By Chrissy Clark
Georgetown Law School placed an incoming professor on administrative leave after he deleted and apologized for a tweet that condemned President Joe Biden’s affirmative action commitment to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court, according to an email from Georgetown Law’s Dean.
Dean William Treanor sent an email to students on Jan. 31 announcing that the school placed CATO Scholar and incoming professor Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave after hearing the “pain and outrage” from the Georgetown community. Treanor said in his email that there was outcry “particularly from our Black female students, staff, alumni, and faculty” to remove Shapiro from his incoming role.
“Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity,” Treanor’s email reads.
“I have placed Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave, pending an investigation into whether he violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment, the results of which will inform our next steps,” he continued.
“Racial stereotypes about individual capabilities and qualifications remain a pernicious force in our society and our profession,” Treanor said. “I am keenly aware that our law school is not exempt.” (RELATED: Sunny Hostin: Black Woman Who Graduated From Harvard Is ‘Overqualified’ For Supreme Court)
In a since-deleted tweet Shapiro — who was slated to start as the executive director and senior lecturer at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution on Feb. 1 — tweeted that Biden was potentially overlooking a “very smart” candidate because of her skin color.
“Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid [progressive] and [very] smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American,” the tweet read. “But alas doesn’t fit into last intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”
“Because Biden said he’s only consider [sic] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached,” Shapiro said in a follow-up tweet. “Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.”
Shapiro issued an apology statement via Twitter. He stated that he regrets his “poor choice of words” and admitted that he “undermined” his message by using the words “lesser black woman.” He did not apologize for his underlying argument that affirmative action is a “discrediting” tactic.
“While it’s important that a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds be represented in the judiciary, so blatantly using identity politics in choosing Supreme Court justices is discrediting to a vital institution,” Shapiro said. “Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan is, in my mind, the most qualified nominee a Democratic president could choose. Reasonable people can disagree on that particular assessment, but it’s a shame that he and other men and women of every race are excluded from the outset of the selection process.”
A further statement: pic.twitter.com/nsIVRyfoiN
— Ilya Shapiro (@ishapiro) January 29, 2022
Luke Bunting, a Georgetown Law student and president of the Conservative and Libertarian Student Association (CASLA), posted an open letter calling Dean Treanor’s reaction to the tweet unprofessional and unproductive to open discourse.
“From its administrators down, the Georgetown Law community has failed to live up to this most basic standard of human decency over the past 72 hours,” Bunting wrote. “First, Dean Treanor sent a school-wide email mischaracterizing the intended message of the tweets to such an extent that the only logical takeaway for students was that Ilya Shapiro is a bigot.”
“The school administration’s actions and language have consequences for the health and discourse at the school, and the administration has done real damage to it this week,” Bunting continued. “If the school gives in to mob rule and heeds the ridiculous calls to fire him, it will have endorsed the kind of reprehensible character assassination that is plauging modern society and the academy in particular.”
Bunting also claimed that conservative students feel there is a “double standard” in handling “offensive out-of-class statements made by faculty.”
Conservative & libertarian students oppose efforts by @GeorgetownLaw to end @ishapiro’s affiliation. The administration’s response has been to feed the mob. This is a test for the academy: Is it an instrument of cancel culture or an institution of learning? My statement here: pic.twitter.com/5lx5CRQ0zd
— Luke Bunting (@Luke_Bunting) January 29, 2022
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) told the Daily Caller that they are representing Shapiro. Robert Shibley, FIRE’s executive director, dubbed the investigation a “witch hunt.”
“There is nothing to investigate. Dean William Treanor has made the wrong decision in authorizing this witch hunt, and every day that it continues is an affront to free speech and fairness at Georgetown,” Shibley said. “FIRE Legal Network member Jesse Binnall is representing Shapiro, and we look forward to seeing his rights vindicated.”
FIRE’s Adam Steinbaugh noted that the investigation and handling of Shapiro’s tweet appear antithetical to Georgetown’s promises to its students and faculty.
“Georgetown says that ‘untrammeled expression’ is ‘central to its being,’ and that speech will not be suppressed even when many think it ‘offensive, unwise, immoral, or ill conceived.’ Freedom of expression protects both the right of a lecturer to offer views that others believe to be wrong or offensive, just as it protects the rights of Georgetown’s students, faculty, and administrators to respond to those views with vociferous criticism,” Steinbaugh said. “But the university’s commitment to freedom of expression bars it from acceding to demands that Shapiro be disciplined on the basis that others find his speech offensive or wrong.”