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Judge dismisses defamation lawsuit against University

A federal judge in Hartford, Conn., yesterday dismissed charges filed by a former undergraduate against the University for warning medical schools of doubts it had regarding the truthfulness of his applications.

Rommel Nobay '89 brought the suit against the University for breach of contract, invasion of privacy and character defamation in 1995. He claims the University had no right to disclose to Tufts, Georgetown and Dartmouth medical schools that he had lied about his race, among other things, on his applications. After hearing the University's concerns, these schools revoked their offers of admission.


"Simply put, it's not outrageous to tell truthful statements about someone's fitness to practice medicine to those who have a need to know," District Judge Dominic Squatrito said, according to an Associated Press report.

According to an article in the April 15 issue of The Hartford Courant, the University informed the medical schools that Nobay lied about his class rank in high school, his scores on the SATs and his race on his medical school applications. Nobay contends that the University has an unwritten contract with its students to provide "accurate but positive recommendations" to professional schools.

Testimony began Monday and cross-examination began Tuesday, University counsel Peter McDonough said. During questioning, lead counsel for the University, Frank Silvestri, exposed the multitude of lies Nobay told.

'A liar'

According to the Courant article, Silvestri began his examination with the question, "Mr. Nobay, is it true, sir, or is is not, that you are a liar?" Nobay replied, "I have lied."

"The cross-examination was devastating to him," McDonough said. "He admitted repeatedly that he has lied during various phases of his application process. He admitted numerous untruths in connection with submissions at Princeton, including his application to the Woodrow Wilson School, in which he not only stated things untrue about his background but lied about his actual grades."

The article also states that Jane Sharaf, the University's health professions advisor at the time, initiated the investigation into Nobay's record "after noticing that he described himself as a black student on his medical school applications."


"We believe we had an obligation to reveal the facts," Harmon said.

Nobay's own lawyer said he thought Nobay looked more Indian than black, the Courant reports. Nobay replied that his parents are Kenyans and that his racial background was "a mix of Portuguese, Arabic and black African."

In a deposition last year, when asked about his race, Nobay replied "the human race," the article said.

'Ringing endorsement'

"This is a ringing endorsement for the University," said Justin Harmon, director of communications. "The judge said this case was not about race; it was about truthfulness and the University's right to be forthright."

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In the days before and during the case, the public began to see the case as one strictly about Nobay's race, McDonough said.

"It was clear from the judge's ruling that he viewed this case not as one about one's racial heritage or about affirmative action, but rather one about truth and honesty," McDonough said.

He also said that though Nobay's attorney made "overtures" that he was looking for some sort of monetary settlement. "From the day this case was filed, Princeton never entertained discussion of settlement."