Head of Georgetown’s Center for the Constitution abruptly resigns

After months of paid leave and an investigation into some controversial tweets, Ilya Shapiro has abruptly resigned as the head of Georgetown University’s Center for the Constitution.

Just days earlier on Thursday, Shapiro had said on Twitter that he was eager to start work at the center, after that investigation cleared him.

But Monday morning, he sent a four-page letter to William Treanor, the dean and executive vice president of the Georgetown University Law Center.

“You cleared me on a jurisdictional technicality, but the [Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action] Report – and your own statements to the Law Center community – implicitly repealed Georgetown’s vaunted Speech and Expression Policy and set me up for discipline the next time I transgress progressive orthodoxy,” he wrote.

“… You’ve painted a target on my back such that I could never do the job I was hired for, advancing the mission of the Center for the Constitution.”

The tweets in question concern President Biden’s remarks – prior to the nomination and confirmation of incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — that he would nominate a Black woman to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Even has identity politics benefits of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get a lesser black woman. Thank heavens for small favors?”

Another tweet read:

Because Biden said he’s only consider black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the court takes up affirmative action next term.”

Shapiro deleted the tweets, but screen grabs circulated, prompting both Georgetown’s investigation and Shapiro being placed on paid leave.

And in Monday’s letter, he contended that the deleted tweets were misunderstood.

“It’s a complete miscomprehension to read what I said to suggest that ‘the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman’ … or that I considered all black women to be ‘lesser than’ everyone else,” Shapiro wrote.

“Although my tweet was inartful, as I’ve readily admitted many times, its meaning that I considered one possible candidate to be the best and thus all others to be less qualified is clear.”

Shapiro also wrote that any damage from what he said was due to politics.

“I deleted my tweet well before any student was likely to learn of it,” he wrote. “Screen captures of the tweet were then disseminated by others seeking to harm me because of my political views.”

Georgetown’s investigation found that Shapiro was not subject to discipline because they were written before his employment began, but Shapiro said if he stayed on the job, there would be “a huge Sword of Damocles over my head as I try to engage in my educational mission.”

And he accused Georgetown of applying its expression policy inconsistently, singling out some faculty members for their remarks about Donald Trump and other Republicans.

“Apparently it’s free speech for thee, not for me,” Shapiro wrote.

In a statement, a Georgetown spokesperson said …

Georgetown urges members of our community to engage in robust and respectful dialogue. Our speech and expression policy promotes free and open inquiry, deliberation, and debate and does not prohibit speech based on the person presenting ideas or the content of those ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable.

While we protect speech and expression, we work to promote civil and respectful discourse. In reviewing Mr. Shapiro’s conduct, the University followed the regular processes for members of the Law Center staff.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer. In a previous life, he helped edit The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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