Georgetown University graduate Kuran Malhotra (MSB ’20) stepped down from his position as a graduate representative after facing mounting pressure from students, graduates and former co-workers.
University administrators, fearing a lawsuit from Malhotra, pressured Georgetown University Student Association officials to remove his name from a resolution calling for his dismissal.
In a June 23 open letter drafted by three sophomores, which garnered more than 100 signatures before his resignation, students and graduates called for Malhotra’s removal as a class ambassador because of past allegations of inappropriate conduct brought against him during his time as a member of student groups.
Malhotra resigned to avoid complicating affairs in the class ambassador program, he wrote in a statement shared with The Hoya. He denies all allegations against him.
“To avoid any interference with the important work performed by the Class Ambassador Program, I have decided to resign my position as a Class Ambassador for the Class of 2020. I expressly deny engaging in any inappropriate conduct while I was a student at Georgetown University,” Malhotra wrote. “I had no disciplinary history while I was a student at Georgetown and have met all expectations required of a Class Ambassador during my brief time as an alumnus. In resigning, I have decided that it is more important to put the interests of the Georgetown’s alumni community before my own.”
Class ambassadors are responsible for maintaining connections among graduates of their respective year and encouraging them to support the university financially. Graduates interested in participating in the program must complete a one-question interest form and discuss the position with a staff liaison.
Class ambassador positions are open to all graduates as a volunteer position, according to a university spokesperson. However, graduates can apply for leadership positions on the class ambassador committee, which oversees graduate affairs of a particular class. Students interested in pursuing these leadership positions must be elected by members of their class. Malhotra applied to be the New York regional chair and fundraising co-chair for the Class of 2020 committee, but he was not granted either position, Class Co-Chair Josh Sirois (SFS ’20) told The Hoya.
Volunteers are expected to uphold the Georgetown University Code of Student Conduct during their service as a class ambassador, the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. The spokesperson also said Malhotra graduated with no official complaints against him.
Malhotra was suspended from his position as CEO of the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union on Oct. 3 and placed on leave from his position as chief financial officer of the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative on Oct 4. Co-workers accused Malhotra of fostering a toxic workplace environment and engaging in instances of inappropriate touching in social settings, The Hoya reported in October. Malhotra voluntarily resigned from his position as a class ambassador June 29.
The Hoya does not have evidence of a Title IX claim against Malhotra, who graduated in May.
Signatories of the letter believe Malhotra does not meet the criteria to be a class ambassador.
“If becoming a Class Ambassador is a volunteer-based position, it falls upon Georgetown’s administration to ensure that volunteers with such records are removed from consideration, and that no accepted volunteer demonstrates or has demonstrated the inappropriate behavior that Mr. Malhotra has been known for,” the letter reads. “Georgetown needs to be proactive in ensuring that leaders and representatives of the university have not contributed to toxic environments that put students’ wellbeing at risk.”
The Class of 2020 committee did not have bylaws to evaluate membership or facilitate the removal of members, according to Sirois.
“Thankfully, Kuran’s decision to resign from the alumni committee lessened the level of immediacy in terms of enacting such bylaws,” Sirois wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This is especially positive, as though the Office of Advancement entertained this concept [of bylaws] to a minor degree, it stated this process would be long and require a significant restructuring from how class committees have operated historically.”
Moving forward, the committee will suggest revisions to its hiring process, according to Sirois.
“We cannot assuredly state that changes to the application/volunteer sign-up process will come from this situation, as those changes would be made at the discretion of the Office of Advancement, but we certainly believe the process can be improved and will continue to communicate our guidance to the Office,” Sirois wrote.
In response to the open letter, GUSA Senators Eric Bazail Eimil (SFS ’23), Lucy Sonsalla (SFS ’23) and Lily McGrail (COL ’21) introduced a resolution calling for Malhotra’s removal at a meeting June 28.
The senate bill, which passed unanimously, explicitly named Malhotra, according to meeting documents. The senate, however, called an emergency meeting the following day to revise the legislation, removing any explicit mention of Malhotra.
University administrators pushed GUSA senators to remove Malhotra’s name to avoid instigating a lawsuit, according to GUSA officials.
“We explicitly included a name and so the [university] legal counsel has advised against explicitly using the name or including the name because the individual could potentially sue GUSA,” Senate Speaker Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22) said during the meeting. “GUSA would experience the ramifications of the situation if we were sued in any capacity and so I, as a speaker, do not want to put any authors of the bill, GUSA leadership or the entirety of the association at any possible risk.”
The university did not offer a comment by the time of publication.
The amendment to remove Malhotra’s name passed with three abstentions and no votes against.
Though administrators did not explicitly order the senate to revise the bill, GUSA senators felt they had no choice in the matter, according to McGrail.
“They essentially said that we had to do it. They didn’t demand that we do it but they said we had to do it or else we’d get sued,” McGrail said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “We weren’t really given a choice. It was a very pressured situation.”
The morning after the bill passed, GUSA’s faculty advisor notified senate leaders that university legal counsel wanted the senate to revise the bill, according to McGrail. McGrail recalled high-level administrators surveying the bill’s Google Document the day after the meeting. McGrail has never experienced such university interference in GUSA matters during her time as a senator.
By pressuring GUSA to rewrite the legislation without Malhotra’s name, the university hindered student government operations and displayed a lack of sympathy for survivors of misconduct, McGrail added.
“If they spent that same time and effort talking to survivors and addressing their needs, then the university would be doing a lot better than it is right now in dealing with survivors,” McGrail said.
Hoya Staff Writers Kiera Geraghty, Jaime Moore-Carrillo and Connor Thomas contributed reporting.