Update: This story originally posted on Nov. 1. It was updated at 3 p.m. on Nov. 6, at the Reporter’s print deadline, and again at 5:30 p.m., after Langley brought her hard copy, original degree into the Reporter’s office.
After an emotionally charged weeklong investigation into the academic credentials of Mercer Island City Council candidate Joy Langley, the Reporter obtained a media statement from Cornell University on Wednesday that the school does not have a record of Langley’s degree.
Langley, who wrote in her candidate statement that she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Cornell, told the Reporter that her degree could not be independently verified through avenues like the National Student Clearinghouse because she chose to keep her student records private.
She maintains that she graduated from the university in 2004, but a spokesperson said that Cornell cannot find a record of her enrollment.
“After receiving numerous inquiries and speaking directly with Ms. Langley, Cornell University re-examined its digital and paper archives, at the university and college level, and can confirm that we have no record of a person named Joy Langley or Joy Esther Langley attending or graduating from this institution,” John Carberry, Cornell’s senior director of media relations, wrote in an email. “We can also confirm that the Office of the University Registrar has never received a request to make private any records related to Ms. Langley.”
Langley said on the morning of Nov. 1 that she had decided to seal her records and protect her information because a fellow student had stalked her while she attended Cornell.
“I think that in this environment where there are women who are emboldened to come forward, I think this is an important time to come forward with that. My records were sealed. I should NOT be in the National Student Clearinghouse. I opted out because it was a very scary time for me,” she said. “That’s the reason why the records are sealed so tightly, that’s the reason why I’m not entirely eager to crack them open again. And that’s the reason why the university has had such a hard time extricating them… I have been on the phone with the registrar. I have faxed over my diploma to them. I really do hope this just puts things to rest.”
The Reporter notified Langley about Carberry’s statement on the evening of Nov. 1. She said she was “very confused” and “shocked,” and would continue searching for her records. Carberry would not answer any follow up questions.
Langley brought her framed degree into the Mercer Island Reporter’s office on Nov. 6, and said she faxed it to Cornell. She had provided a photocopy of her diploma to the Reporter on Oct. 26.
Cornell’s registrar and office of media relations were contacted multiple times over the past weeks by the Reporter, Langley and other Islanders seeking Langley’s credentials, some of whom graduated from Cornell and initially brought concerns about “degree irregularities” to the Reporter.
She said she was notified on Nov. 1 that the registrar’s office at Cornell could not locate her transcripts, which she previously said were frozen because “someone claiming to be a prospective employer wanted access to [her] academic records.”
Campaign flyers endorsing Langley stated that she “got dual degrees in Philosophy and Political Science from Cornell,” but her politics degree is from nearby Ithaca College. That can be verified, along with her master’s degree in political management from George Washington University. Ithaca offers an exchange program with Cornell, but Langley says she earned degrees from both institutions.
She said by using a combination of credit from internships, AP courses, independent study and online matriculation — as well as taking the maximum amount of credits allowed each semester — she completed the degree requirements at Ithaca and Cornell in four years. She said she left the Ithaca degree off of her candidate statement due to the word count restriction.
Langley said she earned a Cornell diploma “after a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
“I don’t know what else to do,” Langley said. “It seems like I disappeared; it doesn’t make sense to me. I was handed a diploma on the 30th of May [in 2004]. The only thing I can chalk it up to is the university must have lost my materials.”
Langley said she will reach out to her supporters and explain the situation.
“I have no motivation to lie about it,” she said. “I’ve got the [bachelor’s degree] and the masters — why would I have gone backwards and done something like this?”
Cornell’s student newspaper reported on Nov. 4 that Langley was not in the 2004 yearbook, but that “there is a Joy Esther Langley listed as an alumna in Cornell’s people search.”
Langley said she is “working with the assistance of my attorney to provide all available documents regarding my time in Ithaca.”
Valerie Cross Dorn, associate university counsel at Cornell, wrote to Langley’s attorney on Nov. 6.
“We undertook a diligent investigation before Mr. Carberry made his statement, which included searches of University records and direct communications with [Langley],” Dorn wrote. “She was requested to provide the name of her advisor at Cornell, the names of any courses she took, a copy of any Cornell transcript she has, a legible copy of the diploma she identifies as having been issued by Cornell, or any other evidence she may have to document her enrollment at Cornell, and she provided none of the requested information.”
Dorn wrote that if Langley can provide any of that information, “the university is certainly willing to undertake a further search of university records.” Until then, they “stand by the statement as issued.”