NEW YORK — The story was compelling when it was first broken several weeks ago by the New York Daily News — a 13-year-old Black whiz-kid named Autum Ashante accepted to the University of Connecticut, only to have that acceptance rescinded, and her fraught father calling for justice.
But the story might be a work of fiction.
The University of Connecticut spokesman cited by the Daily News as having confirmed Autum’s acceptance, Richard Veilleux, tells NewsOne that he never told the paper’s reporter any such thing.
Tanyanika Samuels reported in the Daily News that Autum — described as a home-schooled genius — had been admitted to UConn and would be enrolling in the fall. Samuels later published a follow up story reporting that UConn had rescinded Autum’s acceptance. In the article, Autum’s father, Batin Ashante, said the university told him that she was not “academically ready.”
Veilleux and Michael Kirk from UConn’s communications office tell a different story.
“She applied, and her application was denied. It was not accepted. Nothing was ‘rescinded,’” Kirk wrote in an email to NewsOne.
Veilleux gave credence to Kirk’s statement, telling NewsOne: “When the Daily News called me, I spoke to Lee Melvin, our vice president for enrollment management, and he told me that Autum had not enrolled at the university. I passed that information to the Daily News.”
That information was never mentioned in any Daily News story.
In the Daily News‘ original news break of Autum’s acceptance, Samuels never quoted any UConn official to confirm Ashante’s story. The story only cited Autum and her father.
In the Daily News’ subsequent story reporting UConn’s alleged reversal, Samuels wrote: “UConn Spokesman Richard Veilleux confirmed Autum had been accepted to the school but said university officials were still waiting for the family to formally enroll.”
Though Veilleux is cited, he and Kirk categorically deny that Veilleux ever said that.
New York Daily News’ director of communications, Jennifer Mauer, told NewsOne that the Daily News “stands by the original story,” and that Veilleux did indeed confirm Autum’s acceptance to Samuels. When Samuels was questioned by phone on the matter, she referred all inquiries to Mauer.
When asked if he could produce a document to prove Autum was accepted to the university, Batin Ashante didn’t answer. Instead, he maintained that UConn is “closing ranks” because of the potential success of a petition, started by UConn alumna Josephine Minnow, to sway the university’s alleged decision to rescind Autum’s acceptance.
“I’m done with you and all media,” Ashante told NewsOne. “I’m saying [expletive] UConn right now.”