Regarding the Department of Justice Investigation
March 15, 2019
Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:
Earlier this week, the Department of Justice announced a set of indictments as part of an ongoing investigation into criminal acts by more than forty individuals with connections to eight colleges and universities, including Georgetown. Former Georgetown Tennis Coach, Gordon Ernst, is among those charged in this nationwide scheme to influence admissions decisions.
We are deeply troubled by these criminal allegations against Mr. Ernst and his violation of the ethical standards of our University community. We understand the feelings of shock and disappointment among our students and alumni, who worked so hard to prepare for their time at Georgetown, and the members of our community, who uphold our values in their contributions to the work of our University.
On Tuesday afternoon, we shared a message with our campus community on these allegations, including information about an internal investigation we conducted into Mr. Ernst’s activities prior to his departure last year. We also shared steps that we implemented in 2018 to strengthen our policies related to the admissions process and the recruitment of students interested in intercollegiate athletics.
Our internal investigation looked into irregularities we had identified in Mr. Ernst’s recruiting practices and we determined that he had violated University rules concerning admissions. We were not aware at the time of any criminal activity and only learned of his alleged fraud from the Department of Justice after Mr. Ernst had left the University. Now that the government’s investigation has detailed the extent of the alleged fraud, we are reviewing the indictment and will take appropriate action. We have no indication that any other Georgetown employees were involved.
You can find a copy of our earlier message on our University website as well as a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” that provide additional information.
In recent days, our national conversation has turned its focus to issues that can impact access to higher education. The role of a college degree has never been more important in the lives of our young people. As a nation, we must ensure that more of our young people are able to enter and complete post-secondary education.
Each year, we have the privilege of welcoming a new class of students to Georgetown. Our admissions process pursues a holistic, individualized approach to undergraduate admissions, supported by a strong network of alumni interviewers and a deep appreciation for the importance of diverse perspectives and backgrounds among our student body. Students who apply to Georgetown are not asked to fill out the Common App—a standard application used by more than eight hundred schools. Instead, students apply through an application that is specific to Georgetown, which allows us to better understand the student’s interest in becoming a member of our University community.
Our longstanding policies of need-blind admissions and meet-full-need financial aid, our partnerships with programs such as the Cristo Rey Network, a network of Catholic high schools in underserved communities, and our programs that provide opportunities and support to our first-generation and low-income students advance a foundational commitment to equity and access for all members of our community.
Together, these elements provide a strong framework that gives us confidence in each undergraduate class that enters Georgetown.
We are reminded, in this moment, that we must be ever more attentive to promoting access for students from a diversity of backgrounds. We have a strong and enduring commitment to this work and it is this commitment—to ensuring the very best students can attend Georgetown—that has made us the University that we are today.
John J. DeGioia