Professor Sandra Sellers: Intellectual property and high tech dispute expert who has served as a Director of the International Trademark Association.
Georgetown Law professor is fired after saying black students are ‘plain at bottom of her class almost every semester’ and her colleague is suspended for failing to correct her after they accidentally recorded their zoom chat
- Georgetown Law on Thursday fired white professor Sandra Sellers, 62, over her comments about black students
- She was filmed on a Zoom call with another professor stating that in her class, ‘a lot of my lower ones are blacks’
- She described her black students as ‘just plain at the bottom’
- Sellers was speaking to Professor David Batson who has been placed on administrative leave pending a further investigation
- Batson did not respond directly to her comments in the conversation
- He was condemned for not calling her out on her statements
- The video had been available for students to view on an online portal for 2 weeks
- Georgetown removed it this week after it was reported by a student, and launched a full investigation into the ‘abhorrent’ comments
- It was shared on social media by a student before being removed
PUBLISHED: 14:56 GMT, 11 March 2021 | UPDATED: 21:19 GMT, 11 March 2021
Georgetown Law has fired one white professor and placed another on administrative leave after a video of their discussion about a black student was condemned on social media.
Dean Bill Treanor anounced on Thursday that the school had ended its relationship with Professor Sandra Sellers, 62, after the video showed her complaining on Zoom that black students were predominantly at the bottom of her class.
She was speaking to Professor David Batson, who was placed on leave on Thursday for not correcting Sellers pending a further investigation by the prestigious law school, which was attended by former first daughter Tiffany Trump.
The interaction happened at the conclusion of a negotiations class around February 21, which was being recorded so that students could watch it later, according to the Washington Post.
The professors had stayed on Zoom to discuss the students after they left and where unaware that it was still recording. It was online for two weeks until students noticed the conversation between Sellers and Batson at the end and reported it to the school on Monday.
‘They were a bit jumbled. It’s like let me reason through that, what you just said,’ Sellers said of a student’s performance, who the Black Law Students Asssociation claims is the only black person in the class.
‘You know what? I hate to say this, I end up having this angst every semester, that a lot of my lower ones are blacks,’ the adjunct professor of mediation and negotiation continued.
‘It happens almost every semester, and it’s like, oh, come on. You know, we get some really good ones but there also usually some of them that are just plain at the bottom,’ Sellers concludes.
Batson, also a mediation law expert, does not initially respond but simply looks down and nods in the short 43-second clip, which was allegedly leaked to social media by a student.
He subsequently returns to discussing the student in question, stating, ‘what drives [him] crazy is…the concept of how that plays out in whether that is [his] own perceptions playing in here with certain people’ or ‘[his] own unconscious biases playing out in the scheme of things’.
The school was immediately called on to act as the video of the interaction spread.
The Black Law Student Association had been among the groups calling for Sellers’ resignation and an apology from Batson.
The group issued a statement on Wednesday in which they claimed that the recorded conversation is proof of Sellers’ bias in her grading of black students.
‘These racist statements reveal not only Sellers’ beliefs about black students in her classes, but also how her racist thoughts have translated to racist actions. Professor Sellers’ bias has impacted the grades of black students in her classes historically, in her own words,’ the statement said.
The school also issued a statement on Wednesday after the video went viral but initially did not name the professors involved.
‘We learned earlier this week that two members of our faculty engaged in a conversation that included reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students,’ Dean Bill Traynor said as he promised a full investigation into the video.
‘We are responding with the utmost seriousness to this situation. I have watched a video of this conversation and find the content to be abhorrent.
‘It includes conduct that has no place in our educational community. We must ensure that all students are treated fairly and evaluated on their merits.’
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Adjunct Law Professor Fired for Saying to Colleague, “A Lot of My Lower [Graded Students] Are Blacks”
By Eugene Volokh – March 11, 2021 at 08:15PM
The New York Times (Michael Levenson) reports:
Georgetown University Law Center said on Thursday that it had fired an adjunct professor who made “abhorrent” remarks about Black students on a video call and had placed another adjunct who was on the call with her on administrative leave.
You can draw what conclusions you like about the tone of the conversation (which is of course a casual conversation, not a formally planned presentation). But I wanted to speak to the broader factual matter that the remarks raise—whether a disproportionate share of students at the bottom of the class in top law schools are indeed black.
There appears to be some data on this; here, for instance, is an observation from Yale law professors Ian Ayres & Richard R.W. Brooks in Does Affirmative Action Reduce the Number of Black Lawyers?, 57 Stanford Law Review 1807 (2005):
With the exception of traditionally black law schools (where blacks still make up 43.8% of the student body), the median black law school grade point average is at the 6.7th percentile of white law students. This means that only 6.7% of whites have lower grades than 50% of blacks. One finds a similar result at the other end of the distribution—as only 7.5% of blacks have grades that are higher than the white median.
This is data from the 1990s, but I have heard no evidence that the results are vastly different today; my colleague Rick Sander tells me that newer data has not been generally made available by administrators. Sander’s theory is that this gap is a predictable consequence of race-based affirmative action:
- The usual predictors (the LSAT score and the undergraduate GPA) do a pretty good job of predicting law school performance; not perfect, of course, but the correlation is quite substantial.
- Therefore, if you let in any group with considerably lower predictors, they’ll on average do worse than their peers (including on blind-graded exams, which are common in law schools), and will be particularly likely to fall near the bottom of the class.
- Race-based affirmative action programs in many law schools tend to let in black students with considerably lower predictors than other students; indeed, such programs are structured precisely to do that.
To quote Sander’s testimony to the Commission on Civil Rights:
It’s important to note that this performance gap has nothing to do with race per se; whites who attend law schools where their credentials are far below most of their peers have pretty much the same types of troubles. The performance gap is a function of preferences [i.e., race-based preferences in the admission. -EV].
Sander adds to me that, “My work found that virtually of the black-white grade gap disappeared when one controlled for LSAT scores and undergraduate grades.”
Now others take different views, and point to other possible reason for black students tending to cluster near the bottom of the class in most schools. Ayres & Brooks, for instance, write, “If not mismatch, then what explains black underperformance in law schools? One possibility is stereotype threat [presumably stemming from black students’ being affected by the stereotype of blacks as less academically successful -EV] …. [S]tereotype threat is activated by the … subtle and pervasive mechanism of contending with situations in which one knows one can be viewed through the lens of a negative stereotype. It has little to do with expectations of poor performance and everything to do with the contextual environment that black law students face. ‘Stereotype threat follows its targets onto campus, affecting behaviors of theirs that are as varied as participating in class, seeking help from faculty, contact with students in other groups, and so on.'”
But in any event the phenomenon of black students being near the bottom of the class at many law schools appears to be real. (This is of course an average effect; the actual grades differ by student and by school. Schools that don’t have race-based admissions preferences, or that have smaller race-based preferences, might lack such an effect, or have a much smaller effect. My own UC campuses, for instance, are forbidden by law from offering race-based preferences; to the extent such a prohibition is complied with, one would expect both black students’ predictors and their grades there to be much closer to the overall class median. I don’t know what the actual statistics are for UC law schools, or for my UCLA law school in particular; to my knowledge, such numbers are generally not publicized.)
Read the whole post here: