Sexual assault survivors and student activists at George Mason University are protesting the school’s hiring of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a visiting professor.
News of Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Antonin Scalia Law School broke in late March in George Mason’s undergraduate newspaper, the Fourth Estate, sparking swift outcry from students, alumni and sexual assault survivors.
Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court last fall despite facing multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.
Maeve Hartnett, a sophomore at the university and one of the core members of the student advocacy group Mason 4 Survivors, said Kavanaugh’s hiring and other recent incidents at the school have been upsetting to survivors like herself.
“I feel uncomfortable going to this school, and I don’t feel like I can complete the rest of my education here,” Hartnett told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Mason 4 Survivors hosted a “teach-in” on Thursday in which they shared the tenets of their group and listened to stories from sexual assault survivors.
Students present for the April 4 demonstration marched through the university’s grounds, chanting, “Kick Kavanaugh off campus!” They brought a copy of their demands, listed on an online petition set up at the end of March, to the vice president of university life, Hartnett said.
The petition has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures since the end of March. In it, the group has demanded that the university terminate and void Kavanaugh’s contract. Students also want the administration at George Mason to formally apologize to sexual assault survivors and explain how Kavanaugh’s hiring came about in the first place.
Since Thursday, Hartnett said, the university has agreed to let the group host a town hall discussion with administrators on April 16 to discuss sexual assault prevention.
According to Hartnett, George Mason President Ángel Cabrera hasn’t yet said whether he would attend the town hall. The university did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
In a statement on March 27, Cabrera said he would not terminate Kavanaugh’s contract.
“I respect the views of people who disagreed with Justice Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation due to questions raised about his sexual conduct in high school,” Cabrera said. “But he was confirmed and is now a sitting Justice. The law school has determined that the involvement of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice contributes to making our law program uniquely valuable for our students. And I accept their judgment.”
Kavanaugh is slated to co-teach a course called Creation of the Constitution with Jennifer Mascott, an assistant law professor. The class will take place over the summer in Runnymede, England.
Cabrera noted in his March statement that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will also be co-teaching a class for the Scalia Law School in Italy this summer “about the historical roots and the modern application of the separation of powers in the national security context.”
News of Kavanaugh’s hiring comes in the wake of what The Atlantic dubbed a ″#MeToo Nightmare” involving George Mason’s competitive speech team. The team’s legendary coach, Peter Pober, was placed on administrative leave in February 2018 amid allegations that he had serially sexually harassed male members of the team for over a decade. He was later charged with embezzlement of university funds, but the charges were dropped earlier this year, The Atlantic reported.
“My alma mater continues to fail survivors,” wrote Zach Eisenstein, a George Mason alum who serves as communications manager for The Sexuality Information and Education Council, in an op-ed on Tuesday. “Mason administrators need to pay more than just lip service to survivors. They need to make decisions that put their carefully crafted words of support into legitimate action. And they can start by admitting and reversing their mistake in hiring Kavanaugh.”