Georgetown University student facing possible expulsion over father’s bribes files lawsuit
chemistkane/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A Georgetown University student facing possible expulsion over his father’s involvement in a college admissions bribery scheme is taking the school to court.
Adam Semprevivo filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning against the private university in Washington, D.C., demanding that a district court judge block the school from taking disciplinary action against him that could include revoking his earned academic credits and subjecting him to academic discipline after his father, California sales executive Stephen Semprevivo, admitted paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get him accepted.
Stephen Semprevivo had hired a college admissions consultant, William “Rick” Singer, to help with his son’s applications several years ago. But Adam Semprevivo, who just completed his junior year at the university, alleges that his father, without his knowledge, made an agreement with Singer “to take specific steps” to get him into Georgetown, according to the complaint.
Adam Semprevivo alleges in the lawsuit he was informed by Singer that Georgetown’s then-tennis coach, Gordon Ernst, was a friend and would provide him a recommendation, when in fact Ernst used one of his assigned admission slots as if he was recruiting Adam Semprevivo to play tennis for the university.
Singer also wrote Adam Semprevivo’s admissions essay, which contained “falsified information” that “solely discussed Adam’s love for tennis,” and submitted his application into Georgetown, typing in Adam Semprevivo’s name in the signature block. Yet high school transcripts, which were supplied to Georgetown, “made no reference to Adam ever having played tennis,” according to the complaint.
“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 complaint states. “From 2017 until April 3, 2019, no one from Georgetown questioned Semprevivo, met with Semprevivo, sought an explanation from Semprevivo, or attempted to discipline Semprevivo in relation to issues concerning his admission.”
Adam Semprevivo claims in the lawsuit that his acceptance into Georgetown “was not conditioned on playing or participating on the tennis team,” and that his SAT score and high school GPA, for which he “received no assistance from Singer with either,” were both within the university’s academic standards.
While attending the university, Adam Semprevivo maintained a 3.18 grade point average, according to the lawsuit, which contents that he offered to withdraw from the university with his earned credits intact so that he could transfer to another school, and the university refused his request.
While Georgetown would not comment on the pending litigation, a spokesperson for the university told ABC News in a statement that in 2018 they “discovered irregularities in the athletic credentials of two students who were being recruited to play tennis. Neither student was admitted.”
An internal investigation was launched and Ernst was asked to resign, the university said, adding that they “established a new policy concerning the recruitment of student athletes” and “implemented audits to check whether recruited student athletes are on team rosters.”
“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,” university spokesperson Meghan Dubyak said.
Georgetown said following the March indictments, they began contacting current students who may have been involved to give them a chance to respond. The university noted that “knowingly misrepresenting or falsifying credentials in an application can be cause for rescinding the admission of the student and dismissal from Georgetown.”
As a result of their internal inquiry, the university said they “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.”
The complaint claims that by taking action in this way, Georgetown has “flagrantly violated” its own Honor Council System Procedures in relation to its investigation of Adam Semprevivo and has failed to provide him with appropriate due process in subjecting him to disciplinary proceedings that could lead to the rescission of his admission and his expulsion.
The lawsuit contends that the university’s Honor Council System Procedures requires that a full investigation be conducted and a report presented to the executive board, with the student given a right to present evidence before a decision is made.
When questioned about why this process did not take place for Adam Semprevivo’s case, the university, through their attorney, said the honor system did not apply because the issue concerns Adam Semprevivo’s submissions to the university before he was enrolled as a student, according to the lawsuit.
After his son was accepted into Georgetown, Stephen Semprevivo paid “a charity” of Singer’s $400,000, according to the complaint. Federal prosecutors say Singer then paid off Ernst for pretending Adam Semprevivo was a team recruit.
Singer has been identified as the ringleader of a nationwide college admissions scam. Parents allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to Singer to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford and Georgetown universities, and the University of Southern California, according to federal prosecutors.
Last week, Stephen Semprevivo became the third parent to plead guilty in the vast scam. Meanwhile, Ernst has pleaded not guilty to accepting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 Georgetown applicants as team recruits.
While this appears to be the first lawsuit involving a student whose parents were accused of being involved in the scheme, it is not the first civil lawsuit stemming from the scheme itself.
In March, Stanford University students Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods filed a class-action lawsuit against eight colleges including USC, Stanford, UCLA and Georgetown.
Olsen and Woods both claim that they have been negatively impacted by the alleged cheating scheme and requested more than $5 million in damages, arguing that “unqualified students found their way into the admissions rolls of highly selective universities, while those students who played by the rules and did not have college-bribing parents were denied admission.”
They also alleged their degrees are diminished because of the alleged scandal.
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