What on earth is going on at Georgetown Law? It has become a hotbed of woke excess and illiberal tyranny in recent years. The law school was never likely to be mistaken for a conservative leaning institution, but it has recently emerged as one of the most radical corners of academic. There have been conniption fits and cancelations of faculty over racial comments caught on a hot mic. There was the disgraceful episode involving libertarian scholar Ilya Shapiro, who was hounded out of the school by an unhinged mob. Meanwhile, the school happily hosts and employs toxic left-wing figures who espouse appalling views (I haven't argued that such people should be disinvited or terminated, but the ideological double standards are glaring).
We also know that Georgetown was especially fanatical in its COVID policies, imposing draconian, anti-science mandates on its community throughout the pandemic (disclosure: I served as a fellow at GU's Institute of Politics in 2021, and nearly every university-related event I participated in was virtual). One student at the law school is now blowing the whistle on what he alleges is deranged and threatening behavior from the Dean of Students, in response to totally reasonable questions about said policies. William Spruance recounts his experience:
For questioning Covid restrictions, Georgetown Law suspended me from campus, forced me to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, required me to waive my right to medical confidentiality, and threatened to report me to state bar associations. The Dean of Students claimed that I posed a “risk to the public health” of the University, but I quickly learned that my crime had been heretical, not medical...In August 2021, Georgetown Law returned to in-person learning after 17 months of virtual learning. The school announced a series of new policies for the school year: there was a vaccine requirement (later to be supplemented with booster mandates), students were required to wear masks on campus, and drinking water was banned in the classroom. Dean Bill Treanor announced a new anonymous hotline called “Law Compliance” for community members to report dissidents who dared to quench their thirst or free their vaccinated nostrils. Meanwhile, faculty members were exempt from the requirement, though the school never explained what factors caused their heightened powers of immunity. Shortly thereafter, I received a notification from “Law Compliance” that I had been “identified as non-compliant” for “letting the mask fall beneath [my] nose.”
Spruance writes that he posed four questions to the administration:
1) What was the goal of the school’s Covid policy? (Zero Covid? Flatten the curve?)
2) What was the limiting principle to that goal? (What were the tradeoffs?)
3) What metrics would the community need to reach for the school to remove its mask mandate?
4) How can you explain the contradictions in your policies? For example, how could the virus be so dangerous that we could not take a sip of water but safe enough that we were required to be present? Why are faculty exempt from masking requirements?
I delivered the brief speech [at a Student Bar Association meeting] without a mask, standing fifteen feet away from the nearest person. I awaited a response to my questions, but I realized this wasn’t about facts or data, premises or conclusions. This was about power and image.
And this is what he says happened next:
Two days later...Dean of Students Mitch Bailin informed me that I was indefinitely suspended from campus. Bailin told me that I had to submit to a psychiatric evaluation, that I had to “voluntarily” waive my right to medical confidentiality, and that the school could discuss the incidents with state bar associations if I ever hoped to practice law. Bailin told me I would have to attend hearings and provide written statements on why I had asked my questions in order to “secure permission to return to campus.” Additionally, I had to provide “a statement explaining why you no longer pose a risk to the community of defying that policy or otherwise creating risks of disruption and risks to the public health.” The disruption was asking questions – which happens to be the basis of law school.
...I logged onto Zoom the following week for my series of mandatory administrative hearings, shrink sessions, and meetings with Bailin. Bailin enjoyed a general theme of institutional domination and submission. “I will tell you when you go in. I’ll let you know who we’re meeting with,” Bailin told me. “I want to be really, really clear. This isn’t a negotiation at this point. I’m instructing you the minimum steps you can take if you wish to return to campus.” When I asked for answers to my simple questions, he snapped back: “Our job is not to convince you of the rightness, the sensibility of the policy.” He then told me to try to “escape [my] echo chamber.”...[Days later] I informed Mitch Bailin that journalists, lawyers, and television programs were interested in speaking with me. Later that evening, Fox News covered the story without using my name. Fourteen hours later, Dean Bailin notified me that my suspension had been lifted.
Demented stuff. The 'echo chamber' admonition was quite rich, given the circumstances, and it goes without saying that Georgetown Law administrators do not handle the endless histrionics and demands of left-wing students with such flippant contempt. Only after this tyranny was going public did the Dean of Students abruptly relent and reverse course. What an embarrassment to the university. Spruance concludes, "Georgetown Law continues as an incubator for an unimpressive ruling class, teaching its pupils to nod along to the script. As they say, the show must go on." I'll leave you with a reminder from another former GU Law student reacting to these revelations, describing just how insane 'the show' was at the time:
I was at Georgetown in 2021 when they warned us we couldn’t even pull down our masks for sips of water and requested we report our peers for compliance violations. pic.twitter.com/FJ5UK401Z4— Rachel Jessica Wolff (@RachelJessWolff) March 5, 2023