Imagine that one of the worst decisions you had ever made was suddenly common knowledge and playing across every screen. Imagine that memes mocking your mistake were amassing hundreds of likes, loves and laughs every day. Imagine that the people in your community were the ones with the most hurtful things to say.
For a select number of people across the country — and on this campus — there is no need to imagine. This is their reality.
Last Tuesday, news broke that fraud and bribery had tainted the admissions processes of multiple elite institutions. Georgetown’s inclusion in their ranks rocked this campus, and an outpouring of indignation continues to sweep across the Hilltop, engulfing classroom and common room conversations.
But in the wake of this scandal, we should not be relishing or contributing to the shame of the implicated students or their families.
Unfortunately, as the scandal has unfolded, that is exactly what has occurred.
As a Hoya and a person of faith, I have been incredibly disheartened by the overwhelmingly vitriolic and smug responses being splashed across social media and promulgated among the student body. The satisfaction that so many seem to find in seeing these students and their families brought low depresses me, but at the same time, I understand why people are angry. I understand that some feel this is proof that money means more than merit. I know that this has left the sour taste of cynicism in the mouths of students here and across the nation. However, addressing inequality does not require a derisive smear campaign, and ensuring justice is done is not dependent on maximizing the guilty party’s shame.
I am not saying that what these individuals did wasn’t wrong or isn’t worthy of penalty, but the punishment — whatever it may be — ought to be delivered with a sense of sobriety and respect. Our aim should never be to heap more pain on an already painful situation, and the fact that some people seem to be finding pleasure in doing exactly that makes me ashamed to be a Hoya. In all likelihood, this is probably one of the most embarrassing moments of these people’s lives, and to relish it is, to me, unconscionable.
And yet that is what we have done.
We have spent the last week lambasting these students, and it simply cannot continue. Not if we want to retain any sense of respect for ourselves or others.
Going forward, three things need to happen. First, we must immediately put an end to any and all mockery — be that publicly, privately or personally. Someone’s life imploding is not funny. Period. Second, for those who have been trumpeting in vindication, take time for self-reflection. While you and those close to you might not be guilty of admissions fraud, we are all guilty of something, and I sincerely doubt that the treatment currently being meted out would be a treatment you’d enjoy being turned on you. Finally, I ask that we remember certain things that ought to inform our responses going forward.
To my fellow Christians, I would ask you to remember that grace and humility are meant to be our first and best responses to every circumstance. Condescension and condemnation have absolutely no place in the body of Christ.
To my fellow Hoyas, I would ask that we remember to be “people for others.” These people, our peers and their parents, didn’t stop being people when they did something we didn’t like or didn’t approve of, and we are meant to be for them still.
To any of the students that have found themselves embroiled in this scandal, I would like you to know that I am sorry that the responses to your circumstance have largely been glee and callousness. Whether or not you had any part in the decisions that brought you here, you deserve more than being the brunt of jokes and mean-spirited jibes. As your community, we have failed you. Given the opportunity to show you compassion, we have shown you contempt. Given the opportunity to be gracious, we have been graceless. Given the opportunity to be kind, we have been cruel.
Georgetown, I know we can do better, and I firmly believe we can come together and address this without giving into knee-jerk epicaricacy. So please. Let’s stop the memes and really think before we speak.
Sarah George is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.