Georgetown Law puts new hire on leave after 'lesser' Black woman comment

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A group of people talk near the entrance to the Georgetown University campus, beneath the spire of Healy Tower in Washington. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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  • Shapiro tweeted that Biden's pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court would result in a "lesser" nominee
  • Hundreds of students have asked school to part ways with Shapiro

(Reuters) - Georgetown University Law Center has placed incoming faculty member Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave while it investigates Twitter messages he posted last week suggesting President Biden's pledge to choose a Black woman for the U.S. Supreme Court would ensure a "lesser" nominee.

Dean William Treanor on Monday said in a message to the law school community that the school will investigate whether Shapiro violated professional conduct, discrimination and harassment policies.

"Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity," Treanor wrote.

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Shapiro said Monday that he did not violate any university rule or policy. "I expect to be vindicated and look forward to joining my new colleagues in short order," he wrote in an emailed statement. Shapiro previously deleted the tweets in question and apologized, calling them "inartful."

Shapiro tweeted Wednesday that his own favored candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer “doesn’t fit into latest intersectional hierarchy so we’ll get [a] lesser black woman." In another tweet, he said that because Biden vowed to nominate a Black woman for the court, "his nominee will always have an asterisk attached.”

The decision to place Shapiro on leave comes after more than 600 Georgetown Law students and alumni signed a petition calling for the school to fire Shapiro, citing his "racist rhetoric."

The petition was initiated by the law school’s Black Law Students Association and endorsed by nearly 40 campus groups, including the Student Bar Association and the Georgetown Law Journal.

Others have come out against firing Shapiro, who was slated to become executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution on Tuesday after having led the Cato Institute’s constitutional studies center.

Luke Bunting, who co-leads Georgetown Law's Conservative & Libertarian Student Association, said firing Shapiro would be giving into "mob rule."

The U.S. nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also urged Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor not to fire Shapiro in a letter on Sunday. Doing so would undermine campus free expression, it said.

(Note: This story has been updated to include comment from Ilya Shapiro.)

Read more:

Georgetown law dean calls new hire's comments on Breyer replacement 'appalling'

Biden vows to nominate Black woman to U.S. Supreme Court by end of February

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com