“I won’t live this way,” now-former Georgetown Law professor Ilya Shapiro declares in his valediction in today’s Wall Street Journal. After undergoing a months-long “investigation” into a deleted tweet that criticized the appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, Georgetown University’s Law Center finally ended it by noting — as it had known from the beginning — that Shapiro’s tweet preceded his employment at Georgetown.
However, rather than upholding its declared values in free speech, the conclusion of the probe made it clear that Georgetown University’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) expected Shapiro to keep his mouth shut from now forward, and warned what would happen if he contradicted campus political orthodoxy in the future. Shapiro accused Georgetown Law of establishing a “heckler’s veto” on his speech:
IDEAA speciously found that my tweet criticizing President Biden for limiting his Supreme Court pool by race and sex required “appropriate corrective measures” to address my “objectively offensive comments and to prevent the recurrence of offensive conduct based on race, gender, and sex.” Mr. Treanor reiterated these concerns in a June 2 statement, further noting the “harmful” nature of my tweets.
But IDEAA makes clear there is nothing objective about its standard: “The University’s anti-harassment policy does not require that a respondent intend to denigrate,” the report says. “Instead, the Policy requires consideration of the ‘purpose or effect’ of a respondent’s conduct.” That people were offended, or claim to have been, is enough for me to have broken the rules.
IDEAA asserts that if I “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.” All sorts of comments that someone could find offensive would subject me to disciplinary action.
In both his WSJ essay and in his nearly identical resignation letter, Shapiro steps through a series of hypothetical scenarios. What happens, Shapiro wonders, if he tweets out support for a Supreme Court decision that overturns Roe? Or if he argues that the Constitution bans racial preferences, in another issue before the present court? The justices also have a case pending, 303 Creative v. Elenis, that touches on the tension between public access and First Amendment rights against compelled speech. If LGBTQIA+ students don’t like his opinion on this or anything else, they can claim that they have been “denigrated” despite Shapiro’s expression of mainstream political views. And the university has made it clear that they will come after Shapiro’s job the next time that happens.
Shapiro is correct that the IDEAA has now set up a heckler’s veto in which the standard is no longer intent but personal offense. That is entirely antithetical to the value of free speech. It is instead a surrender to the mob on free speech and open debate. That is untenable for anyone in an educational environment, but it seems clear that Georgetown Law no longer values an educational environment. They value instead an indoctrination environment run by the radicals. Perhaps law firms should take notice of this when considering applicants from Georgetown in the future, and not just on the basis of getting a lousy education but also because of the malevolence that Georgetown now encourages from its student body.
It’s no wonder that Shapiro has decided that Georgetown Law is no place to work. It’s surprising, and also incredibly disappointing, that more of its faculty have sat on their behinds all this time rather than demand better from its administration during this absurd “investigation” of a tweeted opinion. This should have prompted a massive resignation — and perhaps in an earlier time, it might have.
As it is, though, Georgetown Law’s pusillanimous administration appears to adequately reflect the intestinal fortitude of its current faculty. It’s a shame, but it’s also worth noting that Georgetown Law appears to be only the second-worst place to work in the DC area in Twitter-related speech these days.