Updated at 3:20 p.m. Feb, 6, 2013
Xanthi Gionis, a Republican candidate for the state Senate in the 40th District of south San Diego County, has been accused of running a college in Carlsbad that lacks a license, shut its website and got the worst grade possible from the Better Business Bureau.
Aristotle University apparently operated in Carlsbad without a business license; nor did it have a license from the state Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, according to an NBC San Diego report.
The news station reported that several students voiced complaints about the business.
Gionis is running in a special election against Democratic Assemblyman Ben Hueso and fellow Republican Hector Gastelum to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Juan Vargas, who won election to Congress in the district once served by Bob Filner.
She also ran for Congress in the 51st district and was endorsed by the local Republican Party. She lives in Chula Vista, according to online records.
Tony Krvaric, chairman of the county Republican Party, told Patch: “We have not endorsed anyone in the SD40 race, and this is the first I've heard of these allegations.”
The Better Business Bureau has given her school a grade of F, saying: “The BBB confirmed that Aristotle University had not obtained a necessary license from Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.”
The school’s website—which lacks the traditional .edu domain—has been taken down, leaving the note: “Our new website is currently Under Maintenance."
But earlier versions of the site are visible on archive.org.
“Aristotle University currently has established working relationships with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Health; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology,” says one information page.
Further, the school claims:
Aristotle University has attained a collaborative educational agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia-Pacific School of Ethics, wherein Aristotle University established and hosts the UNESCO International Bioethics Journal Club (UNESCO IBJC)
The school says it has “an expressed and dedicated commitment for academic excellence, promotion of understanding, pursuit of truth, and the strengthening of the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, peace, the sense of dignity, and the promotion of understanding, tolerance and friendship.”
Besides a School of Public Health, programs boasted by Aristotle also include the Aristotle University College of Law (onsite legal education), the Aristotle University Institute of Law and Jurisprudence (distance-learning legal education) and the Aristotle University Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant Residency Program.
In answer to a smartvoter.org questionnaire, Gionis touted her experience as a longtime businesswoman and co-founder of a small private university in Southern California, adding:
I have had to balance a budget in varied economic times. I found that it was important to make tough, sound monetary decisions while not sacrificing either my employees’ salaries or the outstanding level of education that I had committed to provide the students of our University.
What I learned was that budgets can be cut while still maintaining excellence and while abiding to one’s mission statement and core objectives.
Dr. Thomas A. Gionis is listed as president of Aristotle and dean and professor of public health.
The health school’s Facebook page, had only 14 Likes when archived recently.
The site says Gionis is the youngest person in the United States to have obtained an MD degree after starting medical school at 17, adding.
“He holds the following degrees: MD, Medical University of South Carolina; JD (Cum Laude), John Marshall Law School (Chicago); MPH, UCLA School of Public Health; MBA, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Business; and MHA, Seton Hall University, Center for Public Service.”
Gionis was the subject of scrutiny in Orange County in 2001, when the Daily Pilot newspaper reported that he had been convicted and sentenced to serve five years in prison “for hiring two thugs to attack his estranged wife, Aissa Wayne, daughter of the late actor and local legend John Wayne.”
The paper reported that Aissa Wayne and her boyfriend, Roger Luby, were assaulted in Luby's Newport Beach home in October 1988 and added:
Gionis hired top defense attorneys such as F. Lee Bailey, John Barnett and even Bruce Cutler, a flamboyant attorney who represented New York mob boss John Gotti. In 1990, Gionis' first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked 9-3. Two years later, his second trial ended in a conviction and Gionis was sentenced to five years in prison.
On its financial page, Aristotle says it reserves the right to change fees and tuition without notice.
“Tuition and fees for the entire forty-five unit MPH program at the Aristotle University School of Public Health are calculated at … $24,975.00.”
If Aristotle cancels or discontinues a course or educational program, its said on its site, “the University will make a full refund of all charges. Refund checks will be mailed within 30 days from the date of Notice of Cancellation made by the University.”
For online courses, the “student shall have the right to cancel until midnight of the eighth business day after the first lesson was emailed (or electronically dispatched) to the student in digital form.”
More information is being sought. Check back for updates.