Georgetown Law School has fired a professor for noticing and commenting on the fact that Blacks make up a disproportionate number of low-performing students in her class. Another professor has been placed on administrative leave.
Adjunct professor Sandra Sellers was caught on video telling adjunct prof David Batson:
I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks. Happens almost every semester. And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.
What drives me crazy is, you know, the concept of how that plays out. And whether that is, you know, my own perceptions playing in here and when certain, my own, you know, my own unconscious biases, you know, playing out in the scheme of things.
The law school called Sellers’ statement “reprehensible.” However, it didn’t say she was wrong on the facts. Unless she was, she shouldn’t have been punished.
It’s normal that when a law school admits Blacks whose credentials show them to be less likely than the average student to perform well academically, the school will find itself with classes in which Blacks disproportionately are “at the bottom.” It’s normal that a professor will feel “angst” over this. I doubt that any teacher feels comfortable seeing one racial group performing worse than another in her class.
(Angst might also arise from the possibility of being second guessed and/or charged with racism for giving low grades to Blacks. That would be a rationale concern too, but I have no reason to believe it animated Sellers.)
The point is that Sellers’ angst is not evidence of racism. If anything, it’s evidence of the opposite. A racist wouldn’t be bothered that Black students are the worst performers, as a group, in her class. (Batson just seems confused. I imagine the reference to his “own unconscious biases” saved him from being fired.)
Georgetown’s diversity crew is going to investigate. Investigate what, though?
It could investigate the comparative performance of Black and White students at the law school to see whether Sellers’ angst is based on facts or prejudice. However, I doubt the law school wants to go there.
Instead, Georgetown apparently will investigate whether Black students in Sellers’ class are graded fairly. It’s not clear how investigators will make this assessment, unless “fairly” means simply that Blacks fare as well as Whites in terms of grades.
The law school may want to go there. Quota grading might be its next frontier in the war on standards. In the name of “equity,” of course.
Sellers, by the way, is the president of a company called Technology Mediation Services. She mediates intellectual property, domain name, software, contract, and other business disputes.
As an adjunct professor, she taught mediation and negotiation, bringing valuable real world experience to the classroom. Now, Georgetown students will be unable to benefit from her expertise.
I doubt that adjunct professors at Georgetown are paid very much, so Sellers shouldn’t suffer financial injury — not directly, anyway. However, her reputation will be damaged by the charge of racism.
For the reasons set forth above, the charge is almost certainly unfair.