Rep. Santos scandal puts Baruch on the map

Nicole Bryk and Maya Demchak-Gottlieb

Rep. George Santos from the 3rd Congressional District has made Baruch College a subject of national interest after centering the school in a litany of lies about his professional and personal background.

Santos, who was elected in the 2022 midterm elections, claimed to have attended Baruch. He also told voters that he had been a “Baruch Bearcats volleyball star.”

“Baruch College checked its records for a George Santos, born on July 22, 1988, with a graduation year of 2010, and could not find a match,” Baruch told The Ticker in a statement. Baruch Athletics said the same.

Professor Constantin Schreiber of the English department said that as an instructor, Santos’ lies and impunity creates a challenge in a college environment where ethics are taught.

“How can we credibly go in front of a class and teach first year writing and teach them about plagiarism and not cheating and ethical standards?” Schreiber said. “And how can we say don’t embellish your resume?”

The controversy over Santos’ resume put Baruch’s volleyball team in the spotlight — the team made headline news in The New York Times and was quoted in The Washington Post. Baruch was even mentioned on Saturday Night Live.

Michael Higgins, a senior and member of Baruch’s volleyball team, said Baruch has always received recognition for its academic achievements, but the coverage surrounding Santos has increased Baruch’s name recognition.

“You’ve seen us in the rankings, nationwide we are always a top school,” Higgins said.

Julia Aiello, a sophomore, said she’s glad that Baruch can benefit from the publicity.

“I’d rather it be Baruch than some other preppy school that has enough of their name in the press,” Aiello said.

The coverage of Santos’ lies has spread throughout the Baruch community.

“I’ve seen stuff on the meme page and I’ve sent those over to my friends who don’t go to Baruch to keep up with George Santos because we’re all in Queens,” Aiello said.

Senior Andrew Ubanwa said that as a Baruch student and member of the volleyball team, it is impossible to avoid being exposed to media coverage.

“You can’t run away from it especially when you’re on the team,” Ubanwa said. “You see all the skits that they did, like SNL. You see all the Twitter memes and so it’s just funny to us.”

Jack Centeno, a junior and member of the volleyball team, noted that not all the coverage has been positive.

“Getting made fun of sometimes kind of sucks, but it’s also really funny, like, the SNL thing, it was hilarious,” Centeno said. “So, there’s good and bad about it. But, at the end of the day, really cool to be part of.”

Mike Buri Zaruma

One New York Times article moved away from the Santos scandal and focused on the story of Baruch’s student athletes.

The New York Times article commended the athletes for their academic achievements and involvement in the sport for the pure enjoyment of it.

Centeno, who was interviewed by The New York Times, said he appreciated that the story was about the volleyball team.

“I really liked that his questions were really focused on us and not George Santos,” Centeno said.

The coverage of the Santos story has brought attention to the accomplishments of Division III athletes.

“Every day of the year we put in a lot of work, and obviously it doesn’t get as much recognition and as much praise as DI but I think what people overlook is the balance between academics and athletics,” Centeno said. “I think that’s where DIII really shines. Because I’m able to really get my time in studying, and go from my grades, that’s what I’m here for, but also do what I love.”

Division III sports don’t offer athletic scholarships, and these athletes do not play with the expectation of going pro.

This year Baruch’s volleyball team had an average GPA of 3.42 with 13 finance majors who would be interning in finance or real estate firms during their off-season.

These accomplishments often get overlooked when covering sports.

“DIII definitely doesn’t get as much attention, but I feel like it’s just as important as any other division,” Argjend Osmanaj, a freshmen and member of the Baruch volleyball team, said. “The struggle, having to focus on academics, sports and work, a lot of people are working as well, at the same time. It can be very stressful. I feel like there should be more attention to DIII athletes.”

Ubanwa said he appreciated that The New York Times article recognized the volleyball team’s identity and helped differentiate them from the scandal.

“What’s really central to Baruch’s volleyball team is teamwork, trust, loyalty, and always being truthful,” Ubanwa said. “Santos, he’s been caught multiple times lying about what he’s been doing or where he’s gone. We just want to separate ourselves from all those lies.”

CUNY is known for providing equal opportunities to students who are minority, immigrant and from lower-income backgrounds. Santos’ narrative is one true for many CUNY students.

He painted himself as the child of Brazilian immigrants who was able to attend Baruch and use the opportunities the school gave him to work at well-known financial companies like Citigroup Inc. and The Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Santos described himself as the “full embodiment of the American dream.” But The New York Times reported that both Citigroup and Goldman Sachs also had no record of Santos working there.

Now that Santos’ fraudulent background has come to light, he’s facing calls to resign or be removed from Congress. He is also facing multiple investigations by prosecutors over his personal and campaign finances.

Santos stated he had no intentions of resigning in a Tweet on Jan. 11.

“I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party & politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living,” he wrote. “I will NOT resign!”

On Jan. 31, Santos stepped back from his assignments on the House Committee on Small Business and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

“With the ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations, I have submitted a request to Speaker McCarthy that I be temporarily recused from my committee assignments until I am cleared,” Santos said in a statement.

If Santos loses his position as a representative, the slim Republican majority in the House could narrow even further.

Despite all the negativity Santos has created for himself, Alexander Moule, the head coach of Baruch’s men’s and women’s volleyball teams, said they remain focused on achieving their objectives.

“My thought as a coach is you always make a negative into a positive so that’s what we’re going to do here,” Moule said. “What he did was negatively oriented. Were going to make it into a positive thing for our program.”

Mike Buri Zaruma