Office of the President
Princeton, New Jersey


Members of the Faculty and Staff, Graduate Students and Members of the Classes of 2003, 2004, 2005


Shirley M. Tilghman


July 29, 2002


I was informed last Wednesday night by Yale University that it had identified 18 occasions in early April when one or more individuals using computers on the Princeton campus gained access to a website that Yale had established to inform its applicants of admission decisions. Gaining access required the applicant's name, birth date, and social security number. According to information provided by Yale, on 14 of those occasions, involving eight applicants, the computers were located in the Princeton Admission office.

Basic ethical principles of privacy and confidentiality are at stake here. We teach these principles and we hold our students, faculty, and staff to them. Violations of these principles therefore must not, and will not, be tolerated. Students who apply to Princeton, or any other university, have every right to expect that information they provide in good faith will be used only for the purposes for which they provided it, and that their privacy and confidentiality will be respected. They have the right, too, to expect that all of our actions, like those of any other university, will be in full compliance with the law and with University policy.

Immediately after obtaining this information we began an investigation to learn what happened, why it happened, and who was involved. We have engaged a former federal prosecutor with no prior ties to Princeton to assist us in the investigation, which began on Friday. We are carefully and vigorously pursuing this investigation, and we are also cooperating fully with the United States Attorney=92s office in Connecticut, whom Yale informed of the actions.

We are contacting the students whose confidential information was used by members of our staff without authorization to apologize for this failure to properly respect their privacy. We also have apologized to officials at Yale for the unauthorized visits to their website by members of our staff.

Of the four instances in which access to the Yale website came from campus computers outside the Admission office, it appears that at least one may have resulted from a Princeton student checking on the application of a sibling. Unfortunately, it is also the case that a long-time and respected member of the Admission office staff, Associate Dean and Director of Admission Stephen LeMenager, accessed Yale's website from an Admission office computer. Dean LeMenager reported to the press that he did this to test the degree of security of Yale's new website. We have placed Dean LeMenager on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

I deeply regret the enormous strain that these events have caused, first and foremost, to the students whose rights were violated. I also appreciate that this investigation places a large burden, unfortunately but necessarily, on members of the staff in offices that are directly affected and on the University as a whole. We will move quickly to bring the investigation to a just conclusion, and we will then take appropriate actions to deal with infractions that have occurred and to try to prevent any recurrence of similar actions in the future.


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