The Free Speech Controversy at Georgetown University Law School
On Monday, a recently recruited administrator at Georgetown University’s law school was placed on leave after he suggested on Twitter that President Biden would select a “lesser” Black woman to be the next Supreme Court justice rather than “the objectively best candidate.”
The decision was made only one day before the scholar, Ilya Shapiro, a famous libertarian, was set to start as a senior lecturer and executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, a law school affiliate.
With his comments regarding the hunt for the next justice, Mr. Shapiro, a constitutional law specialist at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, prompted a stinging backlash from students, faculty members, and alumni. Since then, the posts have been removed.
Mr. Shapiro stated, “Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart,” Mr. Shapiro wrote. “Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”
Some have urged for the law school to retract its decision to employ Mr. Shapiro, the school is one of the most prominent in the country and is located just a mile from the Supreme Court.
Mr. Shapiro recommended in a tweet on Jan. 26 that Mr. Biden name Sri Srinivasan, the Indian-born top judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to succeed Justice Stephen G. Breyer on the Supreme Court. Justice Stephen Breyer revealed his retirement intentions last week.
Schools are Increasingly Getting Involved in Free Speech Controversies
With Mr. Shapiro’s comments, Georgetown University Law Center joins a growing list of law schools that have recently been involved in free speech disputes. Over the last year, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Yale Law School, and Stanford Law School have all been embroiled in free speech debates, emphasizing issues between racism, inclusion, and open conversation.
Only two weeks ago, UPenn’s law dean announced that he will seek sanctions against long-serving professor Amy Wax, whose views regarding race and immigration have sparked campus outrage on multiple occasions since at least 2017. Wax recently stated that as long as Asians continue to vote Democratic politicians, the country would be “better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.”
This fall, opponents charged that Yale Law School violated free speech rights when it demanded an apology from a student who distributed an invitation to a “Trap House” party. The phrase which is slang for a place where narcotics are peddled, was deemed disrespectful and racially charged by some peers. Dean Heather Gerken eventually issued an apology for the way the school handled the case.
Stanford Law School came under fire in June for investigating a third-year student who circulated a satirical flier mocking the school Federalist Society chapter. Later, it was determined that the student had not violated any school conduct regulations.
A Scholar’s Take
According to Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a free speech expert, the free speech issues is a reflection of the time we live in- a time when we are extremely politically polarized, and social media and the internet make it so easy for for the types of incidents to garner national attention.