Courtesy of the Broome County Sheriff's Office

Dai, an engineering student, appeared in front of a federal judge on Wednesday, Nov. 1 in a Northern District of New York courtroom.

November 1, 2023

Who Is Patrick Dai ’24, Student Charged for Posting Antisemitic Threats?

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Patrick Dai ’24 was charged on Tuesday, Oct. 31 for allegedly posting antisemitic threats on Saturday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 29, with one post threatening a mass shooting at 104 West — the address of the University’s kosher dining hall and the Center for Jewish Living.

At his arraignment hearing on Nov. 1, Dai waived his right to an immediate detention hearing before Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks in the Northern District of New York. Dai will next appear in court on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. for a preliminary hearing, where he will be evaluated in probable cause related to the charges.

Dai, who was immediately suspended from Cornell upon his arrest, was a computer science major in the College of Engineering. He is originally from Pittsford, New York, a predominantly white, affluent suburb just outside Rochester, where he graduated from Pittsford Mendon High School in 2020. Another student at Cornell in the class of 2026 who previously attended MHS but did not know Dai personally said that MHS typically sends a few students to Cornell each year, including other students from Dai’s graduating class.

Before coming to Cornell, Dai selected his senior yearbook quote from the character Patrick Star in Spongebob Squarepants, writing, “Knowledge can never replace friendship.” Dai participated in numerous clubs including Model United Nations and was a high-achieving 12-time AP student and Rochester General Hospital volunteer, according to his now-deleted LinkedIn profile. 

The Pittsford Central School District and Pittsford Town Supervisor declined to comment on the situation. Pittsford’s population is 85 percent white with a $124,780 per year median household income — compared to a $74,580 median income nationwide and a $40,083 median in Rochester, which is 45.1 percent white.

The town and its high schools have grappled with several racist incidents in recent years, including a swastika and the n-word written on a table at MHS in 2019. Within Pittsford, students have walked out of classes, attempted to sue the school district and left the district entirely due to frustrations with racist incidents and inadequate prevention and response policies.

Dai’s only Instagram post — a gray square supporting the Black Lives Matter #BlackOutTuesday social media trend — has drawn criticism on social media, especially from conservatives such as Chaya Raichik, creator of the far-right platform Libs of TikTok.

Due to mental health challenges, Dai took two semesters off from the University in Spring 2022 and Spring 2023 — which a doctor recommended — according to text messages from Dai’s father to the New York Post

Dai’s father attested that his son was not guilty.

“My son is in severe depression. He cannot control his emotion[s] well due to the depression,” Dai’s father told the New York Post. “No, I don’t think he committed the crime.”

Dai’s mother, alongside a family friend, attended today’s court appearance but did not respond to requests for comment.

Dai admitted that he posted the threatening messages in an interview with the FBI on Oct. 31, according to a federal complaint. The federal complaint states that Dai suffers from “severe depression,” which concerned his mother, who drove to Ithaca and contacted Cornell police Tuesday after receiving a text message indicating suicidal intentions from Dai. 

Dai’s father did not respond to a request for comment by The Sun.

Dai states on his LinkedIn profile that he was heavily involved on campus, participating in Cornell Tech Consulting, CU GeoData and Cornell Mars Rover during his first years at Cornell. Dai also served as a consultant for CS 1112: Introduction to Computing: An Engineering and Science Perspective for multiple semesters and took on various leadership positions with the Science Olympiad at Cornell, including safety officer.

Dai served as a winter orientation leader in January and February of 2021 and subsequently became an orientation supervisor from March 2021 to February 2022, according to his LinkedIn. Dai wrote in his old Science Olympiad at Cornell biography that when not participating in extracurricular activities, he enjoyed playing tennis and video games. 

The Sun reached out to 29 professors that teach classes Dai took or potentially took, six current and former Cornell students who attended MHS and 64 current and former Cornell students with overlapping extracurricular activities and work experiences as Dai with corresponding years of commitment. Of the seven students who participated in overlapping extracurriculars or jobs who responded, the majority did not remember interacting with Dai or any notable or questionable behavior. Some students told The Sun that they did not even remember Dai participating in their same activities. One student from a listed project team, however, noted that Dai was reserved and quiet in social settings.

“To hear that one of our students is alleged to have betrayed our values and violated our community standards is shocking and profoundly disappointing,” wrote Kavita Bala, dean of Cornell Bowers CIS, and Lynden Archer, Joseph Silbert dean of engineering, in an email statement to the Cornell Bowers CIS and Cornell Engineering communities — in which Dai was involved. “The current circumstances, while heartbreaking, do not diminish our commitment to coming together to shape a better future.”