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Stanford impostor also joined Army ROTC

Azia Kim was a `stealth cadet' at Santa Clara University, an Army spokesman says. The military calls it a harmless prank and won't prosecute.

May 30, 2007|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

PALO ALTO — Azia Kim, the Fullerton 18-year-old who posed as a Stanford University freshman for eight months, joined the Army ROTC program at nearby Santa Clara University, where she received training and military equipment, university and Army officials said Tuesday.

Army spokesman Robert Rosenburgh called Kim a "stealth cadet" who used her phony Stanford identity to participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program for two academic quarters before dropping out in March.

He dismissed her time in ROTC as a "harmless prank" and said the Army would not pursue any punitive action.

"In terms of any lawbreaking, fraud or wrongdoing, there is nothing to suggest that she broke any kind of military regulations," Rosenburgh said.

"Her instructors said she was a good student and they had no reason to suspect her," he said.

Kim was issued a Kevlar helmet, two uniforms, boots and other nonlethal gear, which she kept at Stanford's Kimball Hall, where she had persuaded two students to let her share their room.

After she was found to be an impostor last week, she left the military equipment at the residence hall and it was returned to the ROTC program.

Kim, a Troy High School graduate, managed to fool students and residence hall advisors as she maintained the charade that she was a human biology major.

The fact that she was not a student was discovered last week by the staff at Okada Hall, the residence hall where she had stayed since April.

Stanford officials didn't know Kim's whereabouts Tuesday, and she has not publicly explained why she posed as a Stanford student.

Stanford has begun an investigation into Kim's activities to determine how she got around the university's security procedures, including entering locked buildings and allegedly using campus computers.

Stanford officials say they could bring legal charges against Kim and bill her thousands of dollars for the cost of her campus lodging.

"There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle and we are investigating them all, and that includes ROTC participation," Stanford spokeswoman Kate Chesley said Tuesday.

Kim's presence at Stanford and her participation in ROTC were first reported by the Stanford Daily student newspaper.

Her story has prompted diverse reactions on campus. Some students have expressed alarm that campus security was violated.

Others have expressed pity and said they felt sorry for her.

Stanford has not had an officer training program of its own since anti-Vietnam War protests prompted the university to abolish ROTC on campus.

Today, Stanford students who want to participate in ROTC travel to Santa Clara University, about half an hour away. Students don't receive credit at Stanford for any ROTC classes they take.

To participate in ROTC, cadets must be enrolled at a college or university, Rosenburgh said, and Kim told ROTC officers that she was a Stanford student. But she stopped short of signing a contract with the Army, which would have triggered a check into her background and presumably revealed that she was not a student.

"She took some of the tests and did well on them," Rosenburgh said. "She was enrolled in the classes but was not a contracted cadet, which is why there was not an extensive review of her records."

Fellow cadets told the Stanford Daily that she worked hard in her classes on Army tactics and history, giving detailed reports on the military careers of Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Robert E. Lee.

To maintain her eligibility for ROTC, Kim was required to report on her grades at Stanford.

She filled out a card showing that she was receiving A's in most of her subjects, including math, English and introduction to humanities -- grades so high that she was awarded a yellow and purple dean's award ribbon for her uniform, the Daily reported.

"She was so good at not seeming like she was lying," Kim's ROTC student advisor Diana Clough told the Daily. "Any oddness of hers we just attached to flaky freshmanness."

ROTC officials at Santa Clara University declined to comment on Kim's role in the program.

Rosenburgh said the ROTC program would improve its communication with Stanford and other participating universities to ensure that cadets who enroll are legitimate.

"She was not a contracted cadet and ROTC is not an accredited course at Stanford, and that's where she slipped through the cracks," Rosenburgh said.

"Reporting requirements at Stanford are nominal for ROTC. ROTC says they are looking to close that loophole."

Santa Clara University, which has 8,377 students and calls itself "the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley," states on its website that its military training program dates back to 1859 and is the oldest at any West Coast school.

Deepa Arora, the university's media relations director, said ROTC operates independently and that Kim had no connection with the university.

"ROTC is a separate entity that operates on the Santa Clara University campus," Arora said. "ROTC, not Santa Clara, is responsible for verifying a student's university affiliation and status."

richard.paddock@latimes.com

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