A Georgetown University law professor was terminated after she was caught on a Zoom video making remarks about Black students that the law school’s dean called “abhorrent” and “reprehensible.” The second professor involved was placed on leave, officials said Thursday.
Adjunct professors Sandra Sellers and David Batson were talking about their student’s performances in a conversation that were captured on a video clip and shared on Twitter this week. In the video, Sellers led the conversation as Batson nodded his head “yes” and did not challenge her, CBS News reported
“I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks,” Sellers said in the video. “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.”
On Wednesday, the law school’s dean, William Treanor, sent a message to the Georgetown Law Community saying that the conversation “included reprehensible statements.” And, that the school was responding with the “utmost seriousness to the situation.”
On Thursday, Treanor released a second statement saying that he was was “appalled,” and that he had spoken to both professors and fired Sellers, who told him she’d intended to quit, and said Batson had been put on administrative leave, CBS reported.
“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.
He also said neither professor would have any input on grading the students in their negotiations class, a report said.
The incident, which took place last month, triggered an investigation by Georgetown University’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action.
The school’s Black Law Students Association had called for Sellers’s firing, saying, “Not a suspension. Not an investigation. The University must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism,” according to CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV.
Hassan Ahmad, a Georgetown law student who shared the video on Twitter, told The Washington Post the conversation between Sellers and Batson took place around Feb 21. He said that students in the class had logged off, but the video system continued to record and uploaded the video to a class website so that students could view it later. He said the recording was online for about two weeks before students noticed the conversation between Sellers and Batson. The video was reported that Monday morning and then taken down soon after.
On Wednesday, Ahmad shared the video online calling out the adjuncts. “@GeorgetownLaw negotiations Professor Sandra Sellers and David Batson being openly racist on a recorded Zoom call,” he wrote. “Beyond unacceptable.”
The video has been viewed more than 750,000 times, CBS reported.
Ahmad also wrote on Twitter 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 shared her resignation letter with The Washington Post in which she apologized for the “hurtful and misdirected remarks” that were part of a longer discussion about patterns in-class participation.
“I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my students or Georgetown Law and wish I could take back my words,” Sellers said in the letter. “Regardless of my intent, I have done irreparable harm and I am truly sorry for this.”