August 28, 2002

Princeton Dean Breaches Yale's Site Security

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On April 3, Stephen LeMenager, former associate dean and director of admissions to Princeton, accessed the Yale online notification system using applicant information submitted to the Princeton admissions office in order to find out how secure the Yale website was.

The Princeton admissions office will undergo several changes this year, to address the incident concerning an illegal entry into the Yale website.

For a two week period, Yale had set up a system on their website for applicants to check whether they had been accepted to the university or not. Princeton had considered a similar system, but questioned the security of such an approach to distributing acceptances.


Curious about Yale’s system, LeMenager used the names, birth dates, and social security numbers of a Princeton applicant to access the secure site. After gaining access, he demonstrated the system to several other employees in the admissions office, including Fred Hargadon, dean of admissions. Later on, other admissions officers independently entered the secure area in a similar manner.


LeMenager described his entry into the Yale website at a May 15 meeting of Ivy League admission officers. Shortly after, Yale began an investigation of their website’s security. On July 20, Yale prepared a security report describing the entries made by the Princeton admissions staff.

Taking responsibility, LeMenager has resigned from the admissions office at the request of the Princeton administration. Currently, he is working in the Princeton office of communications, while Princeton looks for an appropriate administration position for him. He could not be reached for comment.

Regarding LeMenager’s change of position, Princeton President Shirley Tilghman stated in a press release, “We are very sorry to have taken this action because he has served that office exceedingly well for almost 20 years in positions of increasing responsibility and he is so widely respected … for his integrity and professionalism.” Tilghman was not available for comment.

Hargadon also accepted responsibility for the breach.

In a press release, Hargadon stated, “I pledge to do my best in the days and months ahead to restore the complete integrity for which the Princeton Undergraduate Admission Office is traditionally known.”

Hargadon is retiring at the end of this year, and refused further comment.

Princeton officials have taken action in a variety of ways to prevent a similar issue from arising in the future.

In addition to LeMenager’s change of position, Princeton is also taking disciplinary action against the other members of the admissions office involved in the incident.

To better educate staff on these issues, Princeton will implement a training program on confidentiality and student privacy. Princeton has also established a new position of information technology security officer.

Marilyn Marks at the Princeton communications office reported that the admissions office is still considering an online notification system similar to Yale’s.

“We’re really at the stage of investigating it,” she said. She added that this incident has had little influence on the decision.

According to Tom Conroy, deputy director of public affairs for Yale, Yale has not yet decided what changes to make on their online notification system.

“There’s not a rush to make a decision … but there will be some additional security measures,” he said.

Despite the incident, Conroy said the online notification system will be in place again next spring.

With thousands of students logging on, Conroy said the system was an “overwhelming success.”

Although not replacing LeMenager, Barry Taylor, from the Cornell Industrial and Labor Relations Office of Student Services, has accepted a similar position as an associate dean and senior admissions officer at Princeton. Unlike his dual advising and administration position at Cornell, Taylor will be doing more “traditional admissions work” at Princeton, including recruitment and selection of applicants.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. He does not believe the incident will affect his job performance at Princeton.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher