Tag Archives: Cornell University

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!

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The Day JFK Was Shot

I noticed something interesting the other day in the description of Cassidy’s contribution to an oral history project at the Tamiment Library, curated by New York University. You can find the description here: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/aia_030/dscref56.html

In general, the oral history project looks interesting. There are plenty of names I’ve never heard of, along with some which will be familiar to most Irish people and even one or two who are familiar faces around Belfast, like Frank Costello.

Cassidy was interviewed by his old crony Peter Quinn. One particular detail caught my eye. It says that “Cassidy provides an insider’s perspective on the day JFK was assassinated as a rookie journalist in the newsroom of the New York Times.”

This is interesting, because it throws up the same problems of chronology and accuracy that bedevil every attempt to work out the details of Cassidy’s life. The problem is that Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. We have sporadic references to Cassidy in the Cornell Daily Sun from February 1961, when he was applying for admittance to the Chi Psi fraternity, right through February 1963 when he was made co-editor of a literary mag at Cornell called the Trojan Horse, right up to May 1965, a month before he was withdrawn from the University, when he won a university award for his poetry.

In other words, I am very sceptical about his ‘insider’s perspective on the day JFK was assassinated as a rookie journalist in the newsroom of the New York Times.’ Not that I’m calling Cassidy a liar or anything – I’m sure we’ve all invented a degree or two to get that plum job or written a book full of fake nonsense in a language we don’t speak at some time in our lives.

Of course, I suppose he could have been working part-time in the New York Times while studying, or done a year’s work experience in between two years at college. It’s just that that isn’t the way Cassidy himself told it. In a radio interview with Myles Dungan broadcast on RTÉ 1 on the 11th of February 2007 (now available as a podcast), Cassidy states that he took a job with the New York Times after he finished at Cornell. Notice that he doesn’t say that he graduated (he knew, and we know, that he didn’t graduate.) Perhaps he just forgot where he was. I mean, who remembers where they were when JFK was shot?

I must say, I know where I was. I was in my high chair eating a rusk. As the car glided on and the president crumpled, I pointed at the screen, the rusk momentarily forgotten, dripping milk and crumbs into the bowl. I was unable to speak. Well, to be honest, I only knew about four words at the time: mummy, daddy, doggie, horsey, and somehow none of them seemed quite appropriate to the gravity of the situation …

(If anyone at the Tamiment Library would like to interview me about my traumatic experience of JFK’s death for posterity, you know where to find me.)

So, if Cassidy was still a student in 1963, why did he tell Peter Quinn he was in the newsroom of the New York Times? I’ll take a wee punt here. Cassidy was probably chatting to Peter Quinn one day about JFK, and in keeping with his personal philosophy that a lie is simply a fact with ambition, Cassidy probably told him about his imaginary experience in the newsroom when the news of JFK’s death came through. After all, he was in the newsroom at the New York Times just a couple of short years later, so he was well-placed to take a guess. All well and good, until Peter Quinn turns up with a tape recorder and asks him about that particular occasion. And at that point, Cassidy has the choice to do the right thing and say, Actually, Peter, that was just a humungous crock of shite, like nearly everything I’ve ever told you, or do the wrong thing and carry on lying as if his life depended on it.

Not much of a choice if you’re Daniel Cassidy, who would sooner have stopped breathing than stop lying!

By the way, there’s another interesting inconsistency in the Dungan interview and the Tamiment description. In the Dungan interview, Cassidy states that he sold a script called South of Market to F.F. Coppola, who was a few years senior to him in the New York Military Academy and was nicknamed Ichabod (thank God Cassidy didn’t try to find an Irish origin for that! Ith an bod, which sounds very similar, means ‘eat the penis!’). In the Tamiment description, it says that it was a script called The Volunteer. So maybe the details are wrong. Or … maybe he never really sold any scripts to F.F Coppola at all?

An Update

This is just a quick update on the state of my investigations into Cassidy’s academic record. Did he have any degrees? Did he claim to have degrees when he applied for academic jobs? Apart from Cassie Dembosky at Cornell, a registrar who plainly takes her responsibility to combat academic fraud seriously and who replied promptly with the information that Cassidy did not have the claimed degree from that institution, I have tried emailing a number of institutions but with no result, not even a negative reply. However, as I have said before, I am not going to give up on this. I have written a number of formal letters and sent them off by snail mail. Hopefully the recipients will respond to them just as Cassie Dembosky did, by doing the right thing. If they don’t, I have a number of other plans. I will not rest until the full extent of Cassidy’s fraud and deceit is exposed to the world.

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!

More On Cassidy’s Degree

Recently, I received messages from Cassidy’s sister in which she stated that Cassidy flunked his degree at Cornell. If this is the case, then it seems to suggest that Cassidy had no degree.

As I have said before, I cannot prove that this particular claim is true, but I think it certainly makes sense. There is a lack of any solid information in accounts of Cassidy’s educational background. While it says on Wikipedia that he graduated from Cornell, in other interviews he simply talks about studying at Cornell. There is no indication anywhere of what level of degree he might have achieved, if any.

The fact is, knowing what I know about Cassidy, I consider the claim entirely credible. I have met plenty of narcissists like Cassidy and I know that someone like him, on realising that getting a good job required lying about his educational background, would immediately invent lots of justifications for committing such a fraud. I wudda had dat degree, only coicumstances was against me. I should really do dis, because dey need more Irish-American workin’-class stiffs like me. If I can geddaway wid dis, dat proves dat dese guys in academia are da real frauds. Dey should be thanking me! I can do good things for Irish-America if I can only get a break. I’m smart. I’ll prove it once I get into da job! etc. etc. etc.

Hopefully, Cornell University will look at this question and let the world know officially whether Cassidy was a graduate. While we wait for corroborating evidence, all I can say is that there is a real question mark about whether Cassidy had any kind of academic qualification at all. I always thought that a primary degree was a poor basis for a professorship. Graduating from high school (assuming that he even did that!) is an even poorer basis for a chair. It might entitle him to a job as a janitor. But a professorship? Not a chance!

Did Daniel Cassidy Have a University Degree?

Wow! For several years now, I have been posting regularly here, trying to convince people that Daniel Cassidy’s insane theories about the Irish origins of American slang have no basis in fact. In the process, I have often questioned Cassidy’s qualifications. According to Wikipedia, he had a degree from Cornell. He seems to have had no other qualifications. No Master’s degree, no doctorate. Not even a diploma. However, I never doubted that he had a primary degree.

This rainy and miserable evening, I logged on to the computer to start writing a post about the subject of the word ballyhoo and the claims made by Loretto Todd and Daniel Cassidy about its origin from the Irish word bailiú. However, when I logged on, I was amazed to receive a message from Cassidy’s sister Susan Cassidy Connors:

Danny was always an FOS person–he was older than he claimed, was a liar and a thief, and tore the family apart.

BTW, he did attend Cornell, but flunked out!

So, it looks as if the Cassidy scandal might be an even bigger scandal than I thought. We knew that Cassidy was guilty of egoism and misinformation and deception but if this is correct, then Cassidy was guilty of far more. Claiming to have an academic qualification to obtain employment is a serious criminal offence, and surely nobody would have employed him as an academic knowing that he had no academic qualifications at all! Several sources also mention Columbia, with one of them claiming that he graduated from that university, but as this is only one source, it seems unlikely.

As it stands, of course, I cannot prove this claim one way or the other. I have contacted the Registrar’s Office at Cornell to inform them and I hope that they will investigate and issue a statement on this if appropriate. I suggest that the Registrar’s Office at San Francisco State should also investigate if Cassidy worked with them and what proof he offered of his academic qualifications. (According to a discussion on Wikipedia on the origins of the word jazz, Cassidy worked on the faculty of SFS before taking up his chair at NCC, which was in 1995.)

To those who have followed cassidyslangscam with interest, watch this space. Things are starting to get very interesting!