Zoom Call of Georgetown Law Professors Sandra Sellers, David Batson Sparks Outrage
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Georgetown Law Adjunct Professors Caught Zooming About ‘Blacks’ Who Are ‘Just Plain at the Bottom’

Update, 1:40 p.m.: Georgetown Law has “terminated” Sandra Sellers.

Update, 12:45 p.m.: Sandra Sellers’ school bio has been taken down.

A Zoom call between two Georgetown Law adjunct professors captured on video has gone viral. The call shows the professors discussing the performance of Black students in what is being called a blatantly racist manner.

Here’s the video.

The video shows adjunct professors Sandra Sellers and David Batson discussing student performance, thinking the Zoom call was private. It was not private and it seems they did not realize the video was being recorded.

“They were a bit jumbled,” Sellers laughs. “That’s the best way I can put it,” she continues. “You know what,” Sellers says, “I hate to say this. I end up having this, you know, angst every semester, that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks. Happens almost every semester.”

“It’s like oh come on,” she chuckles, “some really good ones, but there are also some ones that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”

Batson doesn’t say much during Sellers’ comments, but just nods along, with an occasional “yup.”

Predictably, Sellers’ comments made the rounds online, and the internet was not pleased.

One Twitter user pointed out the irony of one professor’s name, saying the professor’s failure to speak up was “a wasted Batson challenge if I’ve ever seen one.” [Batson challenges are objections to jury selection based on racial discrimination.]

Georgetown’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) issued a statement on the matter providing some context. It explained:

This semester, Professor Sellers was recorded during what she believed was a private meeting with Professor David Batson, where the two were discussing a Black student’s performance in a course they taught jointly.

Professor Sellers was speaking in reference to the only Black student in her class. She stated that this Black student was being placed at the bottom of the grading curve for the class. The school has since taken down the recording after it was discovered and reported by a student.

The statement went on to say, “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’s bias has impacted the grades of Black students in her classes historically, in her own words.”

In addition to the statement, BLSA circulated a petition calling for Sellers’ termination. “Not suspension. Not an investigation. The University must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism,” the group demands.

BLSA also had words for Sellers’ colleague:

Further, the other professor in the video, David Batson, initially nodded in agreement with several of Sellers’ statements. Batson subsequently stated that, “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 group further criticized Batson for his inaction both in the moment and in the aftermath.

“While these comments certainly show more awareness than that of Professor Sellers, his actions were still altogether insufficient to address the blatant racism that he was an audience to,” Batson “had an obligation to report her, and he did not,” reads the statement. BLSA demands that Batson publicly apologize.

Some have suggested that the professors’ conversation was not an anomaly. Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern posted that a trusted source told him one of the professors made a racist remark in front of an entire class.

Georgetown Law School Dean William M. Treanor issued a response statement calling the professors’ statements “reprehensible,” and pledging that the school would respond to the incident “with the utmost seriousness.” Treanor said an investigation was already underway, and that the school “will act swiftly and seriously to address this incident.”

Law&Crime could not immediately reach the professors for comment.

Meanwhile, Georgetown Law students and graduates continue to reel from the event.

[screengrab via @hahmad1996]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos