Asians, Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Minority Issues, Racism, Vicious Infighting

Controversy Continues at a Leading Law School Over Allegations of Racial Bias

(Here are the primary documents concerning the controversy over Professor Maggs’s being named as interim dean of George Washington University Law School. They are presented in rough chronological order.)


President Steven Knapp and I are pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Gregory Maggs as Interim Dean of the George Washington University Law School. Professor Maggs will assume this role on January 16, 2013, when Dean Paul Berman moves to his new position as Vice Provost for Online Education and Academic Innovation. Professor Maggs will serve in this interim role while the university and the Law School prepare for and subsequently conduct a search for the next dean.

Professor Maggs brings extensive experience to this role, including a prior term as Interim Dean. He has served the Law School since 1993 as a faculty member, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and co-director of the National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law Program. He received the George Washington Award for outstanding contributions to the university in 2012, and the Law School’s Distinguished Faculty Service Award (conferred by vote of the graduating class) in 1997, 1998, 2004, 2005, 2011, and 2012.

Professor Maggs’s past experience includes service as a law clerk for Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court and for the late Judge Joseph T. Sneed of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, as a special master for the U.S. Supreme Court, and as an attorney in other legal positions. He has been an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve since 1990 and is currently assigned as a reserve military judge. Professor Maggs also previously was an assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

I am also pleased to report that Professor Maggs has asked Professor Christopher Bracey to continue to serve as Senior Associate Dean and he has agreed to do so. Please join me in thanking both colleagues for their dedicated service to the university.


Steven Lerman
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
The George Washington University


From: W. Burlette Carter
Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Subject: Re: Announcement of Interim Dean
To: Faculty, Staff
Cc: Steven Knapp, Steven Lerman, Rich Collins, Hank Molinengo

While I very much appreciate Gregory Maggs’ agreement to step into the deanship at this very difficult time, I must express my own view that any faculty opposition to Sr. Associate Dean Bracey moving into the interim deanship was racially based. This is the first time in my memory that we have ever overlooked a Sr. Associate dean in choosing an interim dean. Chris has done an exceptional job, had significant support, and would have been a fine interim dean.

Because I truly appreciate the tremendous sacrifice that both Greg Maggs and Chris Bracey are making in agreeing to helm this ship together, I will be otherwise cooperative, but I had to state my views — and have them widely known. This is not the law school’s finest hour.

W. Burlette Carter

From: Richard Pierce
Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Subject: Re: Announcement of Interim Dean
To: Faculty, Staff
Cc: Steven Knapp, Steven Lerman, Rich Collins, Hank Molinengo

Burlette–That is a very serious charge. If you have evidence to support it, please produce that evidence. Dick Pierce

From: W. Burlette Carter
Date: Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Subject: Re: Announcement of Interim Dean
To: Faculty, Staff
Cc: Steven Knapp, Steven Lerman, Rich Collins, Hank Molinengo

You mistake me for someone who is actually intimidated by you Dick – and who jumps when you bark.

Enough said. My point is made.



If the school had picked a complete outsider I would understand it better although I think it would have been impractical and unworkable. But then you could say, “Alright, I get it. I don’t think it’s best but I get it.”

But they went inside and so in that case, the only reason to look beyond Dean Bracey based on prior approaches to the interim deanship was race. They haven’t offered another and I don’t know of another. Moreover, Bracey first heard that the school was considering other people in the hallways. Faculty, staffers and other associate and assistant deans knew it before he did. The process of collecting faculty viewpoints was done in the hallways and on phone and the squeaky wheels who couldn’t fathom him in that position made sure they got grease. That was neither acceptable nor collegial and I think it reflects the patronizing attitude that some had toward him as a black person. And third, as I said we have followed a pattern with respect to inside people. If Dean Bracey was not acceptable to the faculty then what was the reason? No interim dean we have had has been perfect. I know for a fact that a renegade group of faculty decided to challenge appointing him; we have had in the past white interim deans who were not wholly acceptable. I remember discussions about such and such. And folks would say, “Ok, it’s only an interim deanship.” The school did not explode. The notion, I believe, is that a black person has to have a tutor or overseer or has to have special rules that don’t apply to whites. We have to have super human qualifications, while whites can be ordinary. It is not novel. It dates back to slavery.

I don’t know who ultimately played the most significant role in this — the University Administration or the group of faculty who actively lobbied against Bracey and tried to block the appointment. At the end of the day, the interim dean is picked by the administration but faculty usually are consulted. If the Administration was just trying to make peace against a threatening renegade group who wanted to hand pick the interim dean, then they are sullied also.

Having said that, I don’t blame Dean Gregory Maggs who will now be the interim dean. He is caught in the middle of this mess with Bracey. It is absolutely not his fault and he is also a great choice as would Bracey have been. But a university is a vibrant community. We should not be pushing under the rug important issues of this nature being fearful of press. I suppose one good thing is I have now forced GW to have this type of conversation — while other schools are not and should be having it.

That is my input.


As the provost has stated, interim deans are selected by the provost after consultation with a variety of people including — faculty, administrators, the president of the university and others. There is not a preset formula.

Professor Gregory Maggs was selected as interim dean of the Law School because in the very recent past, he served in this exact role and did an outstanding job. He is an extraordinary scholar, teacher and administrator who is well respected by his colleagues and by the School’s alumni. He is very familiar with, and experienced in addressing, the needs of the School. The provost has expressed his gratitude that Professor Bracey will remain a leader of the School’s administration in his capacity as Senior Associate Dean.


Dear Mr. Lat,

Thank you for your email. I regret that I have little information to provide. University Provost Steve Lerman asked me if I would serve as the Interim Dean. After consulting with my friend and respected colleague, Senior Associate Dean Chris Bracey, I accepted this temporary position. I am always willing to work for the Law School if I can be helpful. I am not, however, a candidate for the real deanship. I do not know what went into Provost Lerman’s decision regarding the interim deanship, although I understand that he will be issuing an explanatory statement.


Greg Maggs



My understanding is that the Provost intends to issue a statement regarding his decision, and so I would refer you to that source.

Christopher Alan Bracey
Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Professor of Law
George Washington University Law School


Of course now the fake counterstory comes. They have been making it up for weeks — that Bracey wanted to run for dean instead (which is not true), that he didn’t want the job (which is not true), etc, etc. I heard this version of the story was going to come out some time ago to offset concerns; believe me, my concerns about race were no surprise to the administration or to faculty who knew what we had done in the past and who had themselves voiced some of those concerns. Folks were just surprised that I had the guts to voice them publicly.

Chris Bracey was not consulted about any concerns that certain faculty members have against him, IF they have any. This group targeted him to deny him the interim deanship behind his back. He wasn’t consulted about the interim deanship until the day before Greg Maggs was picked. By that time, the administration had spoken to others they were considering. Chris had to hear about this from others. This little faction had their say challenging Chris, claiming they had supporters, and intentionally denied him the right to know what was being said, when, and how, denying him fairness. It was inexcusable. And they convinced others on the faculty to go along by deceiving them into thinking that they were being honest and fair and that everything would calm down after their chosen person, Maggs, stepped in. I have been critical of Bracey myself, just as I would criticize any dean. But I went to his face, and on every score he has been reasonable and accommodating. He is no dummy.

Now, let me offer a few more points on the question of evidence (a subject that I teach). Circumstantial evidence can convict as well as direct evidence. You don’t need “I am a racist.” We have a long pattern here of proceeding in the past and a deviation from that pattern. We have Bracey being kept out of the loop in the discussions with no opportunity to defend himself against those who would challenge him. And there are other facts that I won’t present at this time but that could easily rebut claims made by any critics. The question is not whether he is or was a perfect Senior Associate Academic Dean. The question is whether or not he is as qualified as the white guys picked previously.

Moreover, in race discrimination cases, the burden shifts. Here there is evidence of deviation that suggests bias. Chris would have been in the interim dean position for one or two years. It has been longstanding tradition that the interim dean does not run for dean. The interim dean is too involved in the dean’s search. The exception was Professor Roger Trangsrud, who one year surprised everyone by asking for special permission to throw his hat in the ring after other candidates had visited and presented to the faculty and he had heard their presentations. To the faculty’s credit, Trangsrud’s name was not submitted on the final slate sent to the President.

So what was their point in denying Bracey the fairness accorded to white predecessors who were up for interim dean? All I can think of is that this renegade segment of the faculty chafed at the idea of a black man being over them as a dean, even if for a limited period, no matter how competent. And I say this having some sense of the key players and how they have treated black candidates in the past. This is a law school with a small but vocal group of faculty that has lost its sense of what is fair — a group that thought that because the world was not watching, they could do whatever in the hell they wanted to do to achieve their ends, irrespective of the rights of the individuals involved.

And it is a law school with a majority of faculty who are decent people but who want to bury their heads in the sand and get back to work, and ignore the inconvenient issues like fairness or addressing racial discrimination. Dealing with racism and fairness issues is time-consuming and inefficient. Blacks and other persons of color do it everyday; their work and promotional responsibilities are affected by having to navigate it.

With respect to Chris, the renegades who opposed him counted on all of us being so worried about press and so worried about our careers that none of us would speak up. Well, they have overplayed their hand. It is time to spread that burden of dealing with racism and fairness issues around a bit and drain the swamp.

The opponents of Bracey will be trying to solidify Maggs in the deanship. As I said, Maggs is in the middle of this. He too is a good guy. But some may try to pressure him to try to explain this in a neutral way. To come up with a story. I say it can’t be explained without reference to Chris Bracey’s race.

No one is perfect. But the white guys (and sometimes white women) can stink up the joint in a job and people just bring out the mops and clean the way so he or she can slide over to take the next stair landing.

I have heard from law professors from across the country noting that the problem of recognizing black competency or black excellence when compared to whites and giving blacks a fair shake is bigger than GW. I have heard from lawyers in law firms noting that the phenomenon occurs in law firms and corporate bodies as well.

The insiders count on us being fearful of losing a position or, if we have tenure, losing friends. The troublemakers alter rules at the drop of a hat to suit their liking — simply because they don’t like the outcome if the rules were applied. Others go along hoping the troublemakers will be satisfied. It never happens. They never are satisfied.


Dear President Knapp:

My name is Maryam Belly and I am the President of The George Washington University Black Law Students Association (“BLSA”). I write on behalf of the organization with respect to the recent controversy surrounding Professor Gregory Maggs’s appointment as Interim Dean of the law school. By now, I am sure you are aware of the article, based on leaked intra-faculty emails, posted on the legal blog Abovethelaw. The subject matter of these emails, whether Senior Associate Dean Christopher Bracey was not selected for the Interim Dean position because of his race, is very concerning.

As an initial matter, I want to expressly state that BLSA has not taken an official position on this issue. Further, the group holds both Dean Bracey and Professor Maggs in high regard and we do not comment on either’s ability to lead the law school. We believe, however, that this unfortunate incident, if not completely resolved, should be addressed in a productive matter. Accordingly, we have summarized the three major concerns voiced by BLSA members and other law students.

First, how is the University going to address the allegation that race played a role in the selection process of the Interim Dean? Does the University currently have a stance? We were shocked by the allegation. But we are more frustrated that history, and for many, personal experience, has made it impossible to completely dismiss the charge. Absent further information, it is just as likely that race played a role in the selection of the Interim Dean as it is that there were reasonable grounds, irrespective of race, to oppose a candidate.

Second, setting aside the allegation of racism, why break from what appears to be a pattern of selecting the Senior Associate Dean to serve as Interim Dean when there is a vacancy? It is unfortunate and disquieting that this deviation coincided with a person of color filling the Senior Assistant Dean position. Respectfully, this coincidence would be less of an issue if the University was more transparent about its procedure for selecting deans.

Finally, what are the University’s plans to address the possibility of institutional racism or bias within the law school? We understand that the students are in the midst of preparing for finals and that any comprehensive response may be untimely. Nonetheless, now that race has been brought to the spotlight, it cannot be pushed aside. Looking ahead and, in light of the constraints of this semester, BLSA would welcome a dialogue or town hall facilitated by the University during the spring. To paraphrase attorney general Eric Holder, despite the persistence of “unresolved racial issues,” and despite it occupying a significant role in our interactions, we simply do not talk enough about race. If not on this occasion, then when? In the interim, we are curious about the University’s immediate plans. All the law students have an interest in who is leading the instiution but BLSA students have been uniquely implicated in this incident. The entire affair has uncovered old wounds and given license for several of our peers to make hurtful comments. Considering the unflattering attention that the law school has been subjected to since the current Dean’s departure was announced, this is an excellent opportunity to change course by turning an unfortunate incident into a learning experience.

Thank you for your consideration in addressing our questions and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Very truly yours,

Maryam Belly
President, GW Black Law Students Association


From: W. Burlette Carter
Date: Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 4:07 PM
Subject: Re: GW Law School Interim Dean Issue
To: Goggo-Maryam Belly
Cc: Gregory Maggs, C. Bracey, Steven Lerman


Thank you for copying me on your letter. I appreciate BLSA’s interest in this matter. Please share the views in this letter with BLSA members.

Let me say that I don’t think the solution is removing Dean Maggs. He has a great deal of integrity and I think he stepped into a hornets nest not realizing the impact. I don’t blame him for this situation nor should you. There are folks on the faculty I do blame — and frankly, the provost is aware, that I think they were given both too much credit and too much power. (And just to be clear, I don’t even think Prof. Dick Pierce was the root of the problem.) But I won’t bother you with those names now. So I think you and all students are right not to take a position on who should be interim dean.

I also think that students need to think about their studies first not just during exams but always. These types of problems can only eventually be resolved by people like you focusing on getting good grades and being great lawyers. One of the ways that race based prohibitions work their magic is by taking up our time. I wanted to make a point about which I feel very strongly. But my career is set. If I can’t speak now, when can I speak (although anyone who knows me knows that I have always tried to speak my mind and with integrity). You and other students on the other hand have your futures ahead of you. It is not that you should not be interested, but rather that you need to have your priorities on the very thing that blacks have historically been denied by racism: education. That is the best revenge to any unfairness. You have opportunities here that many folks dream of. If there are issues concerning student lives that are of concern, then those may be worth adding to the pile. Indeed, the recruitment of minority faculty is a key issue I think.

As for town halls, etc. I have my doubts about their value because I do not think that faculty will be participants or required to respond and faculty control this institution. When one considers the cost benefit analysis — the several hours or even days of time for planning and conducting a town hall versus the time taken away from studying versus the likely return on the time investment I think they are a waste of time. The real discussions have to happen at the faculty level in faculty meetings. Students can be a part of that and can encourage that. The faculty has tremendous power. And I think this faculty would be advised to take up the question of race and — of systemic issues of fairness — very seriously as I know others will. That is my recommendation instead of town halls and mass meetings. If the faculty is not involved, nothing will happen. There are issues of fairness raised that concern not just race but also gender and just plain basic fairness. I think that perhaps with Dean Maggs and Dean Bracey in the drivers’ seat we can come up with solutions to avoid this kind of thing in the future and other happenings here that in my view are equally of concern.

I do appreciate your time and concern. I am always impressed with our students. You are amazing. But again, I am a person who thinks seriously about time investments. You want them to pay off, rather than simply to act as the opium of the masses that just lulls folks into thinking we have accomplished something.

Those are my views. I thank you for your thoughts. I know you will knock your exams out of the park. Go get ’em.

Earlier: Law Prof Alleges Racial Bias in Hiring of Interim Dean

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