I am certainly glad that the Washington Post reported on a controversy at Georgetown University last week, which was created by the sad death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Thanks to that informative report I am canceling my million-dollar bequest to old Georgetown and channeling it elsewhere, probably to Donald Trump’s super PAC, if I can find his super PAC.
The controversy arose because of a dean’s perfectly civilized published statement of grief. A press release from the Georgetown Law School announced, “Georgetown Law mourns the loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,” a Georgetown undergraduate and summa cum laude graduate. The dean of the law school, William M. Treanor, then praised Scalia as “a giant in the history of the law, a brilliant jurist whose opinions and scholarship profoundly transformed the law.” As I say, the dean was perfectly civilized in lauding the passing of this great teacher and jurist, to say nothing of his achievements as a father of nine children.
Yet this statement was apparently not characteristic of Georgetown’s faculty at large. A Professor Gary Peller objected even to the idea of the university mourning the death of one of its most distinguished alumni. Peller (whose specialty is, according to the Georgetown Law website, civil rights, discrimination, and the constitution—presumably Cuba’s constitution) wrote: “I imagine many other faculty [sic], students and staff, particularly people of color, women and sexual minorities, cringed at the headline and at the unmitigated praise with which the press release described a jurist that [sic] many of us believe was a defender of privilege, oppression and bigotry, one whose intellectual positions were not brilliant but simplistic and formalistic [sic].” Peller is obviously an advocate of what is called identity politics, which brooks no disagreement and is best left on the lunatic confines of a college campus.
Justice Scalia was the son of an immigrant from Italy. He was also a devout Catholic. In the 1950s when he was growing up America was not exactly hospitable to Italians or, come to think of it, to Catholics. I remember those days well. The brilliant contributions of Italians to American society were finally being recognized, but there was the lingering use of… I guess today we would call it the “D” word, among other anti-Italian slurs. Justice Scalia overcame them all. Now apparently at his death he was to be assaulted with new slurs: bigot and defender of privilege. What privilege did he receive that he did not earn?
Of course, Peller comes from one of the most privileged precincts in America, academia. He is a prof at Georgetown after being, I am told, bounced from Harvard Law School. On campus one can spout off about almost anything and if one is sanctioned by the sacred rumble bumble of academic freedom one will not even be laughed at. Certainly this is true if one is leftwing. Peller is, to be sure, leftwing. He says things that if uttered by a little boy would earn that little boy a mouth full of soap, and early retirement to bed.
Actually at Georgetown Law there is a countervailing force to Peller and his leftwing automatons. Precisely two professors out of a faculty of 125 law professors lean right. They are Randy Barnett, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and Nick Rosenkranz, a graduate of Yale Law School. They too wrote a letter to the university community. They expressed “personal grief” at Peller’s diatribe. Yet they had a solution.
The two conservatives wrote: “The problem is that the center of gravity of legal academia is so far to the left edge of the political spectrum that some have lost the ability to tell the difference…. If more of us [meaning conservatives] were here,” the impropriety of Peller’s writing would be recognized. So what is to be done? I say the logic of Barnett and Rosenkranz’s letter should be followed. How about doubling or even tripling the number of conservatives on the faculty at Georgetown? Four, perhaps six conservatives against 125 left-wingers strikes me as a fair fight. Those were pretty much the odds Scalia was up against, at least until he left academe for the real world. He was more than a match for the likes of Peller.