Georgetown parent Stephen Semprevivo and 12 other university parents pleaded guilty to fraud for involvement in a college admissions bribery scheme in a Boston federal court Monday.
The plea comes after the Georgetown University Student Association senate voted against a resolution to urge the university to expel current students and rescind the degrees of alumni implicated in admissions fraud in a Sunday meeting.
Semprevivo is pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud after the Department of Justice indicted 50 people, including five Georgetown parents and former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, on March 12. Semprevivo, whose son currently attends Georgetown and is studying abroad this semester, paid an intermediary $400,000 to give his son an advantage in the admissions process, according to the indictment.
Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, Elisabeth Kimmel and Douglas Hodge, who have or had children at Georgetown between 2013 and 2019, were also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud but have not yet issued a plea and await future hearings.
The Henriquezes, Kimmel and Hodge received additional charges in a superseding indictment of money laundering Tuesday for conspiring to launder bribes through a charity run and transferring money into the United States to promote the fraud.
Ernst, who left Georgetown in June 2018 and resigned from his position as women’s tennis head coach at the University of Rhode Island on March 22, pleaded not guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge March 25. He allegedly falsely designated 12 students as tennis recruits in Georgetown’s admissions process for $2.7 million in bribes, according to the indictment.
Georgetown has not taken action against current students Adam Semprevivo (COL ’20) or Isabelle Henriquez (COL ’20) since the March 12 indictment. (Full disclosure: Semprevivo formerly served as the cartoonist for The Hoya.)
The university is evaluating the indictment, University President John J. DeGioia wrote in a March 15 campuswide email.
“Now that the government’s investigation has detailed the extent of the alleged fraud, we are reviewing the indictment and will take appropriate action,” DeGioia wrote.
GUSA Senator Julio Salmeron-Perla (SFS ’22) voted against the resolution. Salmeron-Perla said that while admissions fraud is unacceptable, a reprimand would distract from university-led investigations.
“I totally am upset about these people. They are not a part of our community because they did not uphold the ideals of honor and integrity,” Salmeron-Perla said. “At the same time, I don’t think that us condemning these students will do anything because I personally feel that it will just cloud the ongoing investigations.”
Instead of condemning Georgetown students, GUSA should support the Georgetown communities most adversely affected by admissions fraud, according to Salmeron-Perla.
“A more proactive way to approach this would be to pass a resolution that reaffirms all the other students that worked hard to get here, all the other communities that worked really hard despite all the obstacles that they had to get into Georgetown,” Salmeron-Perla said. “And so I feel like that we should pass a resolution in support of them.”
The GUSA resolution failed after 11 of the 19 senators in attendance voted against it.
GUSA Senator Evan Farrara (COL ’19) introduced a previous version of the resolution, titled “A Resolution to Condemn Students Found Guilty of Admissions Fraud,” in a ways and means committee meeting April 2. This iteration of the resolution failed after four of six committee members voted against it.
Farrara said GUSA, as a group of representatives for the student body, is responsible for speaking out against wrongdoing.
“There have been really no organizations on campus that have been saying that students and Georgetown need to take certain actions, and that’s because that’s what GUSA’s role is, and so the reason it needs to be said now is so we can establish and react to those who are hurting at Georgetown and say, ‘this is what GUSA thinks,’” Farrara said in an interview with The Hoya.
Georgetown alumnus and admissions interviewer Mickey Lee (COL ’05) called for the university to rescind the degrees and admission of students implicated in the scheme in a March 13 petition. The letter, addressed to DeGioia and University Provost Robert Groves now has over 19,500 signatures.
Other universities mentioned in the March 12 indictment, including Yale University, University of Southern California and Stanford University, rescinded the admission of several students implicated in the bribery scheme.
GUSA must set an example for other students by taking initiative on campus issues such as admissions fraud, according to Dylan Hughes (COL ’19), senate chair of the ethics and oversight committee and a co-sponsor of the initial bill with Ferrara.
“I believe that this type of resolution is an important moral stance that GUSA should take and that it is encouraging to students when they see GUSA taking that kind of action,” Hughes said. “I think that this was the most straightforward way to do that.”
GUSA Senate Speaker Eliza Lafferty (COL ’21), who voted against the resolution in the ways and means committee meeting and in the senate at large, disagreed with Hughes and said that the role of GUSA should be to support students rather than reprimand them.
“I don’t support language that condemns students. I don’t think that’s our place to condemn students in general,” Lafferty said in an interview with The Hoya. “My main reason is that there are university processes that I don’t feel like the senate should be taking that place.”
Correction: The article was updated April 9 to reflect that there were 19 senators in attendance at the resolution vote, and to update the spelling of Ferrara’s name.