Dear Dean Treanor
Some have demanded that Ilya Shapiro be removed from her position as the Executive Director at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. This is because of the tweet he posted criticizing President Biden’s promise to appoint an African woman to the Supreme Court. We think such a firing—or subjecting Shapiro to disciplinary action of any kind based on his tweet—would be contrary to basic academic freedom principles, which Georgetown rightly applies (1) to “all faculty,” including “lecturer[s]Shapiro and tenure-track faculty are not the only ones eligible. (2) To “professional service” in all domains. [faculty]Academic activity” would refer to public comment by intellectuals and not only “research” or “teaching.”
We all agree that the mention of “a lesser-black woman” in the tweet was an inappropriate way to express the message. Shapiro’s apology appears to confirm this.[Sri Srinivasan]It doesn’t belong in the current intersectionality hierarchy, so we’ll get it. [a less-qualified]Shapiro clearly meant “black woman”. But setting aside that one mistake—which should not be seen as a fireable offense—the substance of the message, which is that Sri Srinivasan is the most qualified progressive nominee, and that it’s wrong for the President to pass him over because of race and sex, is a position that is most certainly protected by academic freedom principles of “[f]Ree inquiry and the unrestricted publication of results
It is clear that the president’s substantive position regarding the appointees and their relative qualifications does not agree with everyone. It is true that some of us publicly disagree with it.
However, academic freedom will protect Shapiro’s views regardless of our disagreements. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities. Even if people believe it is appropriate for Presidents to offer to fill positions with members of particular groups, they cannot be sure that they will have the confidence to trust that their contrary views can be supported, discussed and proven unpersuasive, rather than being silenced out of fear of losing power. It is a well-known fact that academic discourse on science works in this way. This is also true for moral or political judgements.
More broadly, firing Shapiro for expressing his views will send a message to others in Georgetown—both faculty (and especially untenured faculty) and students—that debate about matters having to do with race and sex is no longer free; that the promises of academic freedom are empty; and that dissent from the majority views within the law school is not tolerated. It will also chill more than honest conversations about this Presidential nomination.
- Eugene Volokh is the Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Law Professor, University of California Los Angeles
- Samuel J. Abrams Professor of Politics & Social Science, Sarah Lawrence College
- Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verheij memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University
- Kenneth Anderson is Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
- William Baude Professor of Law at the University of Chicago
- David E. Bernstein University Professor, Antonin Scalia School of Law, George Mason University
- Josh Blackman, South Texas College of Law Houston Professor of Law
- Paul G. Cassell is the Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor in Criminal Law and University Distinguished Lecturer of Law
- Nicholas A. Christakis is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University
- Richard W. Garnett and Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
- Robert P. George McCormick Professor in Jurisprudence at Princeton University
- Gail Heriot is Professor of Law at the University of San Diego
- Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor, Harvard Law School
- Amna Khalid Associate Professor Department of History Carleton College
- Eugene Kontorovich is Professor of Law at Antonin Scalia Law School. George Mason University
- Andrew M. Koppelman John Paul Stevens Law Professor, Northwestern University
- Brian Leiter. Karl N. Llewellyn, University of Chicago, Professor of Jurisprudence.
- John McWhorter is Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature. Columbia University
- David G. Post is the I. Herman Stern Professor of Law Emeritus at Temple University Beasley School of Law
- Glenn Harlan Reynolds Beauchamp-Brogan Distinguished Professor of law, The University of Tennessee
- Adam Scales is Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School
- Stephen Sachs, Antonin Skalia Professor in Law, Harvard Law School
- Jeffrey Aaron Snyder Associate Professor of Education Studies at Carleton College
- Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at Antonin Scalia Law School. George Mason University
- Nadine Strossen is John Marshall Harlan II Professor in Law Emerita at New York Law School
- Alexander Volokh Associate Professor of Law Emory University
- Keith E. Whittington. William Nelson Cromwell Professor Politics, Princeton University
- University of Pennsylvania, Jonathan Zimmerman and Judy Berkowitz, Professor of Education
- Todd J. Zywicki is a George Mason University Foundation Professor in Law and Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University
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