People vs the Trustees of Geneva College

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The New York State Supreme Court's ruling against the trustees of Geneva College, 1829.

In 1829, the College of Physicians and Surgeons brought a lawsuit through the attorney general of New York against the Board of Trustees of Geneva College. The case challenged Geneva College’s ability to legally operate a medical college in New York City. Attorney General Greene Bronson argued that the authority of the board was restricted to the city of Geneva and therefore did not have the right to appoint faculty nor confer diplomas in New York City. As he concisely stated, “Geneva College has not the power to establish a medical faculty in any place other than where itself is located.”

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A brief note to the public written by Dr. Hosack, Dr. Valtentine Mott, and Dr. John Francis after the ruling of the New York Supreme Court published in the New York Spectator on November 10, 1830.

Lawyer P.A. Jay defended Geneva College by arguing that the charter, which was granted by the State of New York and its Board of Regents, gave the trustees the right to appoint faculty and grant diplomas to anyone that they saw as worthy, “but its location is no restriction upon its power of granting degrees.”  He argued that the charter granted the trustees the legal authority to host a faculty, educate students, and grant diplomas based on the board's professional merit and legal standing, not their physical location.

In July 1830, in yet another blow to Dr. Hosack's medical school, the Supreme Court of New York State ruled that the trustees of Geneva College lacked the legal authority to appoint faculty and operate a medical school in New York City. The two branches were forced to cut ties and separate.

The faculty in New York City petitioned the state legislature yet again for a charter. The faculty believed they had demonstrated substantial interest in the school, but the Board of Regents disagreed and their second application for a charter as Manhattan College was denied. Despite lacking a charter or an affiliation with an institution able to grant diplomas or appoint a legally recognized faculty, the Rutgers Medical Faculty optimistically continued to grant honorary diplomas in New York City until 1835 when they finally accepted the reality of the failed enterprise and closed the medical school for good.

The Start of a Medical College
People vs the Trustees of Geneva College