Faculty Letter in Support of Ilya Shapiro, January 31, 2022

Note: Following the initial delivery of this letter on Jan. 31, Georgetown Law dean William Treanor announced that Ilya Shapiro was suspended pending an investigation into his comments on the basis of whether they constituted harassment or discrimination. FIRE condemned Georgetown Law’s action, and continues to invite faculty to add their names to the list of signatories below. They may request to be added by emailing facultyoutreach@thefire.org.

Dear Dean Treanor:

We understand that some have called for Ilya Shapiro to be fired from his position as Executive Director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, because of his tweet criticizing President Biden’s pledge to appoint a black woman as a Justice. We think such a firing—or subjecting Shapiro to disciplinary action of any kind based on his tweet—would be contrary to basic academic freedom principles, which Georgetown rightly applies (1) to “all faculty,” including “lecturer[s]” such as Shapiro, and not just tenure-track faculty, and (2) to “professional service” and “all the domains of [faculty] academic activity,” which would include public commentary by public intellectuals, and not just “research” and “teaching.”

We agree that the reference in the tweet to “a lesser black woman” was a poor way of expressing the message (and Shapiro’s apology seems to agree as well). “[Sri Srinivasan] doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get [a less-qualified] black woman” is presumably what Shapiro meant to say. But setting aside that one mistake—which should not be seen as a fireable offense—the substance of the message, which is that Sri Srinivasan is the most qualified progressive nominee, and that it’s wrong for the President to pass him over because of race and sex, is a position that is most certainly protected by academic freedom principles of “[f]ree inquiry and unconstrained publication of the results of inquiry.”

To be sure, the substantive position about the President’s pledge, and about the relative qualifications of the various possible appointees, is not a position that all of us endorse. Indeed, some of us have publicly disagreed with it.

But academic freedom protects Shapiro’s views, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities. Indeed, to the extent that people do think it’s proper for a President to promise to fill a position with a member of a particular group, they can only have real confidence in that conclusion if they know that the contrary view can be freely supported and discussed, and has been found unpersuasive on the merits rather than silenced by fear of firing. That is famously the way academic discourse about science operates. And it is true for moral and political judgments as well.

More broadly, firing Shapiro for expressing his views will send a message to others in Georgetown—both faculty (and especially untenured faculty) and students—that debate about matters having to do with race and sex is no longer free; that the promises of academic freedom are empty; and that dissent from the majority views within the law school is not tolerated. That will chill far more than just honest discussions of this particular Presidential nomination.

Sincerely,

  1. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles
  2. Samuel J. Abrams, Professor of Politics and Social Science, Sarah Lawrence College
  3. Jonathan H. Adler, Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University
  4. Ethan Akin, Professor of Mathematics, The City College of New York
  5. J. Joel Alicea, Assistant Professor of Law, Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University of America
  6. Adeline A. Allen, Associate Professor of Law, Trinity Law School
  7. M. D. Allen, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
  8. Albert W. Alschuler, Julius Kreeger Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago Law School
  9. Luis Alvarez, Jr., President and CEO, University of Virginia Law School Foundation
  10. Anthony Anadio, Visiting Assistant Professor in History, SUNY Empire State College
  11. Kenneth Anderson, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
  12. Josh Avratin, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  13. Howard Baetjer Jr., Lecturer, Department of Economics, Towson University
  14. J. Michael Bailey, Professor, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University
  15. Jeremy D. Bailey, Sanders Chair in Law and Liberty, Classics and Letters & Director, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, University of Oklahoma
  16. H. Robert Baker, Associate Professor of History, Georgia State University
  17. William Baude, Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  18. D. Benjamin Beard, Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Idaho College of Law
  19. Avi Bell, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  20. Tom W. Bell, Professor, Chapman University Fowler School of Law
  21. David E. Bernstein, University Professor, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  22. April Bleske-Rechek, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  23. Bernard S. Black, Chabraja Professor, Northwestern University, Pritzker Law School and Kellogg School of Management
  24. Josh Blackman, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston
  25. Walter E. Block, Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, Loyola University New Orleans
  26. Jason Brennan, Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
  27. Frank Widar Brevik, Professor of English, Savannah College of Art and Design
  28. Kingsley R. Browne, Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School
  29. Douglas B. Brumm, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Michigan Technological University
  30. John Bullock, Professor of Chemistry, Bennington College
  31. Keegan Callanan, Associate Professor of Political Science, Middlebury College
  32. Edward Cantu, Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  33. Bryan Caplan, Professor of Economics, George Mason University
  34. Paul G. Cassell, Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor of Criminal Law and University Distinguished Professor of Law
  35. Lee R. Cerling, Associate Professor of Clinical Business Communication, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California
  36. Joseph Cesario, Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University
  37. Nicholas A. Christakis, Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science, Yale University
  38. Jack Citrin, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
  39. Stephen L. Clark, Chancellor’s Professor, Mathematics and Statistics, Missouri University of Science and Technology
  40. Matthew R. Cleary, Associate Professor of Political Science, Syracuse University
  41. Bell Julian Clement, Professional Lecturer, Department of History, George Washington University
  42. Eric Clements, History Professor, Southeast Missouri State University
  43. Jeffrey Collins, Professor of History, Queen’s University
  44. Kevin Cope, Associate Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Virginia
  45. Clayton E. Cramer, History Adjunct Instructor, College of Western Idaho
  46. Marc J. Defant, Professor of Geochemistry, University of South Florida
  47. Pedro Domingos, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
  48. Marco Del Guidice, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico
  49. Andrew R. DeLoach, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Center for Human Rights, Trinity Law School
  50. Raj M. Desai, Professor of International Development, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  51. Gregory Dolin, Associate Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law
  52. Shlomo Dubnov, Professor, Musica, Computer Science, and Engineering, University of California, San Diego
  53. Richard F. Duncan, Sherman S. Welpton, Jr. and Warren R. Wise Professor of Law, University of Nebraska
  54. Dina F. El Mahdy, Associate Professor of Accounting, Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management, Morgan State University
  55. Anthony Ephremides, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus & Cynthia Kim Eminent Professor of Information Technology, University of Maryland, College Park
  56. Richard A. Epstein, Laurence A Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law; Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; James Parker Hall Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Senior Lecturer, University of Chicago
  57. C. Christine Fair, Professor, Security Studies Program, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  58. Rachel Ferguson, Director, Free Enterprise Center & Assistant Dean, College of Business & Professor of Business Ethics, Concordia University Chicago
  59. George P Fletcher, Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence, Columbia University School of Law
  60. Brendan C. Fox, Adjunct Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  61. Jonathan Gallant, Professor Emeritus of Genome Sciences, Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington
  62. Nicole Stelle Garnett, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
  63. Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
  64. Stephen P. Garvey, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  65. Nicholas Georgakopoulos, Harold R. Woodard Professor of Law, Indiana University, Robert H. McKinney School of Law
  66. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
  67. Scott Gerber, Adjunct Associate Professor, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  68. Stephen Gilles, Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University
  69. Tom Ginsburg, Professor of International Law, Ludwig and Hilde Wolf Research Scholar, and Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago Law School
  70. Oleg Gleizer, Director, Olga Radko Endowed Math Circle, University of California, Los Angeles
  71. Michael J. Glennon, Professor of Constitutional and International Law, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  72. Mark A. Graber, Regents Professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law
  73. Mark Grabowski, Associate Professor of Communications, Adelphi University
  74. Daniel Greco, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
  75. Darij Grinberg, Assistant Professor in Mathematics, Drexel University
  76. Philip Hamburger, Maurice & Hilda Friedman Professor of Law, Columbia University
  77. Victor Davis Hanson, Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow, Classics and Military History, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  78. Steven F. Hayward, Senior Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies and Visiting Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
  79. Eugene Heath, Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York at New Paltz
  80. Robert Heidt, Professor Emeritus of Law, Indiana University Mauer School of Law
  81. Arthur D. Hellman, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh
  82. M. Todd Henderson, Michael J. Marks Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  83. Gail Heriot, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  84. Robert W. Hillman, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California, Davis
  85. Rosemary L. Hopcroft, Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  86. Cooley Howarth, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton School of Law
  87. Thomas D. Howes, Lecturer in Politics, Princeton University
  88. James Huffman, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School
  89. William A. Jacobson, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Cornell Securities Law Clinic, Cornell Law School
  90. Rob Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Georgia State University – Perimeter College
  91. Andrew L. Johns, Professor of History, Brigham Young University
  92. KC Johnson, Professor of History, Brooklyn College & CUNY Graduate Center
  93. Richard S. Kay, Oliver Ellsworth Research Professor & Wallace Stevens Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Connecticut School of Law
  94. Michael Karanicolas, Executive Director, Institute for Technology, Law & Policy, University of California, Los Angeles
  95. Zvi M. Kedem, Professor of Computer Science, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University
  96. Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor, Harvard Law School
  97. Charles R. Kesler, Dengler-Dykeman Distinguished Professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University
  98. Amna Khalid, Associate Professor, Department of History, Carleton College
  99. Donald Kilmer, Constitutional Law Professor, Lincoln Law School of San Jose
  100. Adam Kissel, Adjunct Instructor, Liberty University
  101. Sergiu Klainerman, Fine Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University
  102. Joseph M. Knippenberg, Professor of Politics, Oglethorpe University
  103. Joerg W. Knipprath, Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School
  104. Eugene Kontorovich, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  105. Vladimir Kontorovich, Professor of Economics, Haverford College
  106. David B. Kopel, Adjunct Professor, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
  107. Andrew M. Koppelman, John Paul Stevens Professor of Law, Northwestern University
  108. Julian G. Ku, Maurice A. Deane Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law, Hofstra University
  109. Timur Kuran, Professor of Economics and Political Science and Gorter Family Professor of Islamic Studies, Duke University
  110. Kurt T. Lash, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law
  111. Gary Lawson, Associate Dean for Intellectual Life & Philip S. Beck Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
  112. Anne Lawton, Professor Emerita, Michigan State University College of Law
  113. Joseph K. Leahy, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston
  114. Brian Leiter, Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago
  115. Marc Lendler, Professor of Government, Smith College
  116. Douglas B. Levene, Professor-from-Practice, Peking University School of Transnational Law
  117. Kim Lewis, University Distinguished Professor, Director, Antimicrobial Discovery Center, Department of Biology, Northeastern University
  118. Tony Lima, Emeritus Professor of Economics, California State University, East Bay
  119. Kate Litvak, Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  120. Eric Mack, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Tulane University
  121. Adam J. MacLeod, Professor of Law, Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law
  122. Julia D. Mahoney, John S. Battle Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  123. Paul G. Mahoney, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law
  124. Michael W. McConnell, Richard & Frances Mallery Professor, Stanford Law School
  125. John O. McGinnis, George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law, Northwestern University
  126. Kenneth B. McIntyre, Professor of Political Science, Sam Houston State University
  127. John McWhorter, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
  128. Abraham H. Miller, Emeritus Professor, Political Science, University of Cincinnati
  129. Geoffrey Miller, Associate Professor, Psychology Department, University of New Mexico
  130. Paul D. Miller, Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  131. Mark Moller, Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law
  132. Adam Mossoff, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  133. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
  134. Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law & Professor of Psychology & Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania
  135. Christopher Newman, Associate Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  136. Dennis R. Nolan, Webster Distinguished Professor of Labor Law Emeritus, University of South Carolina
  137. Danny Noorlander, Associate Professor of History, SUNY Oneonta
  138. William Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  139. Daphne Patai, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  140. Dennis Patterson, Board of Governors Professor of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers University School of Law
  141. Richard Prystowsky, Retired Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services, Marion Technical College
  142. Michael Stokes Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas
  143. Juliana Geran Pilon, Senior Fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization
  144. Roger Pilon, B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute
  145. Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
  146. Michael Poliakoff, President, American Council of Trustees and Alumni
  147. Daniel Polsby, Dean Emeritus, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  148. David G. Post, I. Herman Stern Professor of Law (Ret.), Temple University Beasley School of Law
  149. Paul du Quenoy, President, Palm Beach Freedom Institute
  150. Felix Rabinovich, Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Sciences, California State University, Northridge
  151. Michael D. Ramsey, Professor of Law, University of San Diego Law School
  152. Michael Rappaport, Hugh & Hazel Darling Foundation Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  153. Stuart Reges, Teaching Professor, Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington
  154. Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee
  155. Lev Reyzin, Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, University of Illinois Chicago
  156. John C. Rodrigue, Lawrence and Theresa Salameno Professor, Department of History, Stonehill College
  157. Mark Carl Rom, Associate Professor of Government and Public Policy, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
  158. Bradley W. Root, Associate Professor of History, St. Mary’s University (TX)
  159. Christine Rosen, Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
  160. Shawn A. Ross, Professor of History and Archaeology, Macquarie University
  161. Adam Scales, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School
  162. Stephen Sachs, Antonin Scalia Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  163. Catherine Salmon, Psychology Professor, University of Redlands
  164. Aaron Saiger, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
  165. Saswati Sarkar, Professor, Electrical and Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania
  166. Mark S. Scarberry, Professor of Law, Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law
  167. Jon D. Schaff, Professor of Political Science, Northern State University
  168. Alan Schwartz, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  169. Andrew A. Schwartz, Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law
  170. Maimon Schwarzschild, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  171. John Schwenkler, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University
  172. Andrew Sepielli, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto
  173. E. Joseph Sharkey, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Washington, Tacoma
  174. Luke C. Sheahan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Duquesne University
  175. Timothy C. Shiell, Professor of Philosophy and Director, Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, University of Wisconsin-Stout
  176. Bradley A. Smith, Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law, Capital University Law School
  177. Thomas A. Smith, Professor of Law, University of San Diego
  178. Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, Carleton College
  179. Alan Sokal, Professor Emeritus of Physics, New York University and Professor of Mathematics, University College London
  180. Ilya Somin, Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
  181. Mark Steckbeck, Associate Professor of Economics & Lundy Chair in Business Philosophy, Campbell University Lundy-Fetterman School of Business
  182. Richard Stith, Professor Emeritus of Law, Valparaiso University
  183. Lee J. Strang, John W. Stoepler Professor of Law & Values, University of Toledo College of Law
  184. Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, Emerita, New York Law School
  185. Donald W Swanton, Associate Professor Emeritus of Finance and of Mathematics, Roosevelt University
  186. David Talcott, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The King’s College (NY)
  187. Martha C. Taylor, Professor and Chair, Department of Classics, Loyola University Maryland
  188. Fernando R. Tesón, Eminent Scholar Emeritus, Florida State University College of Law
  189. Christopher Tollefsen, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of South Carolina
  190. Ari Trachtenberg, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University
  191. Michael Trigoboff, Computer Science Department, Portland Community College
  192. Harald Uhlig, Bruce Allen and Barbara Ritzenthaler Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
  193. Emily Underwood, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Bluhm-Helfand Director, Innovation Clinic, University of Chicago Law School
  194. David R. Upham, Associate Professor & Chair of Politics, University of Dallas
  195. Ezequiel Viñao, Adjunct Associate Professor of Music, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University
  196. Alexander Volokh, Associate Professor of Law, Emory University
  197. E. Gregory Wallace, Professor of Law, Campbell University School of Law
  198. Kevin C. Walsh, Professor of Law, University of Richmond School of Law
  199. Brandon Warmke, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University
  200. Ashlie C. Warnick, Professor of Economics, Northern Virginia Community College
  201. Michael Weingrad, Professor of Judaic Studies, The Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, Portland State University
  202. James Weinstein, Dan Cracchiolo Chair in Constitutional Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
  203. Keith E. Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Princeton University
  204. Clark Wolf, Director of Bioethics and Professor of Philosophy, Iowa State University
  205. Abraham Wyner, Professor of Statistics and Data Science, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business
  206. Scott Yenor, Professor of Political Science, Boise State University
  207. Ernest A. Young, Alston & Bird Professor, Duke University
  208. David Zarfes, Clinical Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
  209. Jonathan Zimmerman, Judy and Howard Berkowitz Professor in Education, University of Pennsylvania
  210. Todd J. Zywicki, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University

Note: Further signatures will be continually added as they arrive. If you’re interested in adding your signature to this letter, please email facultyoutreach@thefire.org. University titles are for identification purposes. 


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