Ilya Shapiro controversy: Georgetown law students speak out against liberal intolerance and cancel culture

An outcry over a Georgetown University Law Center lecturer’s tweet about President Biden’s Supreme Court pick has led some students to talk about the culture of cancel and intolerance of free expression they experienced. witnessed on campus.

Ilya Shapiro, a constitutional scholar formerly of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, was among the voices who criticized Biden’s vow to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court, but he expressed dismay in a certainly poorly worded tweet on January 26. Shapiro called on Biden to nominate the progressive Obama-appointed judge, Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American, but said that because of the president’s promise he would choose an “inferior black woman” instead.

Recently named executive director and lecturer at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, Shapiro was pilloried after his tweet was flagged as racist by leftist Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern, a Hoya alum, and others. .

Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor announced that Shapiro would be placed on leave pending an investigation this week, including whether he violated “anti-discrimination” policies and charges against Shapiro of “degrading language” in a message to students. Shapiro deleted the tweets about Biden’s choice and later said, “I regret my poor choice of words, which undermines my message that no one should be discriminated against for their gender or skin color.”


However, it didn’t stop there, with more than 900 students signing a letter from the Georgetown Black Law Student Association calling for Shapiro’s firing, and other Georgetown professors calling Shapiro’s tweet racist and sexist. This week there was a sit-in led by the BLSA. The group made demands that included firing Shapiro, having a designated “crying” spot on campus, and allowing a black student to sit through every hiring process on campus. At one point, according to National Review, a chastised Treanor told students he wanted to “draw a line between conservatism and racist things.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivers remarks during a panel hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, U.S. September 12, 2019.
(REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.)

“That’s exactly the typical mold we’ve seen,” a conservative third-year Georgetown law student who wished to remain anonymous told Fox News Digital. “They throw a tantrum and the administration responds.”

“I think the Dean has done a poor job of communicating his response to this whole situation and that’s what’s fueled this radical activism that we’re seeing on campus right now,” sophomore Travis Nix said. .


The nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote in the Washington Post that firing Shapiro would damage Georgetown’s credibility and its desired reputation as a place of open and robust discussion.

This reputation is put to the test with the Shapiro controversy. In messages to students obtained by Fox News Digital, Treanor called “racial stereotyping” a “pernicious force in our society” and said Shapiro’s tweets were contrary to the school’s commitment to ” diversity”.

Some conservative students said that goal was not applied evenly at Georgetown, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious law schools, whose location in Washington has made it a hotbed of political activism and of discussing.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. President Biden looks on.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. President Biden looks on. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“It’s very toxic,” the third-year student said. “I never raised my hand and said anything [about] my conservative views. I don’t feel comfortable in it. My teachers tweeted anti-conservative rhetoric. There is no room for a conservative to speak out.”

“It seems to me that as a conservative student, I was already hesitant to share my opinions in class, especially in larger classes,” said sophomore Timothy Harper. “I think the administration’s response kind of showed that the caution was warranted.”

Harper and other defenders said Shapiro’s remark was clearly a criticism of affirmative action and nothing more pernicious than that.


“The administration’s response suggests that either some conservative perspectives aren’t exactly welcome on campus, or that if you want to voice those opinions, you have to be extra careful to frame them perfectly,” he said. “Otherwise there will be negative reactions, either from the administration or from other students.”

Some of this blowback from other students took the form of being kicked out of group chats. Nix showed Fox News Digital a post he said got him kicked out of a GroupMe for sophomores as he defended a classmate, Rafael Nuñez, who was accused of being “privileged “. Nuñez, the son of an Ecuadorian immigrant mother, described himself to Fox News Digital as center-left in his politics and troubled by liberal intolerance for Shapiro’s defenses on display in the group.

He, too, was ejected from the group chat when he stood up for a student speaking out against calls for Shapiro’s leadership. He said it was “ridiculous” to be accused by other students of color of having privileges, given that he grew up in poverty in New Jersey.

“I wasn’t defending the tweet, I think the tweet was in bad taste,” Nuñez said of what Shapiro wrote. “It was very disturbing, the answer is an echo chamber. We were told not to give opinions because our opinions don’t matter… If this subset of students wants that to happen, then they should make it clear. They get on that moral basis that what they believe is the only true and best belief.”

“For someone else of color to tell me I’m privileged, that I’m defending these tweets because I have low self-esteem and am trying to feel better… They’re hypocritical,” he said. he adds. “They are doing exactly what they accuse others of doing, of judging others, of generalizing other people on knowledge of their experience.”

He said he didn’t bother to tell the administration how he was treated, telling Fox News Digital that while Shapiro might be on the chopping block, Georgetown might not hesitate to withdraw his scholarship.

In the GroupMe, a progressive student suggested that some others seemed to “belong to the confederation”.

“Fed Soc is a drug from hell,” said another student in a group chat, referring to right-wing members of the Federalist Society on campus who espouse a textualist interpretation of the Constitution.

“Overall, I would say it’s pretty poor,” Nix said of being able to speak freely on campus. “There is a vocal minority that doesn’t respect conservative or libertarian ideas at all… When you meet people one-on-one and talk to them in person, that’s a lot better, I think. But when they are in this group, there’s definitely not much respect for the ideas that I and other Federalist Society students have at all.”

When asked if the campaign against Shapiro was like “null culture” in action, Nix said “100%”.

“People read and listen to everything in the worst light and try to get them fired and shut them up and try to get everyone to come out in the media and Twitter…and attack them just to apologize , and then their employer might fire them,” he said.


“They’re trying to get him fired for comments that don’t warrant firing. So whether it’s cancel culture or whatever, I think it’s wrong,” Harper said.

As the campus is divided, voices across the political spectrum have been raised in defense of Shapiro, or at the very least, saying firing him would be a big mistake. Articles in National Review, Reason and The Week wrote critically about campus efforts to oust Shapiro. New York Times liberal columnist Michelle Goldberg chastised Georgetown for furloughing Shapiro in the first place and wrote that threatening his job undermined the concept of academic freedom. Other liberal voices who hate Shapiro also opposed his firing, including Mark Joseph Stern.

Georgetown’s consistency in speaking out against what it sees as discriminatory actions is also in question.

The Washington Free Beacon noted that Georgetown law professor Heidi Li Feldman appeared to be violating the anti-discrimination policies Treanor claims to cherish when she tweeted in 2020 that “law professors and law school deans” should “not support our students’ applications to clerk for “then-President Trump-appointed judges.” Working for such a judge indelibly marks a lawyer as lacking the character and judgment necessary to practice of law,” Feldman said, facing no known consequences.

Nuñez said the situation has made him worried about the future of the legal profession.

“I think it’s a bad precedent,” he said. “We are becoming advocates. We have to defend both sides. We have to learn to listen to other points of view. How are we going to progress, learn and grow as a nation if we only block one side or another, conservative or liberal.

The third-year student said she would never have told a classmate that she worked in the office of a Republican U.S. senator because Feldman was within earshot.

In the letter she sent to Treanor, she said firing Shapiro would send the message that all mistakes are unforgivable and that she was unfortunately right to keep quiet in class.


“If they accept conservative students, they can’t treat us like red-haired stepchildren once they get in,” she said.

Georgetown Law did not respond to a request for comment.

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