, that leaves San Francisco State, who haven’t replied, and Columbia. I suppose it isn’t really essential to get confirmation from Columbia (we know he didn’t graduate from Cornell and personally I refuse to believe Cassidy had any qualifications at all until I see proof of it) but you would think an academic institution like Columbia, when informed that a fairly high-profile charlatan has almost certainly claimed to have a degree from them when he almost certainly didn’t would be at pains to set the record straight.

Apparently not. Perhaps Columbia doesn’t value its academic integrity as highly as Cornell.

Still, I’ll keep on trying and I live in hope that one day someone in Columbia will say “Hm, maybe he’s right! Perhaps we should do something about a well known pseudo-scholar who apparently claimed to be a graduate of Columbia when he wasn’t!”

No News = Good News?

Well, we have still heard nothing from Columbia University or San Francisco State. However, the Easter holidays tend to disrupt things and of course, email is not as effective as snail mail for some purposes (though Cornell were happy enough to oblige when approached by email – well done to them!) I will give them a week or two and see if anything happens but don’t think I have given up! If I don’t hear anything by then, I will start mailing letters to people and then there is always the press. I am not going to stop until I find out the full extent of Daniel Cassidy’s fraud and make that information available to the public. Watch this space!