They Will Grow Out of It?
Remember the days when students who raged against society were looked upon almost fondly as harebrained fools in their 20s. They eventually would grow up and change their views before they took influential positions in state and federal government or in occupying the general counsel’s office of a Fortune 500 company?
In the WSJ, Tunku Varadarajan discusses with Ilya Shapiro his view on the threat to America. Mr. Shapiro thinks people are not alarmed enough about woke influence in one important corner of academia: law schools.
The professional ideologues who wield administrative authority on American college campuses want nothing less than to “change the American constitutional system,” Mr. Shapiro says. They pose a grave long-term threat to “the rule of law and inalienable rights, and even concepts like equal treatment under the law.”
Mr. Shapiro, 45, is director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. Dick and I know Mr. Shapiro from his days as vice president of The Cato Institute. Ilya was also director at Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies. Dick and Bob Levy’s friendship goes back to their days in the brokerage business in the early 1970s, when they both were associated with Hoenig & Co.
Hunkered down in the study of his Virginia home, (Ilya is) working on a book, “Canceling Justice: The Illiberal Takeover of Legal Education,”
(Mr. Shapiro) seeks to lay bare the process by which bureaucrats appointed to promote “diversity, equity and inclusion” on campus have “perverted our system of legal education.”
In January 2022, Mr. Shapiro experienced his own kind of DEI humiliation, explains Mr. Varadarajan.
(Ilya) was concluding his tenure as a vice president of the Cato Institute and due to start a new job as executive director of the Center for the Constitution at Georgetown’s law school. Then Justice Stephen Breyer announced he would retire. Mr. Shapiro tweeted that Judge Sri Srinivasan was the “objectively best pick” for the vacancy, but President Biden had already disqualified him on the basis of race and sex. Mr. Shapiro opined that Judge Srinivasan “alas doesn’t fit into the intersectional hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman.”
All Hell Broke Loose
Mr. Shapiro admits his tweet was “unartfully” phrased. Too little, too late, however.
(Georgetown University) suspended (Shapiro) with pay while its Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action conducted a four-month investigation into his fitness for the job. In June the office issued a report exonerating him—but on a technicality with an unsubtle chilling effect.
Since Mr. Shapiro wasn’t yet on Georgetown’s payroll, the report found, the university lacked jurisdiction over his speech. But if he “were to make another, similar or more serious remark as a Georgetown employee, a hostile environment based on race, gender, and sex likely would be created.”
In fact, Mr. Shapiro wrote in these pages, “it is the Georgetown administrators who have created a hostile work environment for me.”
Mr. Shapiro quit Georgetown and returned to the think-tank world. He warns there needs to be an “exogenous shocks to really change things.”
One approach might be to target the elite schools’ status. Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch of the Fifth and 11th Circuits, respectively, announced in October that they won’t hire clerks from Yale until the school reforms its policies on free speech. “If any Supreme Court justice said that,” Mr. Shapiro says, “it would be a game-changer.”
In an article for National Review, Judges Ho and Branch also called on Stanford to “identify the disrupters so that future employers know who they are hiring.”
Is Ilya Shapiro discouraged? Perhaps he is, but, no, Ilya submits, he does takes heart: “People who are not cultural warriors of the left or the right are starting to notice this stuff, and they don’t like what they see.”
Lawmakers in 15 states have introduced bills to slash or abolish DEI offices and staff at public colleges, although none have passed so far. The backlash is still inchoate, and Mr. Shapiro believes the only solution is to purge “DEI bureaucracies that undermine the liberal values of academic speech and due process.”
Addendum: Ms. Steinbach, the DEI associate dean at Stanford University, has been placed on administrative leave.
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