By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
A Georgetown University undergraduate student whose dad has already pleaded guilty to participating in a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme is now suing the school to try to stop disciplinary action from the university.
I believe he should be expelled and the credit he earned should be withheld. Several family members feel otherwise. They say he did the work, so he earned the credits. I feel his admittance was fraudulent so he should forfeit the credits.
He denies any involvement in his father’s actions, but I question that. I haven’t seen one of these kids admit they knew anything about what their parents were doing. Do you have any thoughts that could help resolve this family debate?
It’s rare that I receive emails about news stories, but I understand how this has caused a heated discussion within your family. This case involves a student, Adam Semprevivo. His father, Stephen Semprevivo, pleaded guilty to charges that he paid $400,000 to the Georgetown University tennis coach to help get his son admitted to the school. His son says he wasn’t part of this scam and, as such, is suing Georgetown after being expelled. His lawyers argue that college officials should have had a stronger vetting process.
He usurped another student’s place, but he also did something in the application process that no tennis player should ever do: He took his eye off the ball.
“Despite the fact that these misrepresentations could have been easily verified and debunked before Georgetown formally admitted Semprevivo in April 2016, no one at Georgetown did so,” the lawsuit reads . “In fact, Semprevivo’s high-school transcripts, on their face, reflect that Semprevivo’s athletic endeavor of choice was basketball and that he received credit for his participation on the basketball team.” The lawsuit reveals that his “athletic endeavor of choice” was basketball.
Adam Semprevivo says he did not know about his father’s scheme. Let’s take him at his word. If he did not know about his father’s scheme, he should still give up his place and his credits because (a) it was his responsibility to make sure everything he put his name to on the college application was accurate and true and (b) there is someone out there who did not get into Georgetown whose place he took. It’s not ethical to take up a college place, knowing that it prevented a student who was legitimately qualified from taking up that place.
I’m not convinced that he didn’t know. Adam Semprevivo sent an email to Georgetown’s former tennis coach, Gordon Ernst, drafted by William Singer, the college counselor who acted as a middle man for parents, with false statements about his tennis experience and wrote an entrance essay for Semprevivo that highlighted his non-existent tennis background, according to documents in the federal lawsuit. Adam Semprevivo’s lawyer, David Kenner, said Singer took over the process. (Kenner and Adam Semprevivo did not respond to request for comment.)
The college admissions scandal touched a raw nerve across America, revealing the dark underbelly of how wealthy families surreptitiously snag a place for their kids in Ivy League colleges. The accused parents allegedly broke the law, but there are plenty of legal ways that more affluent families have an edge, including sending their kids to private schooling, and paying for them to participate in expensive extra-curricular activities and sports that are often out of reach for millions of Americans. The college-admissions bribery scandal revealed outright cheating.
The college admissions scandal touched a raw nerve across America, revealing the dark underbelly of how wealthy families snag a place for their kids.
Americans care about this case and many were outraged by the hypocrisy and brass neck of people like Felicity Huffman, the “Desperate Housewives” actress, who paid $15,000 have someone else sit a college entrance exam in place of her daughter, while tweeting /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.75% about the need to empower young women. (Huffman later said she felt “unfathomable” humiliation and shame.) Those who didn’t get into the college of their choice, those who did and those who never had the opportunity or, indeed, the expectation to go to college felt personally connected to this scandal.
Of course, the whole notion of “fair and square” is relative. As MarketWatch student-loan reporter Jillian Berman recently wrote, families could spend upwards of $200,000 preparing one child for college. That’s assuming students attend private school, participate in at least four years of each of extracurricular activities including youth sports, music/language/sports lessons, a volunteer program abroad, and parents hire SAT tutors and independent consultants to help students prepare their college applications. But that’s a question for another day.
Whether or not Adam Semprevivo knew about his father’s deceit, he should give up his place at Georgetown — and not look back. Life isn’t fair. Bad stuff happens. Entitled people do entitled things. And good people do bad things. Sometimes, they even turn a blind eye to bad things and don’t ask questions, even if something doesn’t quite make sense. He usurped another student’s place at Georgetown University. That is enough for him to get expelled. But he also did something during the application process that no tennis or basketball player should ever do: He took his eye off the ball.
Georgetown University sent MarketWatch the following statement:
“Georgetown refrains from commenting on individual students in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In 2017, Georgetown’s Admissions Office discovered irregularities in the athletic credentials of two students who were being recruited to play tennis. Neither student was admitted. Georgetown immediately put former coach Gordon Ernst on leave, initiated an internal investigation, established a new policy concerning the recruitment of student athletes, implemented audits to check whether recruited student athletes are on team rosters, and asked Mr. Ernst to resign.”
“The University was not aware of any alleged criminal activity or acceptance of bribes by Mr. Ernst until it was later contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The indictments filed by the U.S. Attorney this year named Georgetown and six other institutions as victims of fraud. The indictments included allegations that Mr. Ernst and several parents of Georgetown students were among many participants in a scheme that included the falsification of applications for admission and included evidence of student involvement.”
“Last month, we informed two students of our intent to rescind their admission and dismiss them from Georgetown. Each student case was addressed individually and each student was given multiple opportunities to respond and provide information to the University. Our review focused on whether students knowingly provided false information to the University or whether they participated in improper activity during the admissions process.”
An Elite Consultant’s Take on the College Admissions Scandal
High-end college consultant Allen Koh was shocked to learn his colleague and competitor Rick Singer pleaded guilty to crimes including conspiracy and racketeering. WSJ sat down with Koh for insight into the multimillion-dollar college-consulting industry and what is driving parents to such desperate measures.
Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).
Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on <INTERNAL-PAGE URL="/tools/alerts/newsColumn.asp">this link.</INTERNAL-PAGE>
Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.