Georgetown University’s law school says it has fired a White professor and placed another on administrative leave Thursday after a video surfaced showing them engaging “in a conversation that included reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students.”
The footage at the center of the controversy — which has gone viral on Twitter with more than 500,000 views — shows Professor Sandra Sellers speaking to Professor David Batson over Zoom about students’ academic performance.
“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,” Sellers says. “Happens almost every semester and it’s like ‘oh come on.'”
Sellers then briefly laughs before saying: “I get some really good ones but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom, it drives me crazy… so I feel bad.”
At one point in the video, Batson appears to nod his head but mostly remains silent as Sellers is talking.
Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor announced Sellers’ firing Thursday afternoon and said Batson has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action.
“As I wrote to you last night, I am appalled that two members of our faculty engaged in a conversation that included reprehensible statements concerning the evaluation of Black students,” Treanor said in a statement to Fox News. “I have further reviewed the incident and have now spoken to Professor Sellers and Professor Batson, giving each the opportunity to provide any additional context.”
Treanor said during his conversation with Sellers, he informed her he was “terminating her relationship with Georgetown Law effective immediately,” despite her saying she intended to resign.
“Until the completion of the investigation, Professor Batson will have no further involvement with the course in which the incident arose,” Treanor added. “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.”
In a resignation letter Sellers provided to Fox News, she wrote to Treanor that she is “deeply sorry for my hurtful and misdirected remarks.”
“While the video of this incident is an excerpt from a longer discussion about class participation patterns, not overall grades, it doesn’t diminish the insensitivity of I have demonstrated,” she continued. “I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my students or Georgetown Law and wish I could take back my words.”
“My comments were the inarticulate reflection of long soul searching. I must do better to understand and address these issues,” Sellers added. “I am committed to doing this for myself and also looking for ways I can combat racism in the Georgetown community.
Batson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
The Black Law Students Association at Georgetown University Law Center earlier called for the “immediate termination” of Sellers.
“Not suspension. Not an investigation. The University must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism,” it said in a statement supported by hundreds of fellow Georgetown students, dozens of student groups and some faculty members.
The statement also called for Batson to publicly apologize for not speaking up and for Georgetown Law to hire “more Black professors who will be better situated to fairly assess Black students in a non-biased manner.”
“Failure to do so supports maintaining the status quo, protects racist professors, and endangers Black students’ academic success at Georgetown,” it also says.
The video of the conversation was first posted to an online database accessible by students taking classes remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to NBC News.