Black law students at Georgetown are calling for a white professor to resign after the school official made disparaging comments about Black women. On Jan.28, Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) took to Twitter demanding the university revoke professor Illya Shapiro’s contract.
Shapiro, the former director of constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, was slated to begin working as an executive director at Georgetown’s Center for the Constitution. But BLSA students are now demanding the elite law school rescind the offer following his problematic tweet criticizing President Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman as the next Supreme Court justice.
“We, Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association, write on behalf of the Georgetown University Law Center student body, to demand the revocation of @ishapiro employment contract and to condemn his racist tweets,” the association wrote, attaching a lengthy proposition addressing their qualms with Shapiro.
The students also requested the administration adopt a process that considers incoming staff and faculty’s cultural competency and a seat for a BLSA representative “on every Faculty Appointment Student-Faculty Committee” and Black student participation in all faculty/staff hiring.
The students stress that their issue is not with Shapiro expressing a preference for a particular candidate but his assertion that no Black woman nominated would be qualified.
On Jan. 25, Shapiro posted a questionable tweet, arguing that Chief United States Circuit Judge Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan was the best candidate. Shapiro described the former Deputy Solicitor General as a solid progressive who’s “very smart.” However, the tweet turned sour when he suggested that a Black woman wouldn’t be qualified
“But at last, doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy, so we’ll get lesser Black woman,” he continued, adding that Biden’s nominee “will always have an asterisk attached.”
“Fitting that the court takes up affirmative action next term,” he scoffed.
After an outpour of backlash ensued, Shapiro quickly back-peddled and apologized.
“I meant no offense, but it was an inartful tweet. I have taken it down,” he wrote in response to the criticism.
Additionally, Shapiro wrote a lengthy apology letter to staff and students at the school via e-mail expressing deep regret for his “poorly drafted tweets.”
The letter read:
“Issues of race are of course, quite sensitive, and debates over affirmative action are always fraught. 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. It was not to cast aspersions on the qualifications of a whole group of people, let alone question their worth as human beings. A person’s dignity and worth simply do not, and should not, depend on any immutable characteristic. Those who know me know that I am sincere about these sentiments, and I would be more than happy to meet with any of you who have doubts about the quality of my heart.”
Georgetown’s Dean William Treanor quickly issued an e-mail to staff condemning Shapiro’s remarks.
“The tweets’ suggestion that the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman and their use of demeaning language are appalling,” Treanor wrote on Thursday. “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.”
This isn’t the first time that Shapiro attacked a woman of color nominated to the nation’s highest court. In 2009, Shapiro similarly claimed that Justice Sonia Sotomayor was not qualified despite her significant judicial and litigation experience. Yet, he praised Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who had considerably less experience and qualifications than Sotomayor.
Sadly this isn’t the first time Georgetown’s BLSA has complained about racist staff members. Last year, adjunct professor Sandra Seller was caught on video trashing Black students’ performance at the university.
“I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks,” Sellers said in the startling clip. “Happens almost every semester. And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”
The group also expressed outrage over another professor who used the N-word in class before Seller’s incident.