An adjunct law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center has been fired after being caught on camera making comments about Black students that the law school's dean called "abhorrent" and "reprehensible." A second adjunct, who was seen nodding while the remarks were made, has been placed on administrative leave.
In the Zoom video, Professor Sandra Sellers is having a conversation about evaluating students and says, "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.' It's some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy."
The adjunct she was speaking to, Professor David Batson, doesn't challenge her and nods his head "yes."
Bill Treanor, the law school's dean, released a statement Wednesday saying the conversation "included reprehensible statements. We are responding with the utmost seriousness to this situation. I … find the content to be abhorrent."
On Thursday, he released a statement saying he was "appalled," had spoken to both professors and fired Sellers, who told him she'd intended to quit. Treanor said Batson had been put on administrative leave, adding that neither professor would have any input on grading the students in their negotiations class.
"This is by no means the end of our work to address the many structural issues of racism reflected in this painful incident, including explicit and implicit bias, bystander responsibility, and the need for more comprehensive anti-bias training," Treanor said.
CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV reports that the Georgetown Black Law Students Association had called for Sellers to be fired, saying, "Not a suspension. Not an investigation. The University must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism."
Hassan Ahmad, a Georgetown law student who shared the video on Twitter, told The New York Times the discussion between the adjuncts took place last month.
He explained to the newspaper that students in the class had logged off but the video system continued to record and uploaded the video to a class website.
Ahmad shared the video online on Wednesday, the Times says. It's been viewed more than 750,000 times.
In his tweet uploading the video, Ahmad said Sellers and Batson were "being openly racist on a recorded Zoom call. Beyond unacceptable."
Ahmad also tweeted that he feels "so damn guilty about being on our school's Admissions Committee and bringing in students from underrepresented backgrounds to an environment with professors like this. How many are having these conversations unrecorded?"
Sellers showed her resignation letter to the Times. In it, she said she is "deeply sorry for my hurtful and misdirected remarks."
"I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my students or Georgetown Law and wish I could take back my words," she said. "Regardless of my intent, I have done irreparable harm and I am truly sorry for this."
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