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12 Mar, 2021 18:00

Professor fired for claiming black students underperform in class

Professor fired for claiming black students underperform in class

After a Zoom conversation went viral in which two Georgetown University professors claimed black students underperformed in their classes, thousands demanded action, and one of the educators is now out of a job.

School Dean Bill Treanor called the comments by Professors Sandra Sellers and David Batson “reprehensible,” with Sellers being fired and Batson placed on administrative leave. 

The viral section of the conversation, which made its way onto social media this week, included Sellers claiming that “almost every semester,” her “lower” grading students end up being black.

Batson seemed to be in agreement, as Sellers continued to expand on the “angst” she feels about most black students being in the bottom part of her class.

“And it’s like, oh, come on,” she said. “Get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.” Sellers later added that she “feels bad” admitting it. 

Treanor said he spoke to both teachers to give them an opportunity to provide context to their comments, but he ultimately decided to “terminate” Georgetown’s relationship with Sellers. 

How the private conversation came to be public is not known – nor is whether what Sellers is saying is true. Nonetheless, activists are demanding further action. 

One of the students, Maxine Walters, who is also the president of the Black Law Student Association, has said her group is pleased with the outcome on Sellers, but also wants an apology from Batson, who is facing an investigation by the school’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action. 

“This is definitely not an isolated incident. It's just that this professor was recorded,” Walters said. 

Georgetown University, which is considered one of the top law schools in the US, has a black student population of less than 10 percent, but their website boasts about its “more than 400 students of color and 27 full-time faculty of color.”

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“You won’t feel alone,” it assures potential students of color. 

Walters claims the conversation between Sellers and Batson has already had a negative effect on multiple students. 

“Several students said they were unable to focus and get a lot done yesterday because they were dealing with the emotions of this going viral,” she said. “It's definitely taken a toll.”

The BLSA is also calling for Georgetown to hire more black professors, improve its “subjective grading system,” and audit Sellers’ “past grading and student evaluations.” 

Multiple students who spoke to Slate also claimed the video was known before it went viral on social media – where it was viewed hundreds of thousands of times – and was reported on Monday, but the controversy was not addressed until it received more widespread attention on Wednesday evening.

“Georgetown only cares when there’s widespread national response,” a first-year law student said, adding that this was not the first complaint about “such racist comments” from Sellers and other professors. 

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