My Cancel-Culture Nightmare Is Over

My long public nightmare is over. Tomorrow I assume my duties as a senior lecturer at Georgetown University Law Center and executive director of its Center for the Constitution. A four-month investigation by the human-resources department and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action determined that I wasn’t yet an employee when I posted a tweet to which some at the school objected (which the Journal covered from the beginning) and so wasn’t subject to the relevant policies on antidiscrimination and professional conduct.

It was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone except perhaps the instigators of the Twitter mob that launched this tempest—particularly the first few days, which were truly terrible for me and my family. Although my administrative leave was paid, the uncertainty made it a roller coaster of emotions and instability, a personal and professional purgatory. I’m grateful to the many allies who supported my cause. I found out who my friends are, even if I would’ve preferred not to have had the need to know.

What I achieved was a technical victory but one that still shows the value in standing up for free speech in the face of cancellation. That’s so even when that speech is inartful, as I readily admitted was my criticism of President Biden’s decision to limit his Supreme Court pool by race and sex. Although I apologized for my poor phrasing—some advised “never apologize,” but I take pride in clear communication—I stand by my view that Mr. Biden should have considered “all possible nominees,” as 76% of Americans agreed in an ABC News poll, and that the best choice would have been Judge Sri Srinivasan, who is an Indian-American immigrant.

I’m relieved that now I’ll get to do the job for which I was hired in January. I’m confident that even without the jurisdictional technicality, I would’ve prevailed. After all, Georgetown’s Speech and Expression Policy provides that the “University is committed to free and open inquiry, deliberation and debate in all matters, and the untrammeled verbal and nonverbal expression of ideas.” There’s an exception for harassment, of course, but I wasn’t harassing anyone except possibly Mr. Biden.

In any case, I look forward to teaching and engaging in a host of activities relating to constitutional education and originalism. As befitting a center for the Constitution, all students and participants in my programs can expect to be accorded the right to think and speak freely and to be treated equally. A diversity of ideas will be most welcome.

In reinstating me, Dean William Treanor emphasized that he’s been a strong supporter of the center and wants me to succeed. I’m grateful for that too—and I had actually started to build a good relationship with the dean when the Twitter scandal erupted.

Mr. Treanor also said that so long as I conduct myself professionally, he’ll have my back. I’ll hold both of us to both ends of that bargain. On my part, that means muting and blocking bad-faith Twitter antagonists—some of whom, I’m sorry to say, are in academia—and resisting the urge to correct all who are wrong on the internet. Not that bad tweets are firing offenses, but it would be good practice for all of us to stop late-night doom-scrolling and launching snarky ripostes to each latest inanity from our governing classes.

On Georgetown’s part, that means encouraging robust debate and being as committed to intellectual diversity as any other kind. Across the nation, campus cultures have been growing increasingly hostile, with students outing each other (and professors) for ideological transgressions and self-censoring to avoid potential trouble. We have to reverse that trend.

It’s ironic that what got me adjudged a racist and misogynist by the illiberal mob was a tweet expressing opposition to hiring people based on race and sex. Regardless, all are invited to my Georgetown events. It’s a new day.

Mr. Shapiro is executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center for the Constitution and author of “Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America’s Highest Court.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *