On March 12, the United States Department of Justice charged 50 people across eight universities in the largest college admissions scam in history. Five Georgetown University parents and two current students were implicated in the indictment, shocking and breaching the trust of the university community.

These two students were complicit in using fraudulent means to gain acceptance into Georgetown. Nearly two weeks after the report’s release, however, both are still students at the university. To regain any integrity in the admissions process, Georgetown must expel the involved students.

Students and administrators should also reflect on the role of privilege in the admissions system. Common rhetoric on campus suggests that affirmative action privileges students of color in the admissions process. This line of thought fails to acknowledge that wealth — not race — is the predominant influencer in college admissions.

Even as the indictment receives national attention, students must recognize that the influence of wealth in the admissions process extends far beyond these two students.

The two students involved in the scandal colluded with former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst to write emails and essays to gain entrance into the university, according to the indictment. Ernst was charged with accepting bribes from parents in return for recruiting students to the tennis team who did not play competitive tennis.

Though 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 university should remove these students from Georgetown. Failing to do so would signal acceptance of this illegal behavior and reward fradulents with spots never meant to belong to them.

In addition to flouting national laws, these actions violated university policy. 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.

Moreover, they also committed a slew of honor code violations by cheating on SAT exams, submitting college essays altered or written on their behalf and falsifying academic documentation. The severity of these actions merits expulsion.

Though both students may have built community, fostered friendships and carved a space for themselves in extracurricular involvements, these opportunities were gained through unscrupulous and dishonorable methods. (Full disclosure: One of the implicated students previously served as a cartoonist for The Hoya.)

While losing these connections may be painful, any discipline besides expulsion would not adequately address these students’ admission under false pretenses.

To rebuild trust in its admissions process, Georgetown must act immediately to rectify the breach of the university’s integrity. However, to move forward, students and administrators should also reflect on the pervasive and influential role of wealth in college admissions.

Students of color — and low-income students — at Georgetown face the pressure of proving that they are worthy of admission, according to Alana Hendy (SFS ’21).

As a black student at Georgetown, Hendy has often been on the receiving end of flippant comments and rhetoric suggesting that minorities get into elite schools such as Georgetown without working as hard as others.

Such comments minimize the intelligence and talent of students of color by suggesting that they are undeserving of a position at Georgetown and were admitted only because affirmative action lowered the standards for them.

This rhetoric, however, ignores ignores the incredible barriers that low-income students and people of color must surmount to attend Georgetown. Wealthier students do not face nearly as many systemic disadvantages in the process.

Suggesting students of color are privileged in college admissions is unfair and inaccurate. As the scandal has made abundantly clear, the wealthy have hidden and magnanimous influence in the admissions process.

Students have a responsibility to reflect on this systemic inequality and be vocal when they hear rhetoric suggesting otherwise.

But the university must also address the immediate fraud at Georgetown. Only by expelling the two implicated students can Georgetown can start rebuilding integrity and trust in the admissions process.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

3 Comments

  1. Maura P Masters, SLL '94 says:

    As an alumna, a member of the AAP (Alumni Admissions Program) and high school teacher of many low-income, future first generation high school students in an urban high school in Austin, TX, I can attest to the incredible amount of hard work put in and some of the incredible social, familial and economic barriers overcome by under-represented populations who end up in any college–not just elite schools like Georgetown. Any student of means who was complicit in fraud to enter Georgetown should be expelled. If they are not, it cheapens all our degrees and, worse, stains all our honor.

  2. Derek Gill says:

    From working with many low-income, first-gen students, I can attest to how hostile Georgetown is to these students. The university’s obsession with test scores, which are known to be poor predictors of success, further penalises these students. And yet for money, Georgetown will look the other way. Not very Jesuit.

    Speaking of the Jesuits, what has the Society of Jesus to say about these events? Georgetown is supposedly a Jesuit university. So much for the “preferential option for the poor.” It is long past time that Georgetown’s director of admissions retire.

  3. Tony Eben '68 says:

    Your allegation that wealth is the predominant influence in college admission is hogwash.
    Though wealth has it’s place, so does the force of affirmative action in student admissions, otherwise, why have the policy.
    Having wealthy parents does not make the admission process unequal. There is no systemic disadvantage. The university is not hostile to low income students. There can be no preferential option for the poor without the financial sponsorship of wealthy and middle income families who pay tuition to the school which benefits these”disadvantaged” students.
    You further opine that the burden of meeting Georgetown admission requirements is borne primarily by minorities. Not true, middle class and upper class students have to meet these same requirements.
    The rhetoric of systematic privilege and bigotry alleged by the editorial board is tiresome. If some don’t like the way they are treated then find a different elite university to attend.

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