Georgetown lecturer turns tables on cancel culture, determined to use moment for lesson on civil discourse

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Georgetown University Law Center lecturer Ilya Shapiro is embroiled in controversy over a tweet that he initially hoped would elevate the level of political discourse in America, specifically the debate over U.S. Supreme Court nominees in light of President Biden’s vow to select none but a black female to take the seat of retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

Shapiro is currently on administrative leave from his new post as executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution after a now-deleted tweet caused the usual uproar in the Twitter-verse when he criticized Biden’s narrow-mindedness in reducing his Supreme Court nominee candidate pool based on immutable qualities of race and gender.

“Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?” he wrote on Twitter. “Because Biden said he’s only consider[ing] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.”

Following the backlash and subsequent administrative action from Georgetown, Shapiro told Fox News Digital, “Well, I’m still going through this storm.”

“I just think that this is a moment where we can realize as a country because I think this is bigger than me and Georgetown, that the way we go about discussing matters of great import is broken, and I’m hoping that my experience now can help in some way disrupt that and have people realize that there’s a better way of discussing controversies,” he said.

Shapiro apologized for his choice of words and deleted the tweet. His critics naturally cried racism while his defenders explained it as legitimate criticism of affirmative action-based decisions. He summarily issued a message to the Georgetown community:

“A person’s dignity and worth simply do not, and should not, depend on any immutable characteristic,” he wrote. “Those who know me know that I am sincere about these sentiments, and I would be more than happy to meet with any of you who have doubts about the quality of my heart.”

Nevertheless, 900 students have signed a letter from the Georgetown Black Law Student Association calling for Shapiro’s termination, and Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor said the school would investigate whether he violated “anti-discrimination” policies, and in a message to students said Shapiro had used “demeaning language.”

“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.

Conversely, multiple columnists and outlets have called for Georgetown to not dismiss him, from Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times – “political speech that should be protected by basic notions of academic freedom” – to Robby Soave in Reason – “it would be tacitly endorsing the unfair smear that he is a racist and a sexist.”

Even some Georgetown students are fearful of the slippery slope of censoring free speech and independent thought in academia, which could ultimately self-sabotage the notions of diversity and inclusion that so-called progressive colleges and universities claim to espouse.

Conservative and moderate students described to Fox News Digital how they have been ejected from group chats with fellow students about the situation if they dared to defend Shapiro.

“Cancel culture is a way to not have to engage in debate with us … Because you hurt my feelings, you can’t come here and discuss your idea,” a third-year student said.

“If you’re a conservative, you might not want to deal with, for example, the response Mr. Shapiro has gotten,” second-year student Timothy Harper said. “If you express your views online, you might just avoid this kind of job altogether.”

For his part, Shapiro says that regardless of the outcome of his situation, the manner of political debate in the country must be repaired, referencing, in particular, the recent tumult affecting celebrities Whoopi Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

“All I’ll say is that if this can be a moment to turn down the heat and detoxify our national discourse, I’d be happy to appear with, whether it’s Whoopi Goldberg and Joe Rogan,” he said. “Bill Maher has done a lot on cancel culture. Whatever the vehicles might be for changing the way that we address controversies, I’m all for that … I’m happy to be a vehicle for improving the tenor of political discourse.”

“I never expected to make national news in this particular way, and I’m sure I don’t see all of the things that are being written, but I do see a lot, and it has been gratifying to see outlets and writers that indeed are across [the] ideological spectrum defending the freedom of speech and academic expression,” Shapiro said.

He further distilled the essence of his original statement on Biden’s forthcoming Supreme Court justice nomination:

“I think the pool of candidates for high government office should not be restricted by race and gender,” he said bluntly.


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