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Faking it

Molly Sammon | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

There is a lot of faking at Notre Dame.    

Here at Notre Dame, you can fake understanding your philosophy professor.

Here at Notre Dame, you can fake that you don’t mind the snow or the cold. You can fake obeying parietals, and you can fake agreeing with our sometimes unnaturally inflated football ranking.

Here at Notre Dame, you can even fake going to Notre Dame.

Gary Stearley came to South Bend before the fall semester as a student at Notre Dame’s law school. He moved into a house south of campus earlier this semester and found himself a pair of roommates to live with. He bought thousands of dollars worth of textbooks. He walked around on campus. He had the pass codes for different campus buildings.

According to his roommates, he did homework in his room, studied court cases and wrote papers. He made himself an ID card. He made friends with a professor who called him by name on campus in front of witnesses. Gary Stearley was an excellent faker.

His roommates found out their tenant’s actual identity when the three of them were sitting in the living room of their house, watching the South Bend local news. The report on television revealed Stearley’s story to the unsuspecting owners.

Stearley told them he would turn himself in the next morning, but when they returned, Stearley had grabbed a few of his belongings and snuck out of the house just as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in “Catch Me If you Can” might have done.

Among his leftover possessions, they found ID cards from other colleges where it was most likely that Stearley had committed similar acts. Further investigation of Stearley’s story led to the discovery that he had been in legal trouble before for faking being a physician’s assistant in Jacksonville, Florida.

My first thoughts after reflecting on Stearley’s story were in praise of him. I do not feel as though I have ever wanted anything as badly as Stearley wanted to be a Notre Dame law student. I certainly am not dedicated enough to any cause to find the time that he found to make himself a fake ID card, make himself do fake law school homework and make friends on campus.

It’s almost invigorating to come across the story of a young man that wants something so badly. Though his persistence is commendable, it would be naïve not to see the problems that Stearley’s story brings to campus security.

His actions show exactly how easy it is to by-pass the different forms of security we have. Though he was not a threat to campus in particular, his experience demonstrates how easy it might be for someone who is potentially dangerous to learn building pass codes and take advantage of lax security on campus.

Aside from the problems his talent for faking presents, he made my completely legitimate spot at Notre Dame seem a little more special and a little more valuable.