World news – Black Georgetown law students were not surprised by a professor’s racist remark

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Two professors at Georgetown University Law Center had a racist conversation about the alleged poor performance of « blacks » in their class, a negotiation seminar that was taped and uploaded for the same students to watch. In the video, which was recorded in February and posted on Twitter Wednesday evening, Professor Sandra Sellers complained, “I hate to say that – I fear every semester that a lot of my bottom line are black. Happened almost every semester. And it’s like, oh, come on There are some really good ones, but there are usually also some that are at the bottom. It drives me crazy. « Professor David Batson, who taught the class, seemed to nod.

In an email to the students on Wednesday night, Dean William Treanor described the remarks as » reprehensible « and » loathsome, « said but not whether either professor had been disciplined. Then, Thursday afternoon, Treanor informed the students that he had fired Sellers (who then said they intended to resign) and put Batson on administrative leave pending an investigation. Both Sellers and Batson are both adjunct professors lacking tenure protection. Sellers has been teaching at the school since 2003. (Disclosure: I attended GULC but didn’t attend their class.)

It appears Treanor was quick to act to address the sellers’ comments, however, several GULC students with first-hand knowledge told Slate that a student spotted the video on Sunday night and reported it to the administration on Monday morning. The administration did not address it publicly until after it became widespread on Twitter and after the Black Law Students Association released a statement urging GULC to fire salespeople immediately. The BLSA also urged the administration to seek a public apology from Batson to improve the « subjective rating system », review the sellers’ « past student ratings and reviews » and hire more black professors. By Thursday afternoon, 51 student organizations had signed up for the school, as had 74 other black law student organizations across the country, nearly 800 current GULC students and nearly 700 alumni (including myself). The school’s Student Bar Association also issued a statement endorsing the BLSA’s requests.

Last summer, the BLSA and Student Bar Association requested mandatory implicit bias training for all faculties, but the administration refused to to implement such a directive. In his email Thursday, Treanor said the school will « continue our work to address the many structural problems of racism reflected in this painful incident, including explicit and implicit bias, spectator responsibility and the need for a broader anti. » -Bias Training « .

In speaking with Slate, GULC students said they were happy with Treanor’s response but dismayed at the delay. « I’m not surprised at the racism exhibited by the university’s law professors, » said one freshman, who is black. (Like most of the students cited in this article, she asked me not to use her name for fear that GULC administrators or professors might reciprocate.) She noted that the administration had noticed the video before Wednesday, but « Georgetown only cares if there is widespread national response. « And she said she was » deeply unimpressed « by what she called Treanor’s » performative allies, « adding, » This wasn’t the first complaint about such racist comments from this professor and others. « 

One student Third year Treanor agreed to drag his feet. « It’s always an image control with this administration, » he said. « There are some incredible professors and staff here who do a great job on race, gender and civil rights at higher levels, however, they are only interested in how many new centers and institutes they open without bothering about common student topics. ”He criticized the“ ruthless disregard for the concerns of minority and first generation students ”by the heads of the law faculty.

Another third year student pointed out that Sellers and Batson’s class was an attendance-based course, the « Black students are particularly prone to biased grades because of Sellers’ racist views ». A quarter of the final grade is based on “pure class participation”, a highly subjective criterion that gives the professors a lot of leeway to introduce their personal prejudices into the assessment process. Worryingly, Sellers made her statement while she and Batson were evaluating a black student’s performance in class.

Chase Woods, another black freshman, was cautiously optimistic about Sellers’ resignation. « In general, I am satisfied with this action, » he said. Based on his previous experience at other universities trying to « navigate » similar incidents, he did not expect that « substantial action » would be taken. But he added that « there are elements of this that are deeply troubling and that illustrate to me how far we are all from the urgency of last summer. » During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the university expressed its support for true racial justice. « What happened to everyone’s commitment to dismantle white supremacy nine months ago? » asked the student. « Are we just getting back to people and institutions making public relations statements and offering platitudes after they were caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar? »

A third year student agreed that between words and actions there is a divide in administration. « The government, especially Treanor, always wants to be progressive and caring, but it takes every opportunity to sit on the fence and let out its students, » she said, pointing out the prominent role of right-wing federal society on campus. « They let Fed Soc run amok and tried to attract attention by holding insensitive events, » such as an event on « a multiethnic working class conservatism » hosted by three white men (two of whom had the same surname)

Vanessa, a black freshman, told me that while the GULC has a diverse student body, its faculty is « very white, » which often creates uncomfortable, awkward, or even painful dynamics in the classroom .

« I think we are doing a disservice to black law students by putting them in situations where they have to deal with racism without safeguards in place, » she said. “There was an orientation session in the fall where they basically told us not to take professors personally when they make abusive comments and let them play ‘Devil’s Advocate’. However, professors do not have racist awareness training, although the BLSA and SBA have asked for them on several occasions. “

 » I found this whole situation pretty daunting, « added Vanessa. “I fear that many of our professors judge us from a racist point of view and without such evidence. And we just have to live with the consequences. “

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