The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

Georgetown, "Discrimination," "Harassment," and "Political Affiliation"


Something Georgetown might want to keep in mind when deciding when Tweets from faculty members are punishable as "discrimination" or "harassment": D.C., like many jurisdictions, bans employment discrimination based on "political affiliation," though defined narrowly to refer only to "belonging to or endorsing any political party." It also bans discrimination in educational programs based on political affiliation. Unsurprisingly, Georgetown's antidiscrimination policy covers political affiliation alongside other characteristics.

If Georgetown were to interpret its policies on discrimination and harassment as forbidding tweets that are seen as offensive or derogatory to particular racial groups, then I think it would be bound to apply the same rules to future tweets that are seen as offensive or derogatory to people who belong to or endorse any political party as well. I don't think the policies should be thus interpreted, and in particular I don't think the Ilya Shapiro tweet should be seen as violating those policies. But if they are thus interpreted, then that would have to cover future public statements by other Georgetown faculty related to political party (and, of course, religion) as well as race or sex.

UPDATE: I revised this slightly to make clear that I'm talking about how a decision in this case would affect future cases, in which the tweets were seen as offensive or derogatory to, say, Republicans or Democrats.