Georgetown Law Doesn’t Care About The Truth
Georgetown Law has fired one white professor and placed another on administrative leave after a video of their discussion about a black student in their class was condemned on social media.
Dean Bill Treanor anounced on Thursday that the school had ended its relationship with Professor Sandra Sellers after the video showed her complaining on Zoom that black students were predominantly at the bottom of her class.
She was speaking to Professor David Batson, who was placed on leave on Thursday pending a further investigation by the prestigious law school, which was attended by former first daughter Tiffany Trump.
The dean revealed that Sellers had told him she had intended to resign when they met to discuss what he branded as ‘reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students’.
The video shows Sellers talking with Batson in what she believed was a private conversation about the performance of a black student in a class they both teach.
‘They were a bit jumbled. It’s like let me reason through that, what you just said,’ Sellers says of the student’s performance, who the Black Law Students Asssociation claims is the only black person in the class.
‘You know what? I hate to say this, I end up having this angst every semester, that a lot of my lower ones are blacks,’ the adjunct professor of mediation and negotiation continues.
The Black Law Student Association had been among the groups calling for Sellers’ resignation and an apology from Batson.
The group issued a statement on Wednesday in which they claimed that the recorded conversation is proof of Sellers’ bias in her grading of black students.
‘These racist statements reveal not only Sellers’ beliefs about black students in her classes, but also how her racist thoughts have translated to racist actions. Professor Sellers’ bias has impacted the grades of black students in her classes historically, in her own words,’ the statement said.
Watch the video here. The professors apparently didn’t know that it would be visible to everybody.
Here’s the thing: What if what Prof. Sellers says is true? What if most of her black students are in the bottom of the class? Does truth not matter here? The BLSA says the Sellers statement reveals that she is a racist. How? Is it considered to be a metaphysical impossibility that black students are at the bottom of her class because they aren’t keeping up with the rest?
Do low class grades by minority students prove that the professor is racist? Is it possible that those particular students can’t do the work as well as the others? And if this is a persistent problem at Georgetown Law, is the school maybe allowing in students under diversity rules that open the door to students who aren’t fully prepared to do the coursework at Georgetown Law? Could that be it? If what Sellers says is true, and if it’s true across different classes (as the other professor’s lack of challenging her statement might indicate), maybe that tells Georgetown Law something about its admission standards.
Those questions aren’t even being considered here. Rather, the idea is to destroy Prof. Sellers’ career and reputation. And this is a warning to other professors when it comes to grading black students: if their scores place them near the bottom of the class, you might end up denounced publicly as a racist, and fired.
Maybe Prof. Sellers really is a racist who grades black students unfairly. If that is true, then she should be fired. But that has not been demonstrated by any of this. What has been demonstrated is that Georgetown Law is run by administrators who will throw professors under the bus when the mob demands it, without any real investigation.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
This is remarkably similar to what Amy Wax of Penn said a few years back that got her into hot water.
For Wax, all that saved her was her tenure and she has gone on to continue to say politically incorrect things.
As a lawyer I am heartened that at least some law professors don’t keep these thoughts to themselves (although it sure looks like the two professors at Georgetown thought they were having an unobserved unrecorded conversation) and engage in the self censorship that is what happens in totalitarian states.
However, on the other hand, it is troubling that the deans and rest of the faculty are afraid to stand up for their colleagues unpopular but true statements.
With the exception of particular types of courses, law school exams and grading are uniformly done pseudonymously using assigned numbers, because the legal profession is paranoid about the appearance of bias and fairness. There would be no way to tell if a student is black or otherwise for even a committed racist to discriminate against them, unless one subscribes to the notion that you can discern a student’s race through their school writing. That said, moot courts, clinics, and some practical skills-based courses necessarily involve seeing how the students perform in person, and it’s very possible that a negotiation and mediation course would involve observing the students performing the subject matter of the course, which is negotiation.That doesn’t necessarily speak to whether she’s discriminating against black students if the course does involve physical observation, but this renders the dispute impossible to resolve in any kind of objective fashion: this type of course would involve qualitative judgment calls (otherwise it would be a blind grading course), and for people concerned about racial disparities in grading, an admission by the professor that the black students get lower grades in her class is effectively an admission that she judges black students to be worse. If statistics, especially when you the grader are aware of the outcome presented in those statistics, is always going to be considered dispositive evidence over trust and respect for professional and professorial judgment and discretion, then Prof. Sellers is discriminating against black students per se.Given that the post-60s American null hypothesis of “negative interactions or evaluations between people of different races are presumptively due to something other than racial prejudice” has been shattered (particularly in academia), your own demand for some type of evidence that she’s a racist is a moot point; the evidence is already there for the people outraged, she said she judges black students to be worse. Unfortunately, there’s no way to effectively prevent this sort of imputation of racism from the statistics in situations where evaluation is dependent on qualitative judgment when many no longer default to a good faith belief that people aren’t racist, short of doing what countries like France and the Dominican Republic do, which is to prohibit the collection of racial statistics. But given that the American trend over the past two decades to collect ever-and-ever more fine-grained data on race and for an ever-growing number of other affinity groups, I wouldn’t forecast this happening anytime soon.Here’s a good discussion from a law professor of this situation and the broader context of black students at American law schools, which also raises the (alarming) point that Prof. Batson seems to have gotten in trouble mostly because he bore a “bystander responsibility” and didn’t report Prof. Sellers’ remarks:
Being fired for prohibited speech is bad enough, but now punished for omission of speech? That is clearly totalitarianism.This might sound crazy, but what if a large group of professors–and I mean thousands–announced that they would give As to black students no matter what? No questions asked, automatic A. I wonder what would happen.
Late Soviet society:
“Everyone knew it was fake, but… they just accepted this sense of total fakeness as normal.” pic.twitter.com/wl08SEKG4Y
— Echo Chamber (@echo_chamberz) March 11, 2021
Georgetown Law: “It’s HyperNormal To Live By Lies.”