More than 50 college admissions consultants, athletic coaches and parents have been charged with involvement in illegal attempts, starting in 2011, to influence admissions decisions at several elite universities, including Georgetown University. The investigation, nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues, has uncovered bribes of up to half a million dollars, fraudulent test-taking and false claims of athletic prowess. Those convicted are likely to receive substantial fines and in some cases jail time.
But outraged Georgetown students and alumni want to go further. An online petition calling for the university to revoke the degrees of former students who were involved in the scheme and expel those still attending had garnered almost 17,000 signatures by March 21.
One of the March 12 federal indictments charged former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst with accepting $2.7 million in bribes for fraudulently recruiting 12 applicants for competitive tennis teams. Five Georgetown parents were also named. Two of the students involved still attend the university.
“The university should remove these students from Georgetown. Failing to do so would signal acceptance of this illegal behavior and reward fraudulents [sic] with spots never meant to belong to them,” a March 21 editorial in campus newspaper The Hoya states.
“Although Georgetown parents had bribed Ernst, both students were involved in the fraud. One of the current students participated in the scheme by writing a personal email to Ernst claiming he played competitive tennis, even though he did not play the sport. The other student gloated with her proctor after cheating on the SAT. In total, the students and their families spent $950,000 to gain entrance to the university.
“Unlike other students mentioned in the indictment who were unaware of their parents’ backdoor deeds, both Georgetown students were active participants.”
The Georgetown petition came after the University of Southern California rescinded the admission of six students implicated in the federal indictments.
“While losing connections may be painful, any discipline besides expulsion would not adequately address these students’ admission under false pretenses. Students are expected to be honest in all dealings with the university, as per definition 27 of the Code of Student Conduct. Though they were not students at the time of writing their applications, their actions still show a disregard for the spirit of university conduct. Only by expelling the two implicated students can Georgetown start rebuilding integrity and trust in the admissions process,” the editorial concludes.
“We are reviewing the details of the indictment, examining our records, and will be taking appropriate action,” Georgetown University’s Senior Director of Strategic Communications Rachel Pugh wrote The Georgetowner. “Georgetown refrains from commenting on individual students in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).” Note: FERPA is a federal law that protects the confidentiality of student education records.