What are Georgetown Professors Forbidden to Say?
Ilya Shapiro, as many of you know, was suspended and investigated by the Georgetown law school—where he had been about to start a job as a lecturer and as executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution—for tweeting the following about the Ketanji Brown Jackson nomination:
Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?
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.
Last week, the Georgetown dean announced that Shapiro wouldn’t be disciplined for this Tweet, on the grounds that “As Mr. Shapiro posted the tweets on January 26, 2022, but his employment did not start until February 1, 2022, IDEAA and HR concluded that Mr. Shapiro was not a Georgetown employee at the time of his tweets.” Shapiro then quit, saying he didn’t want to work in such an environment.
But whatever you might think about what happened to Shapiro, this incident also produced a report from the IDEAA office that deals with all of Georgetown, not just the law school. (I’ve received a copy, on condition that I can quote it but can’t post it.) And this tells us about much more than just the Shapiro incident: It gives us a good sense about what all Georgetown professors are, at least ostensibly, forbidden from saying. I’d like to use this post to explore that.
[1.] The “harassment” policy does ban public expression by professors. Here’s the key paragraph (emphasis added):
As detailed in this report, Respondent’s conduct had a significant negative impact on the Georgetown community. However, as the Respondent was a third party and not an employee at the time he posted the comments on Twitter, consistent with IDEAA’s Grievance Procedures to Investigate Allegations of Discrimination and Harassment, IDEAA refers this matter to the Dean to consider and implement appropriate corrective measures to address the impact of the Respondent’s objectively offensive comment. It is important to note that, given the Respondent’s role in the Law Center, if he were to make another, similar or more serious remark as a Georgetown employee, a hostile environment based on race, gender, and sex likely would be created.
Or, elsewhere (emphasis added):
As the Respondent was a third party and not an employee at the time that he posted the comments on Twitter, IDEAA makes no determination as to whether his actions violate IDEAA policy. Instead, consistent with IDEAA’s Grievance Procedures to Investigate Allegations of Discrimination and Harassment, IDEAA refers this matter to the Dean with a recommendation of appropriate corrective measures to address the impact of the Respondent’s objectively offensive comments and to prevent the recurrence of offensive conduct based on race, gender, and sex.
Shapiro thus apparently avoided a finding that he had violated the harassment policy only because he hadn’t yet started at Georgetown; and “Respondent’s role” (which is what would make similar comments as an employee likely prohibited) would be shared by anyone who teaches classes or runs programs—the IDEAA report’s rationale had to do with Shapiro’s role as teacher and not just as a program administrator.
[2.] The policy bans expression of views in social media, op-eds, conferences, scholarship, and more. The restriction on professors’ speech isn’t limited to the classroom, or for that matter to the campus. It obviously extends to social media, and the same logic would apply to any other public speech that might be have “a significant negative impact” because students will hear about it and be upset by it (again, more on the specific details below).
That logic thus extends to scholarship and other professional work, as well as op-eds, radio and television appearances, and the like, and not just to quick sound bites on Twitter. And of course it extends to the viewpoint being expressed, and not just the particular words that are used to express it. Georgetown professors could thus be disciplined for “prohibit[ed]” “harass[ing]” viewpoints they express in their
Article from Reason.com