U.S. NEWS

Georgetown Law Professor Fired For 'Abhorrent' Comments About Black Students

The woman apparently wasn't aware she was being recorded on the video call with a colleague, who's been placed on administrative leave.

Georgetown University’s law school said Thursday it had fired an adjunct professor and placed a second on administrative leave after they were recorded last month in a conversation that included “reprehensible” comments about Black students.

Sandra Sellers and David Batson prompted the uproar after a short clip of a video call between them was circulated online. In the video, Sellers discussed the evaluation of Black students.

“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,” Sellers said. “And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You know? You get some really good ones. But there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”

Batson said “mmm” in response to her comments and was criticized online for failing to challenge them.

The dean of the law school, Bill Treanor, said in a Wednesday statement that he had viewed the video and found its contents to be “abhorrent.” He said he had referred it to the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action, which would investigate the matter.

On Thursday, Treanor said he’d had a conversation with both staff members and given them the “opportunity to provide any additional context.” He subsequently terminated the school’s relationship with Sellers and placed Batson on administrative leave pending results of the investigation. 

“During our conversation, [Sellers] told me that she had intended to resign. As a result of my decision, Professor Sellers is no longer affiliated with Georgetown Law,” Treanor said.

He said Batson would have no further involvement with the course in question until the investigation is complete.

“We are taking significant steps to ensure that all students in this class are fairly graded without the input of Professor Sellers or Professor Batson,” he said.

“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.”

According to Hassan Ahmad, a student at Georgetown Law, the video recording was available to students online. It was shot after students had logged off the class.

Sellers sent The New York Times a copy of her resignation letter, in which she said she was “truly sorry” for the “irreparable harm” she did with her remarks.

“I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my students or Georgetown Law and wish I could take back my words,” she said.

The dean said the matter was “of great concern” to him and he would provide an update soon detailing further actions and changes to address structural racism.