A Haverford College student sent the community a hoax email using the school president's name to announce a purported change in financial aid for illegal immigrants, officials said Wednesday.
The message wrongly stated that Haverford adopted need-blind admissions for such students, meaning their ability to pay tuition would not be a factor in gaining entrance to the selective liberal arts school. The college already has need-blind admissions for U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
The Jan. 28 email was ostensibly signed by interim college President Joanne Creighton. But student Edward Menefee, an activist on immigrant issues, acknowledged Wednesday that he impersonated Creighton in order to “awaken the community” to the issue.
Admissions dean Jess Lord called the email “outrageous and really detrimental to the community.” He said it trivializes an issue that has been under serious consideration for months at the college, which has Quaker roots and a strong commitment to social justice.
The prank comes as lawmakers begin addressing immigration reform in Congress. President Barack Obama supports a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S., something many Republicans oppose.
Menefee, a 21-year-old sophomore from Montgomery, Ala., is currently on leave from Haverford to work for Sudden Movement. The group campaigns for college access for illegal immigrants, many of whom were brought to the U.S. as children.
Menefee said he sent the email to nearly 1,000 students, staff and faculty, but officials note it was partially blocked from campus distribution lists. The message came from a non-college account, although Menefee used Creighton's name as part of the email address.
Lord said a couple of staff members in his office received the message and thought it was real. The email was first reported by The Clerk, Haverford's student newspaper.
The college near Philadelphia enrolls about 1,200 undergraduates and meets the full financial need of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. For those who don't meet the criteria -- including illegal immigrants and international students -- the school sets aside aid for only three applicants, and their ability to pay is taken into consideration. Tuition, room and board cost about $57,000 per year.
The student body passed a resolution last year calling on Haverford to apply need-blind admissions to illegal immigrants. Lord said the barrier to such a policy is purely financial, partly because it's hard to know how the applicant pool would be affected. But the change is being considered.
Menefee's future at the school is unclear. The college has a strong honor code, and Lord said the activist's case will be handled by the all-student Honor Council. Expulsion is a possibility, although there are administrative appeals.
“Unfortunately, even if I am expelled I will still have infinitely more college options than my closest friends,” Menefee said, referring to peers who are in the country illegally.
Creighton is serving as Haverford's interim leader until new president Dan Weiss takes the helm in July. Weiss is currently the president of Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.