AFA Sends Letter to Georgetown Law on Ilya Shapiro
Letter states that Shapiro should face no formal consequences for controversial comments
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to William Treanor, Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center, in defense of the free speech rights of Professor Ilya Shapiro. On January 26, Shapiro posted a series of tweets about President Biden’s pledge to name “the first Black woman ever” to the Supreme Court. Shapiro asserted that Biden’s limitation of potential nominees would exclude the “objectively best pick” in favor of a “lesser black woman” and that “his nominee will always have an asterisk attached.” Shapiro later deleted and apologized for the posts. Following calls for Shapiro to be fired, Dean Treanor placed Shapiro on administrative leave pending an investigation “into whether he violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non- discrimination, and anti-harassment.”
“I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that Ilya Shapiro should suffer no formal consequences as the result of these public statements,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s academic committee, in the letter to Dean Treanor. “Regardless of what one thinks about Shapiro’s views on the nomination and how he expressed them, Shapiro’s personal opinions as expressed on his personal social media account are protected under Georgetown’s own policies and cannot form an adequate basis for firing him.”
Whittington continued, “Significantly, Shapiro’s appointment is, in part, as a senior lecturer. The policies that would apply to him would equally apply to any other member of the Georgetown University Law Center faculty. A determination that a senior lecturer can be fired for posting a controversial statement on social media would represent a dramatic erosion in the free speech protections that Georgetown claims to offer to the members of its faculty.”
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. The Academic Freedom Alliance itself takes no position on the merits of the substantive content of faculty speech or writing.