Georgetown Law students say Ilya Shapiro controversy ‘handled terribly’ by school, is a ‘disgrace’


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Georgetown Law Center students weighed in on the resignation of former lecturer Ilya Shapiro, who handed in his notice Monday following what he called a “sham investigation” into his controversial tweet about President Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court.

Georgetown placed Shapiro on leave following backlash to a tweet in which he lamented that Biden would pick a “lesser Black woman” rather than his preferred choice, Obama-appointed Judge Sri Srinivasan. Shapiro apologized and admitted the “inartful” comment could have been stated better; Biden would go on to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson, fulfilling his promise to pick a Black woman for the Supreme Court.

Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor, however, said the school would investigate whether Shapiro violated “anti-discrimination” policies, and added in a message to students that Shapiro had used “demeaning language.” Shapiro waited for his fate for months before being cleared on what he called in his resignation letter a “jurisdictional technicality,” as he was not officially an employee at the time of the tweet.

By the time the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) finished its investigation and Shapiro was reinstated, the lecturer decided he’d already had enough. In his letter to Dean William M. Treanor, he said his remaining at the school would be “untenable.”

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Travis Nix, who is entering his third year at Georgetown Law, called the dustup “disgraceful” and defended Shapiro.

“I thought everyone knows what he was trying to say in his original tweet,” Nix told Fox News Digital. “He was trying to say that the chief judge of the DC Court of Appeals was more qualified. He said that very inartfully, which he said, and he immediately apologized. I think that conforms to Georgetown’s Jesuit values, that when we do make a mistake, that we ask for forgiveness. And that is immediately what he did, and most students at Georgetown and the administration did not give him that grace and immediately labeled him a racist, when I think that it’s very clear what he was trying to say in that tweet, and he just worded it very poorly.”

Prospective students tour Georgetown University’s campus, on July 10, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
((AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File))

Shapiro called the IDEAA investigation a “sham” in his resignation letter. Nix shared those sentiments.

“I mean, it was completely absurd,” he said. “It took four months for a 180-character tweet.”

Rising third-year student Timothy Harper said the lengthy probe of Shapiro’s tweet was “not a good look” for the institution.

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“From a practical standpoint, I guess pretty well, in that they were able to kind of calm the nerves of the students who were upset, and then push the issue off until it couldn’t be as much of an issue when all the students , or most of the students, are off campus,” Harper told Fox News Digital. “From an honesty standpoint, I think that it’s not a good look for the school, just in terms of the fact that it basically seems like that if enough students get upset with you for something you said, then the school treats you as a sort of second-class faculty member.”

While Nix and Harper are right-leaning, Rafael Nuñez, a second-year student who is center-left, said that Treanor was in a difficult position and likely “didn’t want to fire” Shapiro. But, as an institution, Nuñez said the overall situation was “handled terribly.”

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Nix specifically sounded off on the administration for doing “nothing” in response to some students’ behavior; left-leaning students in February did sit-ins and made wide-ranging demands that didn’t stop at Shapiro’s firing.

“Oh, it was frankly a disgrace the way they handled that,” Nix added. “The dean’s immediate reaction was to label his racist tweet. Then radical student groups started doing sit-ins and demanding everything from free pizza as a way of reparations and a space to cry. And the deans did nothing to push back on them.”

In his tweet introducing his resignation letter, Shapiro stated that Georgetown no longer values ​​free speech, a declaration that made some students hesitate.

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“I think that – I hope Georgetown still values ​​free speech, it’s very hit or miss, whether they do,” Nix said of the administration. “I think they pick and choose.”

“The administration, this is a dark stain on the administration the way that they handled this,” Nix said. “And they could have made a very strong commitment to free speech, saying that Ilya didn’t violate our – because of our free speech policy that we hold near and dear to us, that we will reinstate Ilya. But instead they did a cop -out on a technicality that the tweet was before his first day of employment, and therefore we cannot discipline him.”

Nuñez said he opposed Shapiro’s initial tweet, but said he didn’t agree with the calls to give him the boot.

“I thought that was an infringement on the right to freedom of speech, because if a professor [can’t]]say something that he believes or something that he believes is true to students or to the world, and I thought that, you know, then what are we doing as an institution of law?” he told Fox News Digital.

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US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers remarks during a discussion hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, September 12, 2019.

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers remarks during a discussion hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, September 12, 2019.
(REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.)

While Nuñez said he wished Georgetown had “more” professors like Shapiro, the circumstances did not bode well for his future at the school. Shapiro himself noted in his resignation letter that the IDEAA indicated that if he made another controversial comment as an official employee, he could create a “hostile environment.”

“And I wish we had more professors like Mr. Shapiro at Georgetown,” Nuñez said. “We don’t have many. But, you know, it would have laid the grounds for his later firing, because now he knows that his freedom of speech is not protected as an employee.”

“So he said that he doesn’t want to be in an institution where he feels like he’s walking on eggshells, where he feels like he can’t say what he really thinks, especially in a place where… freedom of speech is very important , like at a law school you’re teaching future generations of lawyers,” Nuñez later added. “And so I totally agree with him, like I wish he had stayed, I’m sad that he left.”

Shapiro got candid with Fox News Digital shortly after handing in his resignation, saying the institution was a “den of vipers.”

“What I’ve learned is that in the long term or the medium term, that was not going to be possible,” he said of working at Georgetown. “If my tweet hadn’t happened, something [else] would have happened through commentary on Supreme Court affirmative action in the fall, something. It’s such a den of vipers,” he said. “It’s such an intolerant place that now I see it would not have worked out, which is too bad.”

Shapiro said he had some concrete employment plans he wasn’t at liberty to discuss but was looking forward to catching his breath and taking a vacation. He also said he wouldn’t recommend Georgetown to students who might run afoul of a progressive orthodoxy.

“I’m sad it all turned out this way,” he said, adding, “I’m hoping by speaking out now, by having a very detailed and forceful resignation latter… that that will in some way serve as pushback and give Georgetown and other institutions break.”

In a statement to Fox News Digital on Monday, a Georgetown spokesperson didn’t directly address Shapiro’s letter but defended its investigation.

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“Georgetown urges members of our community to engage in robust and respectful dialogue. Our speech and expression policy promotes free and open inquiry, deliberation, and debate and does not prohibit speech based on the person presenting ideas or the content of those ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable,” the spokesperson said. “While we protect speech and expression, we work to promote civil and respectful discourse. In reviewing Mr. Shapiro’s conduct, the University followed the regular processes for members of the Law Center staff.”

Fox News’ David Rutz contributed to this report.

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