Saturday, March 13, 2021

Georgetown Law Professor Fired

Adjunct Georgetown Law Professors Sandra Sellers and David Batson were caught on Zoom discussing the less than stellar performance of some Black law students. It appears that Sellers did the talking while Batson nodded. I thought that this was another Amy Wax situation in which a smug white professor jeered the low performance of Black students, argued that they shouldn't be in her class breathing up all of her white woman's air, opined that their low performance was because of intractable biological or cultural inferiorities, and ended by screaming the N-word. That's hyperbole. Professor Wax didn't do ALL of that but her blunt hostility to Black students was crystal clear.

We didn't see that extreme contempt here. Sellers said she was frustrated (she used the word "angst") that most of the Black students were consistently among the lower performing cohorts. The professor identified a pattern. There is a HUGE difference between noticing a phenomenon you don't like and saying you think Black people are intellectually inferior because of their race.
(CNN)One Georgetown Law professor has been fired and another placed on administrative leave after one's comments disparaging Black students were recorded via Zoom.
Sandra Sellers and David Batson, the two professors, had a conversation regarding Black students' performance in their classes at the end of a lecture last month. Their comments were included in the recorded lecture, said Hassan Ahmad, a student at Georgetown Law who posted a snippet of the video on Twitter.

In the snippet, Sellers says: "I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks," referencing lower grades. "Happens almost every semester. And it's like, 'Oh, come on.' It's some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom, it drives me crazy."

Sellers intended to resign but has been fired, wrote Bill Treanor, the dean and executive vice president of the Georgetown Law Center, in a letter to students and staff Thursday. Batson is on administrative leave while the Office of Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action investigates, the letter says. "We are taking significant steps to ensure that all students in this class are fairly graded without the input of Professor Sellers or Professor Batson," Treanor wrote.  

Colleges, universities, graduate schools, and professional schools all have some racist instructors, structures, and students. I've lived that like every other Black college grad. I'm just not 100% convinced that this is an example of it. 
Someone identified a problem. It's what comes next that lets me know if Sellers is racist. I think we want professors who can identify problems and are hopefully open to discussing solutions. 
I don't know if Sellers has that second trait because I haven't heard the entire discussion. I don't know Sellers' record of interaction with Black students, her peers, or her bosses at Georgetown law. Maybe Sellers has always been unpleasant and this kerfuffle was the last straw. Georgetown Law School has exam courses graded on an anonymous basis. But Sellers' course is something based on participation. That leaves room for bias. However we can't say that coursework and subjective tests are unfairly biased and should be tossed AND that standardized tests are also unfairly biased and should be tossed.
The issue predates Sellers' time at Georgetown Law. It will continue now after her termination. We can't address a problem if we can't even say it exists. The problem doesn't go away just by getting rid of someone who pointed it out. I don't care whether Sellers has a job or not. I do care that Black law students and Black students at every level of education do better than they are doing now.
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