Kafka Goes to College

Admissions scandals, usually involving coaches of minor sports who were paid to help high school students gain admission to elite schools, have rocked several institutions. In my view, these scandals expose a deeper rot than the existence of some corrupt rowing or tennis coaches. The complaint embedded below was filed today against Georgetown University by a young man who is currently a student there, having just completed his junior year.

The complaint makes entertaining reading. The plaintiff, Adam Semprevivo, had decent but not outstanding qualifications as an applicant to Georgetown. Without Adam’s knowledge (according to the complaint), his father paid Georgetown’s tennis coach to flag Adam’s application to give him a leg up on admissions.

Adam might not have known that his father paid the coach, but he must have known that the coach was corruptly intervening on his behalf. The coach had his assistant write an essay for Semprevivo about how much he loved tennis. This despite the fact that his high school transcript showed that he had been on the high school basketball team, but contained no reference at all to tennis.

Semprevivo was admitted to Georgetown, where he has compiled a solid but not exceptional academic record. Now, after three years, Georgetown has told him that his conduct is under review and has declined to assure Adam that he will not be expelled. The complaint alleges that Georgetown has known, or should have known, about the scandal involving its tennis coach for two years, during which time the university accepted tuition payments from Semprevivo amounting to $200,000. The complaint alleges that Georgetown’s investigation is not following any process that is described in its own documents, as supplied to students. Semprevivo alleges that he has offered to withdraw from Georgetown and transfer to another school, as long as the university does not prevent his credits from being transferred or comment adversely to him.

One should never assume that the allegations in a complaint are true, but if this one is in the ballpark, it adds to the embarrassment Georgetown must already feel. America’s elite educational institutions have rightly sunk in public esteem in recent years, for a number of reasons. It would be ironic if the most damaging revelation of all turns out to be the fact that wealthy parents were buying their children’s way into college by bribing second and third tier coaches.