Academics hit ‘bureaucratic’ Georgetown Law Office of Diversity following investigation of Ilya Shapiro

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Georgetown University Law lecturer Ilya Shapiro resigned Monday after criticism of how President Biden chose his Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown-Jackson went viral on Twitter, and took to the Wall Street Journal opinion section to explain his departure.

“The university didn’t fire me, but it yielded to the progressive mob, abandoned free speech, and created a hostile environment,” Shapiro wrote in the Journal.

According to the op-ed, the Georgetown University Law Center reinstated Shapiro last Thursday, citing he did not violate the institution’s Speech and Expression Policy since he was not a university employee when he shared the tweet. But Shapiro elected to resign shortly after. He cited a report he received from the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) and said remaining in the position was “untenable.”

“Dean William Treanor cleared me on the technicality that I wasn’t an employee when I tweeted, but the IDEAA implicitly repealed Georgetown’s Speech and Expression Policy and set me up for discipline the next time I transgress progressive orthodoxy,” he said. 

GEORGETOWN LECTURER ILYA SHAPIRO  HOPES SUPREME COURT TWEET CONTROVERSY HELPS ‘BROKEN’ POLITICAL DISCOURSE

“Washington, D.C., USA – April 9, 2012. Healy Hall with the statue of Georgetown University founder John Carroll in front and some people walking in background. Georgetown University is a top-ranking private university in the United States. 
(iStock)

“Instead of participating in that slow-motion firing, I’m resigning,” he added.

Shapiro went on to slam IDEAA’s argument that his opinion of Biden limiting his Supreme Court picks to specific demographics warranted “appropriate corrective measures” and cited the office’s “need” to address his “objectively offensive comments and to prevent the recurrence of offensive conduct based on race, gender, and sex.”

He also argues that IDEAA’s standard is not “objective,” citing the report which reads that, “The University’s anti-harassment policy does not require that a respondent intend to denigrate,” but rather that it “requires consideration of the ‘purpose or effect’ of a respondent’s conduct.”

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Critics railed against Georgetown’s IDEAA office, including students who came to Shapiro’s defense. 

“I thought everyone knows what he was trying to say in his original tweet,” third-year law student Travis Nix told Fox News Digital. “He was trying to say that the chief judge of the D.C. 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.”

Ilya Shapiro speaks at the 2016 Acton Lecture Series.

Ilya Shapiro speaks at the 2016 Acton Lecture Series.
(YouTube)

Nix also ripped the university’s four-month investigation into Shapiro’s controversial tweet, calling the effort “completely absurd.”

Left-leaning Georgetown Law student Rafael Nuñez said the situation was “handled terribly,” telling Fox News Digital he saw the move as an infringement upon “freedom of speech.”

On Twitter, critics also slammed IDEAA for its investigation. Tunku Varadarajan, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, shared that he found it “ironic and hilarious” that the office acryonm is IDEAA while they, according to his allegations, “exist mostly to shut ideas down.” 

Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson told Fox News Digital that the episode showed that “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion bureaucracies are growing in size and power at almost every major university.” 

“Whether in the form of Bias Response Teams or performing the Human Resources function, they serve as ideological commissars of a critical-race focused viewpoint,” he said. “It is believable, as Shapiro asserts, that the Georgetown Law IDEAA threatened that further unpopular speech by Shapiro might be ground for discipline because it would create a hostile educational environment, since the DEI focus is not on the rights of the speaker (Shapiro) but on the sensitivities of the listeners (students). This puts the power to control speech and expression in the hands of the most vocal complainers, and reverses our historical norms as to free speech. That Dean William Treanor reinforced this coercive approach in his public statements did serious and lasting damage to free expression at Georgetown Law and elsewhere.”

DePauw University media studies professor Jeffrey McCall regretted the state of free speech on college campuses, and, like Jacobson, used the word “bureaucratic” to describe the dustup at Georgetown.

“This Ilya Shapiro matter underscores the complicated and confused state of free expression on university campuses,” McCall told Fox News Digital. “While Shapiro wasn’t technically disciplined, the chilling effect in play here clearly would have made it difficult or even impossible for him to carry out his duties. In a sense, Georgetown has turned its back on its own free expression guidelines, supporting an atmosphere in which shrill voices stifle people with whom they disagree. While Shapiro’s tweets were ‘inartful,’ as he acknowledged, universities can hardly go around shutting up any faculty member or student who says something ‘inartful.’ It is contrary to free expression philosophy on one level, but also quite impractical on another.”  

“This case shows that bureaucratic, written free expression policies mean nothing if they exist in cultures where free expression is not valued,” he continued. “In a sense, Georgetown, and other universities that seek to stifle robust discussion, are reducing the free expression environment of the academy to only approved dogmas or unserious topics. Either way, the rhetorical sphere is diminished.” 

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Georgetown University Law professor Randy Barnett sounded off as well, writing, “Instead of being snarky about something you know nothing about—ironically on Twitter no less—you should be very concerned about the IDEAA’s negation of our free expression policy—a logic that applies to the expression of tenured and untenured alike.”

Shapiro himself also added another jab at Georgetown Law on Twitter, posting images of his resignation letter and tacking on the following spiel: “Here’s my resignation letter from @GeorgetownLaw, a place that doesn’t value free speech. In the name of DEI, it stifles intellectual diversity, undermines equal opportunity, and excludes dissenting voices.”

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Fox News Digital reached out to IDEAA members, requesting comments on Shapiro’s op-ed, and received the following statement from a Georgetown spokesperson:

“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. 

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.”

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