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Exclusive: Ilya Shapiro Tells His Side of the Georgetown Saga

Screenshot via YouTube

It's been a busy week for Ilya Shapiro, who resigned his position at Georgetown University this week with a fiery letter that excoriated the fealty with which administrators bent their collective knee to a cancel mob while ignoring bad actions by liberal faculty. Shapiro had, just days earlier, been reinstated following a four month investigation by the university during which he was placed on leave — all for daring to speak out with legitimate and widespread criticism of President Biden's criteria for nominating Supreme Court justices. 


Speaking about his escapade with Townhall on Tuesday, Shapiro was frank and open about his prognosis for the supposedly "elite" institutions of higher education in the United States, as well as his thoughts on the Supreme Court's current term and the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs case that shocked the legal community and breached long-standing trust among the high court's clerks and justices.

"It became clear that it was an untenable situation," Shapiro said of the Georgetown investigation's findings. "They were setting me up to be fired in a month, in two months, in the fall," he said, reiterating what he communicated in his letter of resignation and an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. "If someone is offended by something you say, then that creates a hostile education environment, and I can't live that way."

When asked whether he's considering any legal action against Georgetown for its actions throughout the ordeal, Shapiro said "I can't comment on that, but anything's possible."

While potential legal remedies remain in the realm of possibilities, Shapiro is clear-eyed about his decision to walk away from the hostile environment Georgetown has allowed and cultivated, something that doesn't give him much reason to hold out hope for institutions like Georgetown.

"I'm pessimistic," Shapiro told Townhall about whether the free and open exchange of ideas could flourish again. "I would hope that this moment gives enough people at Georgetown some pause, because the policies they have are fine — what they have on paper is fine," he said. "But the proof is in the pudding - it's how do you apply these things," and Georgetown has made it abundantly clear that their application of policies is based on an ideological test that only permits free expression by those who abide by progressive guidelines. At Georgetown, like many institutions, dissent is not tolerated. 


"I'm sad that all of this happened," Shapiro added. "I took the job at Georgetown — I left my secure and long-standing position at CATO because I thought this was an opportunity to make a different sort of impact in the world, face a new challenge, to build something new — and Georgetown made that impossible," he said. "It's become increasingly clear that something like this scandal would have happened sooner or later — whether with my comments on the abortion and gun cases this month, whether in discussing the oral arguments in the affirmative action case this fall, something else — I think Georgetown clearly does not respect the freedom of speech." The school, Shapiro now knows first-hand, "is just not a welcoming environment for anyone who dissents from progressive orthodoxy, and that saddens me." Now that the ordeal is largely behind him, Shapiro told Townhall "I personally — I finally feel free."

"I'm trying to use this moment and this platform and this situation to put pressure on Georgetown and others," Shapiro said, "to make the point to a broader audience about what exactly is going on in higher education. I'm not trying to convince the woke mob that they're wrong, I think that's irredeemable," he added. "But the vast majority of people — who aren't paying attention or who think it's not a big deal, that they're isolated incidents that there's not a structural or systemic problem — they're the ones that I really want to show what is going on." What's going on, as Georgetown has demonstrated in its treatment of Shapiro, is a "rot in higher education." Shapiro says that now, using this moment and his tribulations, he hopes that "something can be done from without, because I have very little to no confidence that something really will be done from within."


"We're in the eye of the storm," Shapiro said of the current environment on campuses like Georgetown. "It's very hard to make any educated informed predictions — things could be coming to a head, or they could have already come to a head, or it might still get worse before it gets better."

Shapiro, whose book Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court is being rereleased with an update on July 5, painted a similarly uncertain picture of the Supreme Court.

"It's more respected than any other institution at the federal level, short of the military," Shapiro noted. "That respect has fallen somewhat, but it's still standing." The Supreme Court, he said, "has been dragged into the same toxic cloud that enveloped the rest of our public discourse." Adding to the turmoil surrounding the Court is the fact that "divergent interpretive theories mapped onto partisan preference at a time when the parties are more ideologically sorted and polarized than at least the Civil War if not ever," he added. As a result, "anything the Supreme Court does — any confirmation opportunity — becomes politically fraught and that, under the current circumstances, is unavoidable."

The left, Shapiro reiterated, acts as though "whenever they don't get their way, it's time for structural reform" from packing the Supreme Court to abolishing the Electoral College and gutting the filibuster. That, he said, is symptomatic of the broader loss of social trust. "


When it comes to packing the court or expanding it "It seems that the left is saying that whenever they don't get their way, it's time for structural reform. We hear that with packing the court, we hear that with the electoral college, ending the filibuster, all of these sorts of things, just because in the moment they're not getting what they want, they really, really feel it's important as if the shoe was never on the other foot. It's symptomatic of the broader loss of social trust. "We're in tough times, where people don't trust each other, when people think their political enemies aren't simply wrong but evil, the loss of grace in our society," Shapiro added.

That sort of caustic distrust was seen again in the unprecedented leak of a Supreme Court opinion draft. "If the leaker isn't found, then it'll do lasting damage to the operation of the Court," Shapiro said. "Several justices have already commented on that publicly, and I'm actually surprised and saddened that there's not a statement by the Court as a whole," he added. "I don't know whether they couldn't get the unanimity- I don't know why that hasn't happened — John Roberts put out a statement but there's not a statement from the Court as a whole, which is unfortunate," he said.

Of the leaker, Shapiro said, he doesn't know why the individual responsible wouldn't "want to acknowledge that themselves and become a hero and unveil themselves in a New York Times op-ed, go on a tour of MSNBC and CNN. After that, Shapiro added someone tongue-in-cheek, that the leaker could then go on to "get a contributorship at one of these networks, or a post at Yale Law School or — who knows — a leadership position in an activist organization, whatever they want." The leaker, as Shapiro pointed out, might even be able to get a job at a major law firm — the likes of which have yet to condemn the leak. "It may well be that such a move and such a self-disclosure would not be disqualifying from even the practice of law, which, I think would be appalling — but that's the world we live in," Shapiro told Townhall. 


As Shapiro posited, the leaker may be "reaching the end of their clerkship and, maybe once the term is over, someone will reveal themselves voluntarily." In any case, Shapiro said "it's necessary for the survival of the Court for that person to be found and to be professionally punished."

In the wake of leak, Shapiro said he thinks it would have helped the Supreme Court institutionally to "accelerate" the release of the final Dobbs opinion. Still, he told Townhall the most controversial cases — dealing with abortion and guns this term — will be released the "last week of June or maybe spill over into July."

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