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Georgetown Won’t Punish Ilya Shapiro for High Court Comment

June 3, 2022

Ilya Shapiro, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for the Constitution, said Thursday that he’ll be allowed to begin working following a months-long suspension and investigation into his comments criticizing President Joe Biden’s intention to nominate a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has since been nominated and confirmed.)

Via two parallel investigations, Georgetown determined that Shapiro’s tweets—namely his comment that Biden would nominate a “lesser Black woman”—weren’t subject to discipline because Shapiro hadn’t officially started working at the university yet when he made them on Jan. 26 (Shapiro’s start date was Feb. 1). William Treanor, dean of law, said in a statement that Shapiro had already acknowledged his comments were “recklessly framed” and “inartful” and that he met with Shapiro to discuss how to move forward.

“I stressed to Mr. Shapiro that, although he has every right to express his views, I expect him, as a staff member at the Law Center, to communicate in a professional manner,” Treanor said. “Mr. Shapiro will also participate in programming on implicit bias, cultural competence, and non-discrimination, which the Law Center is requiring senior staff to attend. Finally, I expressed my concern that his tweets would potentially have the effect of making some students feel unwelcome in any elective course he might teach. To that end, I have asked him to make himself available to meet with student leaders concerned about his ability to treat students fairly.”

Shapiro said in a separate statement, “I’m gratified that I’ll get to do the job for which I was hired more than four months ago. I look forward to teaching and engaging in a host of activities relating to constitutional education. As befitting a Center for the Constitution, all students and participants in my programs can expect to be accorded the freedom to think and speak freely and be treated equally: a diversity of ideas will be most welcome. Let’s get to work.”

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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