Ethical Quote Of The Week: Faculty Letter To GULC Dean Treanor In Support Of Illya Shapiro [CORRECTED]

So far, 106 professors from all points on the ideological spectrum have signed a letter to Georgetown Law Center’s Dean Treanor, telling him what should not have to be explained to a Top 20 law school dean: that “academic freedom protects [Illya] Shapiro’s views, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities.”

Shapiro, as discussed here, has been suspended (“put on leave pending an investigation”) by Treanor, and if past behavior by Georgetown Law Center is any indication, he is likely to be fired, forced to resign, or to have to humiliate himself by submitting to “sensitivity training” after a public confession of WrongThink.

Here is the letter, which appears to have been coordinated by the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education. Those seeking to add their names to the signatories can email

Disgracefully, no member of the GULC faculty has signed the letter to support their colleague—and the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom at their own institution—as of this writing.

Dear Dean Treanor:

We understand that some have called for Ilya Shapiro to be fired from his position as Executive Director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, because of his tweet criticizing President Biden’s pledge to appoint a black woman as a Justice. We think such a firing—or subjecting Shapiro to disciplinary action of any kind based on his tweet—would be contrary to basic academic freedom principles, which Georgetown rightly applies (1) to “all faculty,” including “lecturer[s]” such as Shapiro, and not just tenure-track faculty, and (2) to “professional service” and “all the domains of [faculty] academic activity,” which would include public commentary by public intellectuals, and not just “research” and “teaching.”

We agree that the reference in the tweet to “a lesser black woman” was a poor way of expressing the message (and Shapiro’s apology seems to agree as well). “[Sri Srinivasan] doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get [a less-qualified] black woman” is presumably what Shapiro meant to say. But setting aside that one mistake—which should not be seen as a fireable offense—the substance of the message, which is that Sri Srinivasan is the most qualified progressive nominee, and that it’s wrong for the President to pass him over because of race and sex, is a position that is most certainly protected by academic freedom principles of “[f]ree inquiry and unconstrained publication of the results of inquiry.”

To be sure, the substantive position about the President’s pledge, and about the relative qualifications of the various possible appointees, is not a position that all of us endorse. Indeed, some of us have publicly disagreed with it.

But academic freedom protects Shapiro’s views, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities. Indeed, to the extent that people do think it’s proper for a President to promise to fill a position with a member of a particular group, they can only have real confidence in that conclusion if they know that the contrary view can be freely supported and discussed, and has been found unpersuasive on the merits rather than silenced by fear of firing. That is famously the way academic discourse about science operates. And it is true for moral and political judgments as well.

More broadly, firing Shapiro for expressing his views will send a message to others in Georgetown—both faculty (and especially untenured faculty) and students—that debate about matters having to do with race and sex is no longer free; that the promises of academic freedom are empty; and that dissent from the majority views within the law school is not tolerated. That will chill far more than just honest discussions of this particular Presidential nomination.


  1. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles
  2. Samuel J. Abrams, Professor of Politics and Social Science, Sarah Lawrence College
  3. Jonathan H. Adler, Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University
  4. Albert W. Alschuler, Julius Kreeger Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago Law School
  5. Luis Alvarez, Jr., President and CEO, University of Virginia Law School Foundation
  6. Anthony Anadio, Visiting Assistant Professor in History, SUNY Empire State College
  7. Kenneth Anderson, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
  8. Howard Baetjer Jr., Lecturer, Department of Economics, Towson University
  9. William Baude, Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  10. David E. Bernstein, University Professor, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  11. Bernard S. Black, Chabraja Professor, Northwestern University, Pritzker Law School and Kellogg School of Management
  12. Josh Blackman, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston
  13. Walter E. Block, Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, Loyola University New Orleans
  14. Frank Widar Brevik, Professor of English, Savannah College of Art and Design
  15. Kingsley R. Browne, Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School
  16. Douglas B. Brumm, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Michigan State University
  17. Edward Cantu, Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  18. Paul G. Cassell, Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor of Criminal Law and University Distinguished Professor of Law
  19. Lee R. Cerling, Associate Professor of Clinical Business Communication, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
  20. Joseph Cesario, Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University
  21. Nicholas A. Christakis, Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, Yale University
  22. Jack Citrin, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
  23. Stephen L. Clark, Chancellor’s Professor, Mathematics and Statistics, Missouri University of Science and Technology
  24. Matthew R. Cleary, Associate Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University
  25. Kevin Cope, Associate Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Virginia
  26. Marc J. Defant, Professor of Geochemistry, University of South Florida
  27. Andrew R. DeLoach, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Center for Human Rights, Trinity Law School
  28. Gregory Dolin, Associate Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law
  29. Richard F. Duncan, Sherman S. Welpton, Jr. and Warren R. Wise Professor of Law, University of Nebraska
  30. C. Christine Fair, Professor, Security Studies Program, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  31. Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
  32. Stephen P. Garvey, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  33. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  34. Mark Grabowski, Associate Professor of Communications, Adelphi University
  35. Daniel Greco, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
  36. Philip Hamburger, Maurice & Hilda Friedman Professor of Law, Columbia University
  37. Steven F. Hayward, Senior Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies and Visiting Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
  38. M. Todd Henderson, Michael J. Marks Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  39. Gail Heriot, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  40. Robert W. Hillman, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis
  41. Cooley Howarth, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton School of Law
  42. Thomas D. Howes, Lecturer in Politics, Princeton University
  43. James Huffman, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School
  44. William A. Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Cornell Securities Law Clinic, Cornell Law School
  45. Rob Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Georgia State University – Perimeter College
  46. Andrew L. Johns, Professor of History, Brigham Young University
  47. KC Johnson, Professor of History, Brooklyn College & CUNY Graduate Center
  48. Michael Karanicolas, Executive Director, Institute for Technology, Law & Policy, University of California, Los Angeles
  49. Zvi M. Kedem, Professor of Computer Science, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
  50. Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor, Harvard Law School
  51. Amna Khalid, Associate Professor, Department of History, Carleton College
  52. Adam Kissel, Adjunct Instructor, Liberty University
  53. Joerg W. Knipprath, Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School
  54. Eugene Kontorovich, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  55. Andrew M. Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Northwestern University
  56. Julian G. Ku, Maurice A. Deane Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law, Hofstra University
  57. Timur Kuran, Professor of Economics and Political Science and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies, Duke University
  58. Kurt T. Lash, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law
  59. Brian Leiter, Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago
  60. Douglas B. Levene, Professor-from-Practice, Peking University School of Transnational Law
  61. Tony Lima, Emeritus Professor of Economics, California State University, East Bay
  62. Kate Litvak, Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  63. Eric Mack, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Tulane University
  64. Julia D. Mahoney, John S. Battle Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  65. Paul G. Mahoney, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law
  66. Michael W. McConnell, Richard & Frances Mallery Professor, Stanford Law School
  67. Kenneth B. McIntyre, Professor of Political Science, Sam Houston State University
  68. John McWhorter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
  69. Abraham H. Miller, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, University of Cincinnati
  70. Geoffrey Miller, Associate Professor, Psychology Department, University of New Mexico
  71. Paul D. Miller, Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  72. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
  73. Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law & Professor of Psychology & Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  74. Christopher Newman, Associate Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  75. Daphne Patai, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  76. Dennis Patterson, Board of Governors Professor of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers University School of Law
  77. Michael Poliakoff, President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni
  78. Daniel Polsby, Dean Emeritus, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  79. David G. Post, I. Herman Stern Professor of Law Emeritus, Temple University Beasley School of Law
  80. Michael D. Ramsey, Professor of Law, University of San Diego Law School
  81. Michael Rappaport, Hugh & Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  82. Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee
  83. Adam Scales, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School
  84. Stephen Sachs, Antonin Scalia Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  85. Mark S. Scarberry, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law
  86. Jon D. Schaff, Professor of Political Science, Northern State University
  87. Andrew A. Schwartz, Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law
  88. Maimon Schwarzschild, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  89. John Schwenkler, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University
  90. Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, Carleton College
  91. Alan Sokal, Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University and Professor of Mathematics, University College London
  92. Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  93. Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, Emerita, New York Law School
  94. Donald W Swanton, Associate Professor Emeritus of Finance and of Mathematics,  Roosevelt University
  95. David Talcott, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The King’s College (NY)
  96. Martha C. Taylor, Professor and Chair, Department of Classics, Loyola University Maryland
  97. Fernando R. Tesón, Eminent Scholar Emeritus, Florida State University College of Law
  98. Michael Trigoboff, Computer Science Department, Portland Community College
  99. Emily Underwood, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Bluhm-Helfand Director, Innovation Clinic, University of Chicago Law School
  100. David R. Upham, Associate Professor & Chair of Politics, University of Dallas
  101. Alexander Volokh, Associate Professor of Law, Emory University
  102. E. Gregory Wallace, Professor of Law, Campbell University School of Law
  103. Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Princeton University
  104. Clark Wolf, Director of Bioethics and Professor of Philosophy, Iowa State University
  105. David Zarfes, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
  106. Jonathan Zimmerman, Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education, University of Pennsylvania
  107. Todd J. Zywicki, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

8 thoughts on “Ethical Quote Of The Week: Faculty Letter To GULC Dean Treanor In Support Of Illya Shapiro [CORRECTED]

  1. I wonder how many of the signatories who are law school professors will be hunted down and hounded out of their jobs as if they were escaped slaves by their schools’ emboldened and power-hungry black law student associations.

  2. The GULC faculty are keeping mum because they are glad it’s Shapiro in the crosshairs and not them. Tenured or not, they know they could be forced into resignation pretty quickly. Those who signed this letter might want to polish their resumes up and check their pension plans. The part no one says out loud now is that we are living in an America in which the whole concept of rights changed last year. Your right to spread misinformation died with the 500,000+ who died of COVID. So did your right to decide not to take necessary medication, or to not cover your face when told to, or to assemble without a by-your-leave from the government. Your right to hold and express certain views died with George Floyd. At this point the government is going to decide what’s allowed and what’s not. At this point there is only one party, one view, one set of opinions that matters, and it’s not the conservative one. Right now we’ve only ridden the streetcar of authority to the stop called “permissive freedom.” If you want, though, we can ride the streetcar to the final stop. We have no problem shutting off your access to everything and shutting you up in your home. We will have even less of a problem shutting you up somewhere else. There’s PLENTY of empty space miles away from anything in the Midwest. There is plenty of space to build work farms with spartan concrete barracks where you will labor for all the days your body will take before you fall over dead, growing wheat and other necessary crops. The net generation will not even know you ever existed. Arbeit macht frei!

  3. Here’s something else that will likely make your head explode, Jack. The New York Times (yes, the New York Times) published an OpEd by Michelle Goldberg in today’s edition that claimed – without equivocation – that Georgetown erred in its response to Ilya Shapiro. Even more amazing – the preponderance of comments strongly support Goldberg’s assertions.

    And the sun is rising in the west.

    • I think what’s really happening is the Goldberg, based on her recent columns, is making a course correction to the center because she sees the writing on the wall. Too late, and too cynical, for my tastes.

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