Letter from Ben Wilson to the Dean of the Georgetown Law Center
William M. Treanor
Executive Vice President and Dean of the Law Center
600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Re: Georgetown Law Incident – Requesting Further Action
Dear Dean Treanor:
I write as the founder of the Diverse Partners Network, an organization representing diverse partners/shareholders in law firms across the country.
Last week, I became aware of the deeply disturbing conversation regarding the academic evaluation of Black law students that took place between two faculty members at Georgetown University Law Center. While I support the decision to terminate one of the faculty members and to place the other on administrative leave pending an investigation, the Law Center must take further action to address the issues highlighted by this painful incident.
As Thurgood Marshall observed, “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories.” Unfortunately, this incident makes clear that racism and bias in the classroom still exist, and that Georgetown Law, like other law schools across the country, has more work to do to ensure a fair learning experience for all its students. Just as our country is having a reckoning with race, so too must the Law Center.
The implication of the video is that Black students are less than, and unequal – a miscalculation that has plagued our Nation for centuries. Historically, Georgetown University has played a role in perpetuating systems of oppression. In 1838, proceeds from the sale of Black men, women, and children were used to fund Georgetown University and its plantations.1 The University did not issue a formal apology until 2016.2 Black students were not admitted to the Law Center until 1948.3 The Law Center’s first Black female student did not graduate until 1955, and the Law Center did not tenure a Black female professor until 1979.4 Black students and faculty have spent decades fighting for their right to attend and succeed at the Law Center, which is why this present-day recording is so painful.
I implore you to take meaningful actions to determine the extent of explicit and implicit bias in the Law Center, in close consultation with the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). There is a clear need for the Law Center to provide more comprehensive anti-bias training to its faculty and staff, including training on bystander responsibility. The Law Center must also, as demanded by BLSA, commit to hiring more Black professors, and take additional action to ensure the Law Center provides a safe and equitable learning environment for students of color.
The Law Center is not without great resources to help address this current challenge. Specifically, the Law Center has many accomplished and esteemed African American alumni and faculty members. I urge you to seek their guidance and advice during this crucial time. In addition, there are others with great experience addressing diversity in the legal profession who could offer sage advice and counsel, including Veta Richardson of the Association of Corporate Counsel, Jean Lee of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Robert Grey of the Leadership Counsel on Legal Diversity.
As Martin Luther King noted, “[w]e are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
While Georgetown Law cannot change its past, it must not miss the opportunity to define its future.
Benjamin F. Wilson