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 Law.com 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.
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) 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.
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.
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:
— Ilya Shapiro (@ishapiro) January 31, 2022
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.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.