Students who participated in the summer pre-law program in New York City learned about the law both in the classroom and first-hand. The program, organized by Prof. Mark Belnick ’68, visiting professor, intended to expose students to the legal system through top-notch internships and offering a course entitled, “Introduction to the American Legal System.”
Yet when Belnick committed his summer to organizing and teaching the pre-law program, he was unaware that a scandal would erupt involving Tyco, a company he formerly represented.
The program was designed to be an eight-week program spanning from June 3rd to July 26th, in which the first six weeks comprised of the course and a part-time internship, while the last two weeks were to be devoted solely to full time internships. This structure, however, was interrupted two days into the program when Dennis Kolwalski, CEO of Tyco, was brought under numerous charges including tax evasion, leaving Mark Belnick, a lawyer for Tyco with much more to contend with than the pre-law program.
Following the eruption of the scandal, Belnick was fired from Tyco.
Students were left to speculate on the future of their program and Belnick from what they read in newspapers.
“We were all a little taken back when the Tyco scandal erupted, it was kind of strange to read about our professor in the paper. Personally, I thought, as I imagine many in the program did, that Belnick would be unable to teach the rest of the course. Classes were delayed for two weeks. But to everyone’s surprise he came back to teach. He was a very good professor. Classes were almost always very interesting,” said Christopher Callanan ’04.
Some students even dropped the class anticipating its cancellation. However, Belnick was able to follow through with his commitment to the program and continued the class with minimal alterations.
Once the scandal erupted the structure of the program was rearranged so that students began with the full-time internships for two weeks and the course resumed in the last six weeks.
“The Tyco scandal did not seriously affect the functioning of the classroom component of the program. Prof. Belnick was able to continue teaching the class as though nothing had happened. The time change had a greater impact on the internships. A number of students told me that the internship hosts were not prepared to have them work full-time at that point in the semester,” said Lauren Aronson, a TA of the pre-law program.
Initially, Belnick had lined up Kolwalski to lecture during the course of the program but the scandal made him unavailable.
“Kolwaski didn’t speak but that was no big deal. We had some other guest lecturers come in his place,” Callanan said.
Belnick was able to get a number of interesting speakers such as Steve Kaufman, a criminal lawyer, Kevin Arquit, an anti-trust lawyer and David Hartman, former anchor of Good Morning America.
Despite the scandal, students and faculty came away from the experience with much praise and adoration for the program and for Belnick.
“The program was great because he knows so many [contacts and was able to] get undergrads great internships with top notch firms,” said Jeff Selinger, a TA for the course.
Getting undergraduates internships with top firms was another advantage of the program that only added to students’ experiences since firms traditionally limit internships to law students.
Not only were some students and TA’s pleased with Belnick’s ability to get great speakers, follow through with his commitment to the program, and get undergraduate students great internships to take advantage of, but they were also impressed with his ability as a professor.
Archived article by Carrie Tremblatt