Take Note

Cornell or confusion?

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"Welcome to Cornell!" begins the letter. "We are delighted to welcome you to the university. We thought some information might be of help as you take steps to become a full-fledged member of the Cornell community."

Unfortunately, Cornell University welcomed more people than it intended.

Last December, the Ivy League university in Ithaca, N.Y., sent such a letter to nearly four dozen applicants for whom it was deferring a final decision on admission.

One of those applicants is so upset that she is considering suing.

The university acknowledges that it mistakenly sent the generic welcome notice to 44 applicants seeking an early decision on admission but contends that it was accompanied by the intended letter--one notifying students of the decision to defer them.

But Elizabeth Mikus, a senior at the private Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Mass., said she never got the deferral letter, only the welcome notice.

She says she told her friends that she was headed for Cornell, withdrew her applications from other universities, and sent off a $200 deposit to reserve a place in the freshman class, just as the letter instructed.

A week later, she got a phone call from the college-admissions office explaining the error.

Now Ms. Mikus may sue the university if she is not accepted.

"Any reasonable person who read the letter, their perception would be that they would be packing their bags and going to Cornell," said Allen Tufankjian, her lawyer.

"But they are saying because it wasn't signed--despite the fact it's even stronger than their admissions letter--that it's something different," he said.

Acceptance and rejection letters for the regular applicant pool were mailed last week, but the university will not comment on individual admissions decisions.

A spokeswoman noted that the generic welcome letter was not addressed specifically to Ms. Mikus nor was it signed by an admissions officer.

"Our point is that does not constitute an acceptance letter from Cornell," said Linda Grace-Kobas, the director of the university news service.

"We try to make every effort so [mistakes] don't happen," she said. "This was very unfortunate and regrettable."

Vol. 14, Issue 29, Page 3

Published in Print: April 12, 1995, as Take Note
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