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Profile In Cowardice: Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor Suspends Conservative Legal Scholar Ilya Shapiro

Profile In Cowardice: Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor Suspends Conservative Legal Scholar Ilya Shapiro

“Georgetown’s embarrassing capitulation [to the “online outrage”] is antithetical to the tenets of liberal education…. 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,” wrote the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education in a statement responding to the suspension.

During the first 2020 Democratic primary campaign debate, Joe Biden pledged to consider only Black women for the first Supreme Court vacancy if he won. In typical sleazy Biden style, that promise was not based on principle or concern for Black women, it Was A Quid Pro Quo For James Clyburn’s Endorsement. Biden sold the seat for an endorsement, and in so doing, demeaned qualified Black women who should have been considered for a SCOTUS spot based on their credentials and qualifications apart from race and sex.

Biden’s move — apart from the quid pro quo — is overwhelmingly unpopular, including with “nonwhite” people, as we covered, ABC Poll: Only 28% of “Nonwhite Americans” Agree That Biden Should Only Consider A Black Woman For SCOTUS.

People understand what the professional DEI  and activist classes and progressive academics don’t, that racial preferences are poisonous to our society. The Supreme Court will weigh in on that topic in the Harvard case recently accepted for review, where Asian applicants were sacrificed at the altar of “equity.”

One of the people who criticized Biden’s move was conservative legal scholar Ilya Shapiro, currently at the CATO Institute but scheduled to begin a job on February 1, 2022, as Executive Director and Senior Lecturer in the Center for the Constitution at Georgetown University Law Center. I don’t know Shapiro personally, but we have linked to or mentioned him numerous times on a variety of legal issues.

Shapiro may or may not end up filling that position because there is a concerted effort to pressure Georgetown to terminate Shapiro’s hiring after Shapiro criticized Biden’s racial posturing in what he admits was an “inartful” series of tweets.

Just today, Shapiro has been placed on “administrative leave” by Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor, and will be subjected to university investigation as to whether Shapiro violated any rule or whether his tweets constituted prohibited discrimination. Not only is Georgetown violating Shapiro’s academic freedom, Dean Treanor has misrepresented the tweets, falsely asserting Shapiro claimed “the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman.” Here’s some background leading up to the suspension:

The Tweets And Apology

The National Review has done excellent and thorough work exposing the lies and fraud behind the accusations, including Dan McLaughlin’s inital post, The Dishonest Cancellation Campaign against Ilya Shapiro:

Joe Biden has, quite rightly, come in for criticism for announcing in advance during the 2020 campaign that his first Supreme Court nominee would be a black woman. The problem is not simply that Biden pledged to consider race or gender, or eventually make room for a black woman on the Court, but that he specifically said that for this job, his first criteria — sight unseen of who he would interview — would be to eliminate the great majority of the available candidates based solely on their race and gender. While presidents have had gender or state limitations in the past, this is a step further. Here was Ilya’s response to Biden’s explicit race-and-gender litmus test on Twitter:

The response has been classic cancel culture, as McLaughlin documents:

Now, Ilya’s use of the words “lesser black woman” in this context was not the ideal way of phrasing this critique, but then, Twitter is fast-moving, space-constrained, and has no edit function, so it is hardly unusual to see things phrased there awkwardly (the tweets were written on his iPhone, and he has since deleted them). But this morning, Mark Joseph Stern of Slate decided to try to get Ilya fired from Georgetown by dishonestly portraying this as a “racist” rant and, for good measure, dismissing a writer of obviously superior intellect and credentials to Stern as a “troll” and casting his own eager assault as something he regretted having to do:


This is willfully dishonest, and it is done to explicitly target Ilya’s hiring by Georgetown, and Stern knows it. Most graphically dishonest is Stern’s claim that only racism can explain thinking that a non-white judge is better qualified, and that only a racist would object to excluding highly qualified people from a job interview process on the basis of race.

What followed is a classic formula. The law school Dean issued an immediate and deceptive public denunciation:

Shapiro apologized Thursday morning after a Georgetown Law professor questioned the “lesser Black woman” tweet.

“I apologize,” Shapiro tweeted. “I meant no offense, but it was an inartful tweet. I have taken it down.”

Treanor released this statement to and the Washington Post:

“Ilya Shapiro, who was recently hired to direct one of Georgetown Law’s research institutes, posted a series of tweets on Twitter that he has since deleted. The tweets’ suggestion that the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman, and their use of demeaning language are appalling. The tweets are at odds with everything we stand for at Georgetown Law and are damaging to the culture of equity and inclusion that Georgetown Law is building every day.”

The Black Law Students Association not only wants Shapiro’s employment offer terminated, they want more power over hiring and money for programs they like.

(Google Doc with signatories here)

Conservative students at Georgetown rallied around Shapiro, as they correctly recognize the broader implications of the law school terminating Shapiro.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has wrote to Dean Treanor cautioning against taking punitive action (Letter here) and including a Letter signed by numerous academics calling for Shapiro’s academic freedom to be honored.

The Suspension

Today Dean Treanor announced that Shapiro was being put on administrative leave and would not be allowed on campus (emphasis added):

Over the past several days, I have heard the pain and outrage of so many at Georgetown Law, and particularly from our Black female students, staff, alumni, and faculty. Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity. I have heard and listened to a wide range of views, and I am grateful to the many members of the community who have reached out to me and other leaders at the school to share their thoughts.

I am writing to inform you that 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. Pending the outcome of the investigation, he will remain on leave and not be on campus. This investigation will follow the procedures established by Georgetown University.

Racial stereotypes about individual capabilities and qualifications remain a pernicious force in our society and our profession. I am keenly aware that our law school is not exempt. We will continue our work with students, staff, alumni, and faculty to put in place strategies, policies, and practices to strengthen our community and our commitment to justice and equality for all. And I remain committed to working with each of you to create a community where we can all thrive.

Bill Treanor

The FIRE released a statement indicating that a member of its legal network was representing Shapiro:

FIRE strongly condemns Georgetown Law’s suspension and investigation of Ilya Shapiro for tweets about potential replacements for Justice Breyer that some found offensive. In response to online outrage stoked by critics of Shapiro’s political views and aimed at his employment, Georgetown has chosen to ignore its commitments to expressive and academic freedom. Georgetown’s embarrassing capitulation is antithetical to the tenets of liberal education and cannot be squared with its promise to provide “all members” of its community “the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn,” even if others find it “offensive, unwise, immoral, or ill conceived.”​​

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. FIRE Legal Network member Jesse Binnall is representing Shapiro, and we look forward to seeing his rights vindicated.

Shapiro has released his own statement:

Profile in Cowardice

Dean William Treanor failed the test of courage, as do many administrators in his position. It’s a lot easier to give into the outrage machine than to uphold academic freedom and free speech. It’s fair to criticize the tweets, it’s not fair to misrepresent them. It’s fair for Dean Treanor to have an opinion, it’s not fair to announce an institutional position as if only one viewpoint were allowed – Treanor could write apart from his role of Dean. And the unpopularity on campus and the internet of Shapiro’s viewpoint is not the basis for punitive employment action. The claim that his unpopular viewpoints, particularly expressed away from campus, could constitute discrimination or harassment is absurd and chilling.

There are multiple levels to everything that has gone wrong at Georgetown Law. Too many levels for this one post. We will have much more on this in the coming days and weeks.


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Closely related, Deray McKesson’s racial grievance grift finally imploded.

Similar to Patrise Cullors and the larger BLM movement, there were tens of millions of dollars in donations that have seemingly gone unaccounted for.

The final break for Campaign Zero’s founders came shortly after the unprecedented protests following George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis. It could have been a moment of great possibility for the organization; according to Sinyangwe, the nonprofit received millions in donations in a matter of weeks. But in June 2020, Campaign Zero released a policy proposal showing just how far it stood from mainstream progressive thought — and how quickly police abolition came to dominate the discussion that year.

“Dean William Treanor failed the test of courage”

You’re giving him too much credit, making it sound like he would have preferred to do the right thing and stand up for free speech and for the end of racial preferences.

Is there any evidence whatsoever to back up that view? I doubt there is. If he was really such an honest, open minded man, he would never have been allowed to become the dean.

Colonel Travis | January 31, 2022 at 9:18 pm

Soviet purges.
When do the imprisonments and executions come?

Live by the AA sword. Die by the AA sword.

Biden’ll do what he wants and in the process will further cement the AA taint. Since no one will know the basis underlying how AB (a black man) or CD (a black female) arrived at a favored station in life, it will be assumed that he/she got there by AA. That taint will follow them forever. Of course having that taint will mean little if Ds continue to control the institutions of power. Such people won’t care since their aim is to destroy America. On the other hand patients of an AA-tainted “doctor” or clients of an AA-tainted lawyer will care. And will pay the price for incompetence.

What legal recourse would he have, assuming the “investigation” is rigged, and thus doesn’t vindicate him? It’s a private university, so there are no constitutional rights to consider. Is the promise of academic freedom a contractual right that can be litigated?

    Juris Doctor in reply to Milhouse. | January 31, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    Totious interference with contract.

    Tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

      AnAdultInDiapers in reply to Juris Doctor. | February 1, 2022 at 5:49 am

      Defamation? False accusations of racism with a clear immediate detrimental outcome.

        1. He didn’t accuse him of racism.
        2. Had he done so, that would not be actionable, because whether someone is racist is a conclusion, not a factual statement. This is not a matter in dispute; every expert on the subject agrees that accusations of racism are not actionable.

        What he wrote is: “The tweets’ suggestion that the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman, and their use of demeaning language are appalling.” Now whether the tweets “suggested” such a thing is inherently a matter of opinion, not of fact, and thus not actionable.

        Therefore the only potentially actionable statement is that they used “demeaning language”, which is arguably true. Shapiro himself admitted that the word “lesser” could be misunderstood as demeaning, and was poorly chosen. The moment it was pointed out to him he deleted it. So that accusation too is not actionable.

        Of course a fair investigation would completely exonerate Shapiro. But who really expects it to be fair?

          AnAdultInDiapers in reply to Milhouse. | February 1, 2022 at 12:58 pm

          He’s been placed on leave pending an investigation into whether he’s breached “non-discrimination” policies.

          That means someone’s claiming that he has, or they wouldn’t investigate. That person has defamed him.

          As for “every expert on the subject agrees that accusations of racism are not actionable” I find this entirely unlikely. Someone effectively losing their job because of a false accusation is actionable, either in the courts or on the streets. Are you really claiming that the only recourse available to him would be to hunt down and hurt the person that defamed him?

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | February 1, 2022 at 3:56 pm

          Whoever claims he’s breached the university’s policies, it isn’t the university; so he has no recourse against it for saying so.

          If the “investigation” finds he did so then he might be able to sue it for lying, but probably not, because its report would presumably list all the evidence on whose basis it reached that conclusion, and the conclusion itself is inherently a matter of opinion and thus not actionable. It doesn’t matter if a jury decides that the evidence doesn’t support the conclusion; the university is entitled to claim that it does. So long as it doesn’t suggest there are additional facts that support the conclusion but aren’t in the report, it’ll be free and clear.

          And yes, every single expert on the subject of defamation law and the first amendment agrees with what I wrote. Calling someone racist is not a factual statement but an opinion, and is therefore not actionable no matter how much harm it causes.

“Profiles in Cowardice” by Dean William Treanor

Hey, Dean! Turn aournd and let me look at your back. Wow! You’ve got a larger yellow stripe than the highway.

You made the wrong decision in authorizing this witch hunt and I hope it comes back and bites you in the you in the buttocks.

‘Black Law Students Association?’ If someone started a ‘White Law Students Association,’ would that group be given the same campus privileges?

Apology is always a mistake but more importantly is this cowardice or malice?

    greyfur in reply to Danny. | February 1, 2022 at 8:59 am

    Was just about to say that. Never apologize to these people, as soon as you do that, you legitimize their complaint, even if it’s just by a fraction. Last thing you ever want to do is give them any legitimacy. EVER….

Had to chuckle seeing the black law student group’s letterhead. Like some civil rights organization? Sympathies to the black females there whose lives are forever affected.

I agree with and support your position, but you are capitulating to the mob yourself by capitalizing “black”.

    AnAdultInDiapers in reply to MTED. | February 1, 2022 at 5:59 am

    I have indeed found an article on LI from the past couple of weeks that references “white Americans” without capitalising white, so I concur, this is a racist representation.

“At Georgetown Law, Black students are haunted by the shadow of impostor syndrome.”

Precisely because you have Affirmative Action available to benefit from, you morons. You will never escape that shadow as long as it exists. You’re on the plantation again, idiots.

Can’t wait until the senate hear, Ms ______, how does it make you feel to be merely a pawn in the gambit between Biden and Clyburn?

So Shapiro is suspended and “canceled” as a racist and Whoopi Goldberg will not face any discernable professional consequence for exponentially more egregious conduct.

Yep, that sounds totally legit! (sarc.)

Steven Brizel | February 1, 2022 at 5:52 am

Why was Shapiro suspended but a militant feminist who used unprintable language against Kavanaugh and men allowed to teach at Georgetown? Something is rotten at Georgetown

Shapiro’s first mistake is apologizing, it shows weakness. Any person with an IQ higher than room temperature knows what he meant

Folks, we are being “warned”. Point out how this nomination is “tainted@ or even a product of “quid pro quo” and you will suffer.

I recall a song that starts “oh say can you see…”. The last few lines of the song … not so much anymore.

    Milhouse in reply to Doc-Wahala. | February 1, 2022 at 9:36 am

    “And so conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    and thus be our motto: “In God is our trust”.
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

      Doc-Wahala in reply to Milhouse. | February 1, 2022 at 9:44 am

      Mulhouse – appreciate you filling in the blank. It’s those last two lines which no longer ring true.

        Milhouse in reply to Doc-Wahala. | February 1, 2022 at 6:02 pm

        It was on my mind, because I had just written an invocation for someone to use at a Four Chaplains Day ceremony, in which I quoted the first four lines of that verse.

Never apologize.
Explain yourself if you need to, but always stand for your beliefs.

This nonsense does not end until it has consequences. Georgetown is a private institution, and so there is no application of the First Amendment (and I do not know whether DC has a separate statute on the subject). But private employers who are offended by this (are they cowed by the mob?) are free to tell the dean that they will not hire any Georgetown graduates unless the dean changes course, and likewise alumni/donors can tell the trustees that they will stop donating until the dean is fired.

“Cowardice” implies that the Dean acted only out of fear, not conviction.
It seems more reasonable to assume that the Dean genuinely opposes free speech for conservatives.

I have no idea what has happened to Georgetown, but they don’t honor free speech and kowtow to every grievance grifter out there. Why anyone would hire a graduate from Georgetown is beyond me.

When you have the dean OF LAW at a preeminent university willfully misinterpreting the words of someone, you know for certain that that university has been ruined by ideology.

It’s always a good time to Shut Up and stay away from twitter. Twitter does only harm. Make love, not twitter.

civisamericanus | February 1, 2022 at 12:38 pm

I would be hesitant to hire a Black Law School Association member (note that I said “BLSA member,” not “Black attorney” if he or she is not a BLSA member) noting this organization’s conduct at Cornell University and its role in attempting to “cancel” Prof. Jacobson. Noting that Cornell’s BLSA falsely accused an identifiable police officer of “murdering” Breonna Taylor on the same web page on which it attacked Prof. Jacobson, and that even most non-lawyers know that a false public accusation of a felony is libel per se, I would have to wonder about the quality of representation I would get; that is my perception and opinion. (They did not name the cop but his identity is known.) The same goes for the other Cornell law professors who attacked Jacobson although not by name; they also said Taylor was “murdered.” This suggests that SUNY Law School might be not only less expensive but of better quality. The same goes for Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren who published falsely that Michael Brown was murdered. As the name of the cop who shot him in self-defense is known, this comes across to me as libel.

On the same page BLSA attacked Prof. Jacobson, it also contended without factual backing that Black Lives Matter is not a Marxist organization whose goal is to tear down society. While BLM is not Marxist as a whole, two of its founders had Marxist training and a BLM web page said something about a “revolution.” This is the “pound on the table” approach by an attorney who has neither the law nor the facts on his side and I for one would want to be represented by an attorney who can appeal to the law and/or the facts as opposed to calling the other counsel names. I would have respected BLSA had it made reasonable arguments on BLM’s behalf regardless of whether I agreed with them but I cannot respect what it actually published.

As for law school deans, one need look no further than Cornell’s Eduardo Penalver who used a Cornell web site as opposed to his own blog to express the following opinion. “In light of this deep and rich tradition of walking the walk of racial justice, in no uncertain terms, recent blog posts of Professor William Jacobson, casting broad and categorical aspersions on the goals of those protesting for justice for Black Americans, do not reflect the values of Cornell Law School as I have articulated them.”

Penalver is again pounding on the table while representing his employer (as opposed to Jacobson who uses his own blog) because BLM Global Network has done a lot more than protest for justice for Black Americans, a position with which I agree. It has incited looting and violence, it used 501(c)(3) tax exempt resources to campaign against President Trump before it finally formed a political action committee, and it is an anti-Semitic hate group in the bargain if one uses the definition as encompassing denial of Israel’s right to exist as Patrisse Cullors did while representing the organization.* Anti-Semitic slogans such as “Israel, we know you, you murder children too” have been chanted at BLM events and the organizers have not told those involved this is not acceptable. I hope this is not what Cornell’s law school supports.

* Disagreement with the policies of Israel is not anti-Semitic but denial of Israel’s right to exist is, just as disagreement with the policies of the U.S. Government is not anti-American. Cullors however called for the dismantling of Israel.

civisamericanus | February 1, 2022 at 12:43 pm

What’s the tuition at Georgetown Law School versus that of the state university’s law school?

    henrybowman in reply to civisamericanus. | February 1, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    Georgetown is in DC, so no state.

    Univ of DC has the David Clark Law School. The 2021-2022 tuition rates for full-time students are $6,219 per semester for D.C. residents, $9,328 for metropolitan area residents, and $12,437 per semester for non-District residents.

    Georgetown was $64,548 for 2019-20 which is $32,274 per semester.

At worst he was imprecise in his tweet. Any fair reading would acknowledge his larger point and not simply seize upon one imprecise phrase than could be interpreted negatively by those who don’t wish to be fair or objective.
That’s the issue. Those of us who oppose the descent into tribalism must always be precise with our language to avoid using phrases that can be misinterpreted. Our political and ideological opponents don’t want a fair reading. They don’t want an objective analysis. They reject both concepts. They wait for us to make a small error and then attempt to use it as the fulcrum to overturn our lives, our institutions and our culture.

Finally, as others note, any apology other than ‘I’m sorry you are offended by the truths expressed in my comments and I hope that when you take time to reflect upon them you will change your mind’ will be used to demand further concessions, either apologies or further consequences. Allowing our own sense of decency, common courtesy and values to be weaponized against us is a critical error. Until our opponents allow a restoration of the incentives to apologize; forgiveness, then it only serves their aims. Don’t support the objectives of our opponents by playing Calvin ball on their terms.

civisamericanus | February 1, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Looks like Joe Biden is channeling Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat).

“When I appoint a Negro to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a Negro.” This was with regard to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

“Negro” was not exactly the word that LBJ used. Of course, given Biden’s depiction of a Black man as a “boy,” none of this comes as any surprise.

Reminds me of the movie “Kill Bill”

I took the tweet to mean Biden would choose a lesser qualified person to meet his commitment over his (Shapiro’s) preferred candidate. Not that all black women would be lesser. I definitely see how a black woman might be triggerd by the statement if you assume such commitments are racist. That said,, as a white male I’m triggerd every week st the vast volume of anti white male statements and no one looses their job over it. I think they get promoted…

Steven Brizel | February 3, 2022 at 9:48 am

Shapiro is a superb writer and advocate who should be restored to active teaching responsibilities by a law school dean who is more interested in caving in to the woke left than in preserving the Bill of Rights.

Shapiro stated the obvious about Sotomayor-she was on the bench solely because of affirmative action which she admitted in her book was how she got into Princeton and law school and her opinions on all issues show that she is a disciple of identity politics with her mind made up, and a disdain for opposing arguments that exhibits itself in the way that she treats advocates from the bench