Georgetown Prep Statement
Responding to Vanity Fair's Flawed and Inaccurate Article on Georgetown Prep
An article about our community published on December 17 inVanity Fair relies on dubious methods, contains numerous factual errors, serious omissions, and assertions from sources that are either unsubstantiated or at odds with demonstrable facts and circumstances. This slanted reporting occurred despite our good faith effort to engage with the reporter, Evgenia Peretz, since early November, that included a dialogue of more than two dozen email exchanges.
The piece begins with a deceptive technique. Ms. Peretz apparently gained unauthorized access to our campus, never identifying herself to our security personnel at the front gate, nor to any school official. The article implies that she then surreptitiously followed and eavesdropped on some of our alumni in and around a private event at a nearby establishment. Although the president of our School, Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J., was obviously present, she never identified herself at that setting either. It also appears she was accompanied during this underhanded effort by New York Times reporter Kate Kelly. Indeed, both Kelly and Peretz relied on unconsented audio recording. That is surveillance, not journalism, and it shows the ulterior agenda that steered the work.
It was not until nearly two weeks later, on November 9, that we first heard from Ms. Peretz via email. That approach too proved to be in bad faith, as Ms. Peretz assured us that she was “hoping to present a clear-eyed, nuanced view of the situation” including “much support” she had heard for our school so that the piece would be “as fair and as complete as possible.”
Ms. Peretz also promised that we would have the opportunity to hear any specific assertions made about our School, so that we would have a full and fair opportunity to respond. But later she simply ignored our repeated requests to hear those assertions. Indeed, of the 20 assertions made by at least 16 anonymous sources, we were presented with only two.
Ever since Prep alumnus Brett Kavanaugh ’83 was nominated to the Supreme Court, a long list of partisan journalists have given themselves license to maraud our School and alumni, and to disparage our practices and our mission. As we detailed in this published essay, that coverage included a long list of underhanded media misconduct, distortions, and outright hostility.
This latest piece is sadly no different. Here are the specifics:
- The article reports that the Ruyak family says they – and not the School – “wound up going to the police themselves.” This is untrue and in fact we demonstrated to the magazine that we had contacted law enforcement on May 15, 2004. Had police been contacted prior to that date, the School would have been swiftly alerted and yet that did not occur. That same passage quotes “Father Gregory Eck” as a supporting source and yet Mr. Eck is not a priest. Instead he is an attorney in Pennsylvania and left the Jesuit order many years ago.
- The article continues to claim that “Eck promptly told Eric’s parents, and then informed Prep’s headmaster, who ‘dismissed the allegations as untrue,’ according to prosecutors.” But as we pointed out to the magazine, there is no basis for this claim. Throughout the investigatory process beginning in October, 2003, Dr. Relic, the interim Headmaster at the time, and Rev. William George, S.J., the president at the time, worked closely with the Ruyak family, with great sensitivity towards Eric. The School has contemporaneous notes of that inquiry, and heeded the Ruyak’s own wishes that a full fact-gathering take place, and later shared all those facts with law enforcement.
- Regarding the Ruyak case, Peretz made a number of false assertions to us prior to publication that we were able to demonstrate were untrue, and yet it appears she relied on information from the same sources without applying the same scrutiny.
- The article cites an anonymous “alum” to claim that “members of the administration whom he hadn’t heard from in years reached out to him. The overtures were friendly, but he interpreted the messages as reminder of the code.” But this is false. No members of the administration reached out to any alumni asking for support and the only letters that were community-wide were from Fr. Van Dyke.
- Even seemingly small factual errors betray the pejorative assumptions littered throughout the piece:
- The article reports that our alumnus, J. C. del Real was quarterback of our football team although he never played that position.
- The article cited a source, Evie Shapiro, “who attended Potomac High School and went to Catholic University with Judge.” But there is no Potomac High School, and Shapiro went to Churchilll High School in Potomac. Shapiro also did not attend Catholic University, she went to the University of Maryland. [This has since been publicly corrected by Vanity Fair.]
- The article reports that a reference in our 1983 yearbook which reads “Gonzaga you’re lucky” implied that a “gang” from our school avoided Gonzaga because it was “surrounded by a ghetto.” According to members of the class of 1983, that line alluded to how Gonzaga had unexpectedly won a close football game against our school in the fall of 1982.
- The article makes the unfounded assertion that “[a]ny female presence consisted of the librarian, the secretary in the president’s office, and perhaps two teachers.” But this is false. During the periods discussed in the article, we had 16 women (4 faculty members) who served on the staff during the 1982-1983 academic year and 27 women (10 faculty members) during the 2003-2004 academic year.
- The piece reports that at Mater Dei school, “teachers reported class academic rankings on a chalkboard.” But in fact, that occurred only in the school’s math class.
- The article skews Fr. Van Dyke’s remarks at the class of 1983 alumni gathering and omits key context to imply that he was referencing a “code of omertà.” But Fr. Van Dyke was referencing the loyalty of this alumni class with regards to how they have supported each other through a number of a familial and personal challenges throughout the years. The article also omits that Fr. Van Dyke challenged the class to grow for and with others even beyond their circle of friends and to help those in need all over the world.
- The article claims that our alumni “were mostly the offspring of conservatives, with the prominent exception of two Kennedys (Christopher and Doug) and two Shivers (Anthony and Mark).” But the article omits that our school has many prominent alumni in politics who were Democrats, including but not limited to Senator Chris Dodd D-CT (Class of ’62) and Representative John Dingell, Jr. D-MI (Class of ’44), the longest serving congressman in U.S. history.
- The piece claims that “in those days, only a handful were students of color.” In fact, the president of the student body in 1983 was African-American.
- The article relies on Richard Madaleno to make a number of accusations about the culture of the School but fails to disclose Madaleno’s Democratic affiliation. Madaleno is a Maryland state senator who recently ran for governor in the state’s Democratic primary. Madaleno was openly opposed to Kavanaugh during the nomination process on partisan and ideological grounds. It was also widely reported that Madaleno was used a source for a New York Times article attacking Kavanaugh.
- The article claims that the mention of “Renate Alumni” in the 1983 yearbook refers “to a girl from Stone Ridge whom the guys bragged about having sex with.” But this claim has been repeatedly refuted by numerous Prep alumni, including in sworn statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee. None of those first-hand accounts from direct parties to the situation were included in the piece.
- The article claims that our School “failed to rein in the abusive culture in the Prep community.” As we explained to Ms. Peretz in our email exchanges, our School takes all allegations seriously and takes appropriate disciplinary actions when founded. Additionally, around this time, headmasters at seven of the area’s private schools, including our School, wrote a joint letter to all parents of their students to express concern over situations that may lead to harmful behavior, and to open up a dialogue with parents to address those issues as a community.
- The article reports that “Prep began to change with the times…with the emergence of…a group called Community of Concern.” The article omits that Community of Concern was actually founded at Georgetown Prep in the 1990s by a school parent, which we pointed out to the magazine in an email. We also emphasized that each year as part of the program we have Community Concern events for our freshman and sophomores where health and legal consultants caution our students about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. These facts were also omitted.
- The article reports that “Eric Ruyak, who graduated in 2004, two decades after Kavanaugh, was the son of a board member, the younger brother of a star alum, and devout Catholic.” But the article omits that his father, Robert Ruyak was actually the Board vice-chair and then chairman. The article also fails to include that in a Washington Post article from 2011 at the time of these accusations, Robert Ruyak stressed that “he still supports Georgetown Prep as an institution.” Further, Ruyak’s younger brother was enrolled at Prep after he made his accusations.