News & Politics

Georgetown Law Professor Fired for Saying Black Students Underperform in Her Class

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

A Georgetown University law professor was fired and another placed on administrative leave when a Zoom conversation between the two went viral.

The private conversation between Professor Sandra Sellers and Professor David Batson came to light and set off a firestorm, with thousands of students signing petitions demanding “action” from the school.

School dean Bill Treanor said he was “appalled” and that the statements made by the two professors were “reprehensible.”So what did Sellers and Batson say that set off this ruckus?

NBCNews:

“I hate to say this — I end up having this, you know, angst every semester — that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks. Happens almost every semester,” Sellers says.

“Mmm hmm,” Batson says and nods.

“And it’s like, oh, come on,” Sellers continues. “Get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”

“Yeah,” Batson says as Sellers shakes her head.

“So, I feel bad,” Sellers adds.

“As I wrote to you last night, I am appalled that two members of our faculty engaged in a conversation that included reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students,” Bill Treanor, dean of Georgetown University Law Center, wrote. “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.

Usually, you’d want to know if the statements were true before firing someone. Are some black students really “at the bottom”? Obviously, the truth or falsity of the observation is not the issue. It’s that Sellers actually disparaged the achievement — or lack thereof — of some black students.

Is that really a firing offense? It raises the question of whether or not she grades her students based on their race in any way.

Washington Examiner:

Maxine Walters, president of the Black Law Student Association, said her group is pleased with the decision to fire Sellers but is also calling for a public apology from Batson, changes to the school’s grading system, an audit of Sellers’s past grading and student evaluations, and a commitment to hiring more black professors.

“This is definitely not an isolated incident. It’s just that this professor was recorded,” Walters told the Washington Examiner.

Treanor first issued a message to the Georgetown Law community Wednesday evening, stating that the school learned of the conversation earlier in the week. He said the school is taking steps to make sure all students are fairly treated in the grading system.

Georgetown law school is one of the elite institutions in the country and getting a law degree from Georgetown is a ticket to the big time. So judging the performance of students in any way that smacks of bias is a threat to the future of lawyers who have already demonstrated high achievement.

Sellers’ insensitivity was demonstrated in a private conversation. How it came to light is a mystery. That it did come to light was enough to get a professor with 20 years at Georgetown fired.