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Georgetown fires white law professor for saying black students ‘always’ bottom of the class

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Georgetown Law has fired one white professor and placed another on administrative leave after a video of their discussion about a black student in their class was condemned on social media. 

Dean Bill Treanor anounced on Thursday that the school had ended its relationship with Professor Sandra Sellers 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 pending a further investigation by the school. 

The dean revealed that Sellers had told him she had intended to resign when they met to discuss what he branded as ‘reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students’. 

The video shows Sellers talking with Batson in what she believed was a private conversation about the performance of a black student in a class they both teach.

‘They were a bit jumbled. It’s like let me reason through that, what you just said,’ Sellers says of the 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 continues.  

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The Black Law Students Association has called for Professor Sandra Sellers to be terminated after the video in which she said black students were the bottom of her class

Georgetown Law has launched an investigation into the video and her comments

Georgetown Law has launched an investigation into the video and her comments

Alumni took to social media to call for Sellers' resignation (as pictured)

Alumni took to social media to call for Sellers’ resignation (as pictured)

Professor Sandra Sellers: Intellectual property and high tech dispute expert who has served as a Director of the International Trademark Association

Sandra Sellers is an adjunct professor of mediation and negotiation at Georgetown University Law Center and previously at George Washington University Law School.

According to her bio on the American Bar Association, she mediates intellectual property, domain name, software, contract, and other business disputes and is President of Technology Mediation Services in Virginia. 

She has served as a Director of the International Trademark Association, and chair of its ADR Committee. 

Sellers is also a member of the panels of neutrals of US District Court for the District of Columbia, the US International Trade Commission, International Trademark Association, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center; and other local panels. 

It is unclear why she began discussing black students in general as they spoke about the student in their joint class. 

‘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,’ she 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 Zoom call was filmed and posted to online database Panopto, where students, who have been attending classes virtually because of the pandemic, can access the recordings. 

It was removed this week after being discovered and reported by a student after several weeks online. 

However, part of the conversation had been recorded from the database and was shared on social media before its removal. 

It is not known how the student came across the clip on Panopto and whether it was the student being discussed in the conversation. 

It is also not clear if the same student who first identified the controversial recording was the same person to share the video further online.  

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 on Wednesday 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.’

There are also calls for Professor David Batson to apologize after he failed to condemn Sellers' remarks in the Zoom conversation that had been posted to the school's database

There are also calls for Professor David Batson to apologize after he failed to condemn Sellers’ remarks in the Zoom conversation that had been posted to the school’s database

Dean Bill Traynor issued a statement Wednesday calling the comments 'abhorrent'

Dean Bill Traynor issued a statement Wednesday calling the comments ‘abhorrent’

The Black Law Students Association has issued a list of demands following the video

The Black Law Students Association has issued a list of demands following the video

Dean Treanor issued an update on Thursday in which he confirmed that ‘Sellers is no longer affiliated with Georgetown Law’. 

Batson will remain on leave until the investigation by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action is complete. 

‘Until the completion of the investigation, Professor Batson will have no further involvement with the course in which the incident arose,’ Treanor 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,’ the Dean continued. 

‘This is a matter of great concern to me. I will be writing to you soon with a range of actions and changes that we will implement to address these issues.’

The BLSA had claimed that the immediate termination of Sellers was the only option for the controversy.

‘We demand nothing short of the immediate termination of Sandra Sellers as adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Not suspension. Not an investigation. The University must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism,’ it said.

‘Not only is this situation revealing of Sellers’ true beliefs about Black students, it is also illustrative of the conscious and unconscious bias systemically present in law school grading at Georgetown Law and in law school classrooms nationwide. The difference is that Sellers was caught, and her racism was broadcast for the world to see.’

Alumni criticized Georgetown Law for not immediately firing Sellers

Alumni criticized Georgetown Law for not immediately firing Sellers

'The despicable sentiments of these #GeorgetownLaw professors are most certainly felt by their Black students,' wrote Janai Nelson from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

‘The despicable sentiments of these #GeorgetownLaw professors are most certainly felt by their Black students,’ wrote Janai Nelson from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

Some social media users accuse Sellers of bias in her work

Some social media users accuse Sellers of bias in her work

There were many calls for Sellers to be fired after the comments

There were many calls for Sellers to be fired after the comments

Others criticized Batson for not responding to the statements

Others criticized Batson for not responding to the statements

The association also called for an apology from Batson for failing to condemn Sellers after she made the comments, a review of Sellers’ past grading, and a commitment to hiring more black professors.

It said that Batson’s comments showed more awareness but that ‘his actions were still altogether insufficient to address the blatant racism that he was an audience to’.

‘He had an obligation to report her, and he did not. We demand that Batson publicly apologize for his role in enabling and supporting Sellers’ behavior,’ the group added.

It is not known if Batson plans to make an apology.  

Their statement was supported by other BLSA chapters from universities around the country and by other minority law groups within Georgetown, as well as being signed by hundreds of students and alumni.

Georgetown Law alumni were also among those who hit out at the video on social media.

‘This “message” is inadequate @GeorgetownLaw. Fire her,’ wrote graduate Natalie Smith.

‘I graduated from @GeorgetownLaw in 2004. How is this being addressed?’ another wrote on Twitter.

‘This will definitely have bearing on my decisions when Student Giving calls me asking for money. I’m also rethinking my decision to assist with admissions interviews. I’ve got questions.’

Other social media users claimed that it showed Sellers’s bias in her classes.

‘Narrator: ‘She didn’t hate to say it,’ one commenter joked.

‘The despicable sentiments of these #GeorgetownLaw professors are most certainly felt by their Black students,’ wrote Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

‘Blk ppl know when we are under-estimated, stereotyped & mocked even when the mask is up. That we still succeed in these environments is a testament to pure grit and will.’

And other commenters had criticism for Batson.

‘Watch how the other professor just sits idly, offering no rebuke, content to let the lady’s racism stand. A wasted Batson challenge if I’ve ever seen one,’ wrote civil rights lawyer Angelo Guisado.

DailyMail.com contacted Professor Sellers for comment but the request has not yet been returned.  

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