Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Publicly Condemn Fraudulent Students

Three weeks ago, the Department of Justice released an indictment implicating parents and students in a college bribery scandal. Georgetown University was among the institutions named.

Since the news was released, Georgetown students have signaled — varying in form from memes to viewpoints in Washingtonian — that we do not tolerate bribery in the university’s admissions process.

While I thought the entire student body could agree that students who cheated and bribed deserve to be criticized, some are surprisingly responding to this scandal by defending the fraudulent students. An op-ed in The Hoya by Sarah George (SFS ’21) called for compassion for participants in the scandal, writing, “We should not be relishing or contributing to the shame of the implicated students or their families.”

John Oliver’s piece on public shaming could not be more timely. One of the most poignant parts for me is what he says of internet shaming: “When it’s well-directed, a lot of good can come out of it.” Public condemnation of the knowing participants in the college admissions scandal is both warranted and constructive.

George called for compassion based on Georgetown’s Christian foundations. As a Catholic, I would like to remind everyone that according to Catholic faith we receive atonement only after we pay penance —which these students have not paid our community. Compassion in this situation is therefore misplaced.

The scandal is also not something that “happened” to these students, as George suggests; it is something they were caught doing —and they would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the meddling DOJ. The students implicated at Georgetown who were actively involved in the cheating process and caught gloating about it had every conceivable advantage in the college admissions process due to their socio-economic standing. These parents had the capacity to provide the private school education, standardized test preparation and cultural capital that colleges look for in admissions processes. And they still cheated the system. They did not bribe their way into Georgetown out of necessity, but out of pure entitlement — these parents believed their children deserved a degree from a selective university, regardless of merit, and were willing to commit crimes for undeserved prestige.

Most likely, the parents will not suffer the consequences of their alleged criminal behaviors; white-collar crimes receive far less jail time than others. Considering that some of these parents are celebrities, you can guess how “celebrity justice” will determine the rest of the story.

As for the students, even with impending expulsion, they may not suffer the consequences as a normal student would. Their families had the money to pay hefty bribes; therefore one could expect that their families can support them, regardless of expulsion. If these students are expelled — as they should be — they will have a safety net of economic and social privilege.

Public condemnation may be the only consequence they face, and it is important that they do face it. I hope the condemnation in my comments, tweets and even my memes is heard by those who knowingly participated in the scandal. If their names are being dragged through the mud, it is because their actions merit it; these students and their parents have lost their privilege to a place on the moral high ground as they knowingly violated our community standards and values  — not to mention the law.

The public condemnation is not only valid, it has utility: it signals that we are vehemently opposed to this criminal activity. Although we do not have a say in the DOJ proceedings or the expulsion of students, the student reaction to the scandal is solely our choice. Showing compassion to those who lied, cheated and bribed their way into Georgetown falsely demonstrates that we tolerate deceitful behavior. Public condemnation gives the student body —students who actually worked for our spot here — a powerful voice in a situation where we are otherwise powerless.

The people targeted by memes are not the victims in this scandal; they are the criminals and they do not deserve our compassion. The victims are the students who had their rightful spots here stolen from them through trickery, bribery and privilege.

In her op-ed, George called for the punishment of these students, “to be delivered with a sense of sobriety and respect.” Leave the “sobriety” to the courtroom proceedings and the administration. Georgetown students are angry, and I hope the perpetrators know.

Madison Pravecek is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.

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  • G

    George D StobieMar 30, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    I agree with Mickey and have signed the petition. I am ashamed of my alma mater (C ’75) for not taking the proper action in expelling current students who obtained fraudulent admission, and taking degrees away from ones who have graduated. Yale has done the right thing. I hope Georgetown will. Until then, no donations… perhaps if enough of us refuse to contribute, we will get their attention. A shame that that may be what it takes.

  • H

    HoyaAlumMar 29, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    I’m suspicious of anyone who takes this much visceral joy and glee in the condemnation of others.

  • M

    Mickey LeeMar 29, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Oops. I misspelled the name of the cheat in med school.

    Schuyler Hodge

  • M

    Mickey LeeMar 29, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I (COL ’05) absolutely agree with public shaming, especially in the face of inaction by the administration. With administrators doing nothing, the burden now falls on the students to publicly “out” these criminals and make sure that they don’t end up in higher positions of responsibility where they will inevitably continue crime spree–affecting potentially far greater numbers of victims as heads of government/politics, law, medicine (e.g. Schulyer Hodge is a current Med Student at F.I.U. Med School), etc.

    Any perverted form of “compassion” for these criminals is precisely the reason why the world is plagued with a Judge Aaron Persky who feels “compassion” for Brock Turner in giving him only one twenty-eighth of the maximally allowed punishment, which got halved after “good behavior.”

    Georgetown University, as an elite institution and educator of future leaders, needs to step up and rescind admissions as well as degrees previously conferred to these fraudulent cheats. Otherwise, all of us clean alum will forever be associated with these vile criminals.

    As soon as this bribery scandal broke, I started an online petition for GU administrators to rescind degrees and admissions. In addition to 4 demands, I include a rebuttal of issues like the Persky-style defense of these criminal cheats.