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Douglas Andrews / March 16, 2021

Cancel Culture Claims Two More Scalps

Two Georgetown Law profs lost their jobs for having discussed an inconvenient truth about student performance.

In a column last week, our Thomas Gallatin wondered whether cancel culture had peaked or if it was just getting underway.

Where did he net out? “Unfortunately, the most likely answer is that cancel culture has only just begun,” he concluded. “The leftist revolutionaries smell blood in the water as companies fearful of being the next victim of the woke mob willingly run to the front of the line to declare their solidarity with the cause, canceling ‘offenses’ before even being challenged. Buckle in for a bumpy ride.”

It’s hard to disagree, and the recent case of the canceled Georgetown Law professors is just the latest example. One of them was summarily fired for uttering what appears to have been an inconvenient fact on a Zoom call, while the other was forced to resign for “failing to correct” his “racist” colleague.

This Twitter post is what started the firestorm. It includes a video showing the two adjunct professors discussing student performance during the aftermath of a Zoom call that had just concluded. Unbeknownst to the two, Hassan Ahmad, presumably a student, was recording the call when Sellers lamented that a subset of a certain racially distinct group of students seemed to consistently perform poorly in her class. Uh-oh.

“You know what? I hate to say this, I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are blacks,” said Sellers as her adjunct professorial career light began to flicker. “Happens almost every semester and it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ I get some really good ones but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy … so I feel bad.”

Her colleague, Batson, mostly seemed to nod in agreement. And that was apparently his crime: failure to correct.

“Georgetown Law negotiations Professors Sandra Sellers and David Batson being openly racist on a recorded Zoom call,” Ahmad tweeted with his recording of the video call, which has since received more than 1.1 million views. “Beyond unacceptable.”

But if we listen closely to what Sellers says, is she really being racist or merely matter-of-fact? It didn’t seem to matter to Law School Dean Bill Treanor, who addressed the Georgetown Law community last week. “As I wrote to you last night,” he began, “I am appalled that two members of our faculty engaged in a conversation that included reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students. I have further reviewed the incident and have now spoken to Professor Sellers and Professor Batson, giving each the opportunity to provide any additional context. I informed Professor Sellers that I was terminating her relationship with Georgetown Law effective immediately.”

As for Batson, the ax fell on him too. “A Georgetown law professor has resigned, reports Fox News, "following his participation in a Zoom call with a colleague whose comments about her Black students having a lower academic performance every semester led to her being fired. On Saturday, a Georgetown spokesperson confirmed … that Georgetown law professor David Batson had submitted his resignation letter and that Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor had accepted.”

It’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for these two. As Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff notes, “It’s normal that when a law school admits Blacks whose credentials show them to be less likely than the average student to perform well academically, the school will find itself with classes in which Blacks disproportionately are ‘at the bottom.’ It’s normal that a professor will feel ‘angst’ over this. … The point is that Sellers’ angst is not evidence of racism. If anything, it’s evidence of the opposite.”

The other point, of course, is that facts are no longer just stubborn things, as John Adams once put it. In the age of cancel culture, they’ve become fireable things.

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