Visiting Prof. Mark Belnick ’68 will continue to direct the Cornell prelaw summer program in the midst of an ongoing fight against criminal charges of falsifying business documents.
Belnick is accused of taking out an illegal $14 million loan for himself when he was chief counsel at Tyco.
“In this country, we truly believe that people are innocent until proven guilty and we are not concerned,” said Christine Holmes, special programs manager for the School of Continuing Education.
Belnick, who has directed the program since its inception in 1999, did not wish to comment.
Last summer, approximately 60 students faced a shock when on the program’s second day, June 4, Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski was indicted for tax evasion. Belnick was forced to resign the job he had held since 1998.
Consequently, Belnick was unable to teach for the first two weeks of the eight-week program based in New York City.
“The students had to do more internships and less classes,” Holmes said. “We did have some students drop out.”
As program director, Belnick teaches a course, schedules lecturers, and helps students get internships at law firms.
“All those who finished the program were very pleased with his ability,” Holmes said. “He is an outstanding speaker and professor.”
Christopher Callanan ’04, who was in the program last summer, agreed.
“He’s a very good professor,” he said.
Belnick’s course, Government 315: “Introduction to the American Legal System: Its Nature, Functions, and Institutions,” is taught in the Socratic method.
“I learned a lot from the class and the internship,” Callanan said, adding that “it was a great experience.”
Callanan said he was surprised at Belnick’s indictment on September 12.
“I’m kind of surprised that he’s teaching it this year,” he added.
Though faced with challenges, planning for this year’s summer program — scheduled for June 2 to July 25 — is proceeding, according to Holmes.
“We are moving along with the program,” she said, though there is the possibility of further difficulties.
“I can’t read the future,” she added. “Worst case scenario, we would have to cancel the program. Hopefully, we won’t have to do that.”
The charges against Belnick came as a shock to many who know him.
“I don’t understand,” said former Senator Warren Rudman in the New York Times.
Last year, Rudman was the first speaker in the Ben and Rhoda Belnick Fund for Government Studies Lecture, which Mark Belnick created to honor his parents.
“Ethical, straight, cross the t’s, dot the i’s — that’s my experience with Mark Belnick,” Rudman told the Times in late September.
Belnick was the lead attorney during the congressional investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980’s.
Kozlowski and Chief Financial Officer Mark Swartz, who is also accused of stealing funds, are going to trial on June 1. Belnick’s trial date has not yet been set.
“The allegations against Dennis Kozlowski and Swartz are really different from those against Mark Belnick,” Holmes said.
Archived article by Peter Norlander