IDEAAs Have Consequences

Marina Ziemnick

CounterCurrent: Week of 6/5

Back in February, I shared with you the story of Ilya Shapiro, who was suspended from his new position as lecturer and director of the Constitution Center at the Georgetown University Law Center (GULC) for a series of tweets suggesting that President Biden shouldn’t choose a Supreme Court nominee based on the “latest intersectionality hierarchy.” The Twitter mob pounced, denouncing him as racist and sexist for his use of the phrase “lesser black woman” (of course ignoring that the same tweet advocated for the nomination of an Indian-American judge, who he deemed better qualified).

Shapiro quickly deleted the tweets and apologized for his inartful phrasing—but it was too late. The Black Law Students Association circulated a letter demanding the university revoke Shapiro’s contract, and GULC Dean and Executive Vice President William Treanor promptly responded by condemning Shapiro’s tweets as “antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity.” Although he didn’t immediately fire Shapiro, Dean Treanor placed him on administrative leave and launched an investigation to determine whether his behavior had “violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment.”

Now, more than four months later, the investigation has at last come to an end. On June 2nd, Shapiro announced that his administrative leave was over and that he would begin his duties at GULC the very next day.

His excitement dissipated when he read the report from the investigation. Although the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) had given him his job back, it hadn’t found that Shapiro’s tweets were harmless or even that they were protected by the university’s free speech policies. Instead, IDEAA concluded its investigation with the finding that university policies on anti-harassment didn’t apply to Shapiro when he posted the offending tweets only because his employment had not yet begun. In Shapiro’s words, the entire 122-day investigation “apparently could’ve been resolved by looking at a calendar.”

It gets worse. IDEAA not only declined to clear Shapiro’s name or to defend his intellectual freedom—it did the exact opposite. The report stated that “appropriate corrective measures” were needed to address Shapiro’s “objectively offensive comments and to prevent the recurrence of offensive conduct based on race, gender, and sex.” The message was clear: if Shapiro had posted the tweets a week later, after his employment had formally begun, the investigation would’ve ended differently.

How’s that for a warm welcome from your employer on your first day of work? Although Dean Treanor attempted to reassure Shapiro that he would “have his back,” Shapiro saw straight through the charade. Four days after announcing his return to GULC, Shapiro tweeted out his resignation letter. Georgetown Law, he wrote, is “a place that doesn’t value free speech. In the name of DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion], it stifles intellectual diversity, undermines equal opportunity, and excludes dissenting voices.”

If Shapiro still worked for GULC, it’s possible that tweet would land him right back in the IDEAA Office. Upon his reinstatement, IDEAA warned Shapiro that any comment students deemed offensive would open him up to disciplinary action. He wrote that this “would be a huge Sword of Damocles over [his] head” and would preclude him from meaningfully educating students. The prestige—even of a faculty position at a T-14 law school—simply wasn’t worth it.

Shapiro elaborated on his decision to resign in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

It’s all well and good to adopt strong free-speech policies, but it’s not enough if university administrators aren’t willing to stand up to those who demand censorship. And the problem isn’t limited to cowardly administrators. Proliferating IDEAA-style offices enforce an orthodoxy that stifles intellectual diversity, undermines equal opportunity, and excludes dissenting voices. Even the dean of an elite law school bucks these bureaucrats at his peril.

What Georgetown subjected me to, what it would be subjecting me to if I stayed, is a heckler’s veto that leads to a Star Chamber. “Live not by lies,” warned Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

I won’t live this way.

The National Association of Scholars applauds Shapiro for his refusal to accept a hollow victory and to live by lies. His resignation letter is a lesson in self-respect and the value of standing firm in what one believes. Unfortunately, thanks to the GULC administration’s disdain for intellectual diversity, that’s the only lesson Georgetown law students will ever learn from Ilya Shapiro.

Until next week.

P. S. In September 2021, we wrote in CounterCurrent about another professor who left his university by choice after watching it sacrifice ideas for ideology again and again: former Portland State University philosophy professor Peter Boghossian. Coincidentally, our affiliate news item this week also relates to Dr. Boghossian. The NAS Oregon affiliate reports that a video of Dr. Boghossian being surrounded by an angry leftist mob at PSU has been viewed over 3.4 million times since being posted to TikTok a few weeks ago. Dr. Boghossian was one of three scholars who partnered with the Oregon affiliate to create their widely used “Social Justice Cheat Sheet,” which has itself been downloaded more than 83,000 times.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications Associate Marina Ziemnick. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Flapane, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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