Thursday, June 2nd, in a piece titled “My Cancel-Culture Nightmare, Is Over,” Ilya Shapiro announced he would be starting his new job as Georgetown Law’s Executive Director of its Center for the Constitution. Mr. Shapiro had been in limbo since January after progressive Georgetown students called for his cancellation due to tweets they disfavored. On Monday June 6th, he resigned, writing, “The university didn’t fire me, but it yielded to the progressive mob, abandoned free speech, and created a hostile environment.”
The Best Black Woman Available
Shapiro wrote derisively of President Biden’s pledge to put race and sex above legal acumen and competency in his search for a new Supreme Court justice. He tweeted on January 26th, “Because Biden said he’s only consider[ing] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.” Mr. Shapiro, who was scheduled to start at Georgetown a week after the controversial tweets, thought Sri Srinivasan was the obvious and best choice to replace Justice Stephen Breyer. Srinivasan is the Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Shapiro called Srinivasan a solid progressive and very smart and then wrote:
But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?
Mr. Shapiro was used to speaking his mind as an academic at a think tank. Little did he know, his new position at a leading university meant he was to stifle any critical commentary about Biden’s new nominee, not issue it. He quickly deleted the tweets and apologized via email to the Georgetown community, saying, “I sincerely and deeply apologize for some poorly drafted tweets I posted late Wednesday night.” And “My intent was to convey my opinion that excluding potential Supreme Court candidates, most notably Chief Judge Srinivasan, simply because of their race or gender, was wrong and harmful to the long term reputation of the Court.”
Triggered: Tantrum Time
Nevertheless, the people in charge of Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association refused to address the criticism of affirmative action as anything other than racism. For them, Shapiro’s preference for race-blind selections doesn’t indemnify him from racist intent, it indicts him for it. That’s the progressive position held by the school administration that doesn’t dare to stand up to those it purports to educate.
Georgetown suspended Shapiro on January 31st with pay while they “investigated” his actions. The Black Law Student’s Association was incensed. Due process is not their preference when an anti-progressive transgression is alleged. They demanded the new professor be fired immediately. It was a bit of a mystery as to what the investigation entailed because there were simply two tweets to read. Apparently, “investigate” simply meant waiting for the progressive students to leave campus. A week after the semester’s conclusion, school dean William M. Treanor wrote that Shapiro would be allowed to take up his position. No profile in courage, Treanor put out a letter full of pablum about how free speech is important but so is building “a culture of equity and inclusion.” He promised the professor would be re-educated through compelled “programming on implicit bias, cultural competence, and non-discrimination, which the Law Center is requiring senior staff to attend.”
Treanor said Shapiro was reinstated because the tweets were published before he started his job at Georgetown, so he wasn’t an employee and consequently wasn’t subject to employee conduct rules. While at first Shapiro was happy to be reinstated, the reasoning behind it provided cold comfort going forward and was the impetus for his resignation less than a week later. He tweeted again, this time, it was his resignation letter, saying, “You cleared me on a jurisdictional technicality, but … your own statements to the law center community – implicitly repealed Georgetown’s vaunted Speech and Expression Policy and set me up for discipline the next time I transgress progressive orthodoxy.”
He wrote, “Although my tweet was inartful as I have readily admitted many times, its meaning that I considered one possible candidate to be best and thus all others to be less qualified is clear. Only those acting in bad faith to get me fired because of my political beliefs would misconstrue what I said to suggest otherwise.” Mr. Shapiro says the university’s anti-harassment policy means “the mere fact that many people were offended or claimed to be is enough for me to have violated the policies out there which I was being investigated.” He said the policy as enforced “would be a huge Sword of Damocles over my head as I try to engage in my educational mission.”
Against Racism ≠ Antiracist
Georgetown hired Shapiro away from the Cato Institute. He was vice president and director of the Robert A. Levy Center for constitutional studies and publisher of the think tank’s Supreme Court Review. Cato is a free-market and libertarian think tank, and Shapiro is the antithesis of a progressive, writing against affirmative action and collectivism. It’s opposition to his effective advocacy of conservative and libertarian legal thinking that motivates his treatment at Georgetown.
Shapiro goes out of his way to identify how the policy is used to punish disfavored political points of view, never progressivism or lefties. He quotes from several tweets to demonstrate the point. One, issued after his controversial tweet, is by Professor Heidi Feldblum, who said: “The only ethically and politically responsible stance to take toward the Republican ‘party’ is to consistently point out that it is no longer a legitimate participant in US constitutional democracy.” Would be Professor Shapiro says Georgetown is no mere member of the pack of captured academic administrations but is instead a leader – “enforcing an orthodoxy that stifles intellectual diversity undermines equal opportunity and excludes dissenting voices.”
The resignation letter concludes with a prelude to litigation. “I cannot again subject my family to the public attacks on my character and livelihood that you … have now made foreseeable, indeed inevitable. As a result of the hostile work environment that you have you and they have created, I have no choice but to resign.” Mr. Shapiro’s words leave no doubt he will be suing Georgetown for abandoning its mission and embracing woke scolds instead of free inquiry.
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