A white Georgetown Law professor was fired Thursday after getting caught on video belittling black students during a Zoom call with a colleague, saying they “usually” perform “just plain at the bottom” of her classes.
Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor said he was “appalled” by the conversation between now-terminated adjunct professor Sandra Sellers and another faculty member, David Batson, who was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“I informed Professor Sellers that I was terminating her relationship with Georgetown Law effective immediately,” Treanor wrote in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “During our conversation, she told me that she had intended to resign. As a result of my decision, Professor Sellers is no longer affiliated with Georgetown Law.”
A brief clip posted to Twitter Wednesday showed Sellers and Batson having what they believed was a private discussion about a class they jointly taught.
“I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are blacks,” Sellers said. “Happens almost every semester. And it’s like, oh come on. It’s some really good ones, but there are usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”
Sellers made the comments after saying “they were a bit jumbled,” prompting Batson to apparently nod in agreement, the footage shows.
“That’s the best way I can put it,” Sellers said with a laugh on the call. “It’s like OK, let me reason through that, what you just said.”
Sellers, according to the Georgetown Black Law Students Association, was referencing the only black student in her class. The organization quickly called for her immediate resignation, and a petition demanding her ouster garnered hundreds of signatures from students, alumni and several Georgetown faculty members.
“We demand nothing short of the immediate termination of Sandra Sellers as adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center,” the group said in a statement. “Not suspension. Not an investigation. The university must take swift and definitive action in the face of blatant and shameless racism.”
The revealing clip shows the “conscious and unconscious bias” in grading at Georgetown Law and in other law school classrooms across the country, the group claims.
“The difference is that Sellers was caught and her racism was broadcast for the world to see,” the statement continued.
The recorded call was leaked after it was available to students for several days, the Daily Beast reported.
Treanor promised a “thorough investigation” into the matter in a statement released Wednesday.
“We are responding with the utmost seriousness to this situation,” Treanor said. “I have watched a video of this conversation and find the content to be abhorrent. It includes conduct that has no place in our educational community. We must ensure that all students are treated fairly and evaluated on their merits.”
Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of demographic data and policy research nonprofit AAPI Data, told NBC Asian America that while the uptick cannot be entirely attributed to the Trump administration’s incendiary, racist rhetoric about the coronavirus, he believes former President Donald Trump’s wielding of the fact that the virus originated in China and repeated elevation of the “China virus” rhetoric did play a part in fostering hate.
“What Trump did is that he weaponized it in a way,” Ramakrishnan said. “Trump’s rhetoric helps set a certain narrative in place — and presidents have an outsized role in terms of shaping narrative. They don’t call it a bully pulpit for nothing, and especially Trump, the way he frequently used Twitter as well as press conferences and off-the-cuff remarks to campaign rallies to frame the narrative in a particular way, it likely played a role.”
The analysis revealed a surge in cities such as New York, where anti-Asian hate crimes rose from three in 2019 to 28 in 2020, a 833 percent increase. Los Angeles and Boston also experienced notable rises, from seven to 15 and six to 14, respectively. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., experienced a decline from six to three anti-Asian hate crimes. Chicago remained unchanged, with two crimes each year.
Though New York accounts for a sizable portion of the increase, Ramakrishnan said the increases in other cities are significant.
“We also know that first-generation immigrants tend to underreport acts of racial discrimination and hate crimes, but the fact that we are talking about change data suggests a meaningful shift that likely means not just greater reporting, but actually greater occurrence,” he said.
According to the analysis, it’s likely that overall hate crimes declined due to the pandemic and a subsequent lack of interaction in public areas and other gathering places including public transit, commercial businesses, schools and houses of worship.
The first spike in anti-Asian hate crimes occurred in March and April last year. However, it occurred alongside a rise in Covid-19 cases and ongoing negative associations of Asian Americans with the virus, the analysis noted.
Ramakrishnan explained that research on Trump’s use of racist language in reference to other groups shows that his language did have a profound impact on how people behave toward marginalized groups.
He said a 2020 study that examined Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants during his presidential campaign — when he referred to them as “rapists” and declared that “when Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best” — found that the inflammatory remarks emboldened certain members of the American public and gave them license to express deeply held prejudices. Researchers dubbed this the “Trump effect” or “emboldening effect.”
“Trump’s rhetoric on Latinos in 2016 actually changed people’s attitudes and behavior towards Latinos,” Ramakrishnan, who worked on the study, said. “So they were more likely to be punitive towards Latinos in the workplace.”
A separate study revealed that the use of “China virus” language to refer to the coronavirus, particularly by GOP officials and conservative outlets, has already resulted in a shift in how many people in the U.S. perceive Asian Americans. The significant uptick in discriminatory coronavirus speech that occurred on March 8 — the day Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., tweeted about the “Wuhan virus,” which coincided with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s interview the day before on “Fox and Friends” in which he referred to the “China virus” — was followed by a rapid reversal of a decadelong decline in anti-Asian bias.
“Research suggests that when people see Asian Americans as being more ‘foreign,’ they are more likely to express hostility toward them and engage in acts of violence and discrimination,” Rucker Johnson, a public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the study, previously told NBC Asian America.
The new report, however, compares figures from 2019 and 2020, which does not include recent graphic attacks on Asian American elders earlier this year that have prompted significant media coverage in recent weeks. Many outlets have attributed the attacks to rhetoric that Trump used during his tenure. But Ramakrishnan cautioned against defaulting to a “simplistic understanding of what’s going on.”
“There’s a complex variety of factors, but the fundamental reality is that there’s an increase in the number of Asian Americans who feel unsafe,” he said.
He said more data on the current situation will become available in another year, and until then, it’s difficult to definitively declare that there’s been an increase in hate crimes of late. It’s possible, Ramakrishnan said, that what Asian Americans were going through a year ago was just as bad or worse but failed to receive the kind of media attention they’re getting now.
He also said there’s likely a confluence of factors that have contributed to the recent attacks on elders, and it cannot be neatly summed up by solely the heightened anti-Asian sentiment witnessed throughout the pandemic.
Ramakrishnan said there could be a combination of the effects of poverty and financial struggle as well as opportunity at play.
“Not everyone reacts to economic deprivation in the same way. And even if someone wants to do something, they might not find the opportunity to do it. So in some ways, Asian elders seem to be softer targets than others for this activity,” he said.
The availability of vaccines for older people, along with Lunar New Year festivities and shopping, could have contributed to more older Asian Americans being out in the community, Ramakrishnan said. And many of the older victims were attacked in areas that had already struggled prior to the pandemic and were hit particularly hard by the economic impacts of the virus.
“Many of these Chinatowns are in places that are low income and also suffering economically. So that might be one set of explanations as to why this phenomenon is taking this particular shape,” he said. “On top of that, we live in an age of viral social media, and … especially the shock value of some of these videos increases awareness and maybe anxiety in the community.”
Kobe Bryant did NOT pressure his helicopter pilot to take any dangerous risks to complete his doomed flight on Jan. 26, investigators say … but the pilot may have put pressure on himself to forge ahead through dangerous conditions to please his famous client.
Pressure from an important client CAN lead pilots to make bad decisions, experts say … but that wasn’t the case with Kobe.
“There was no evidence that Island Express, the air charter broker or the client [Kobe Bryant] placed pressure on the pilot to accept the charter flight request or complete the flight and adverse weather.”
So far, NTSB investigators believe the pilot experienced a condition called Spatial Disorientation in the moments before the crash, which made him think the aircraft was climbing when in fact it was descending. As one investigator put it, “The pilot doesn’t know which way is up.”
In fact, investigators say spatial disorientation is obviously a very dangerous condition — and they want more aircraft operators to implement programs to help identify and prevent pilots from experiencing it during flight.
During the presentation, Vice Chairman Landsberg seemed to point the finger at the pilot — saying he should have recognized the danger the weather presented that day and turned around and landed at Van Nuys airport, which was just a short distance from the crash site.
Investigators noted Kobe and the pilot had a long professional relationship and Kobe trusted him to fly his children even when the NBA star wasn’t present.
The US presidential election has been plunged into disarray after Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, tested positive for coronavirus following weeks in which the US president sought to suggest that the worst of the pandemic was over.
Trump announced his positive test in a tweet at 1am, prompting US television networks to go to live coverage of the 74-year old president’s health, and his election campaign cancelled a planned event in the key battleground state of Florida.
Trump and his wife were tested after one of his closest aides, the White House counsellor Hope Hicks, began showing symptoms this week as she travelled to campaign events around the country with Trump’s entourage, including several other family members.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Trump tweeted, adding that they would begin to quarantine immediately.
Melania Trump tweeted that she and the president “are feeling good and I have postponed all upcoming engagements”.
Despite the reassuring messages, many have noted that Trump’s age and weight put him in a high-risk category for more severe forms of the disease.
Although Hicks was tested on Thursday after showing symptoms requiring isolation, Trump still travelled to New Jersey to meet supporters at his Bedminster golf club, and delivered remarks at a fundraiser despite the high risk that his aide may have been infected.
Led by Chairman Larry Payne, the task force spent months listening to Houstonians and organizations about the type and kind of police department they desire and demand. The task force engaged in extensive research on issues and best practices around the country and received more than 7,000 responses from a community survey.
“In the events of recent months, it is clear in Houston and across the nation that our community, mayor, city council, police chief, officers, and the union must all work together to protect and serve the constitutional rights of all citizens,” Chairman Payne wrote in the report’s introduction.
The recommendations are divided into six categories: Community Policing, Independent Oversight, Power dynamics, Crisis Intervention, Field Readiness, and Clear Expectations.
“We have worked hard on this being a document that is not going to sit on a shelf. It has actionable items that can be implemented,” Payne said. “We are also going to stay committed to the mayor. As a task force, we are not going away.”
We spoke with Houston Police Officers’ Union representative Ray Hunt about helping police officers in Lake Charles, Louisiana devastated by Hurricane Laura. He says you should go to https://fundthefirst.com and donate to the cause!