Stephen Masker

Why the Antonin Scalia School of Law is the butt of all jokes right now

Thank the Koch brothers.


Amrita Khalid


Published Mar 31, 2016   Updated May 27, 2021, 12:25 am CDT

Thanks to the Koch brothers, a top-tier law school in Virginia is now the butt of a joke—literally.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that George Mason University’s board of governors voted in favor of renaming its law school after the recently departed conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. 

It took approximately five seconds after George Mason’s announcement for Twitter to conclude that the name change gave the school one of the worst acronyms in recent memory. The news was met with dismay by students and alumni of the school now known by the acronym ASSOL. Many Scalia haters on Twitter fervently tried to make the #ASSLaw hashtag trend on Twitter, which it soon did.

The unfortunate acronym was only the cherry on top of the name change’s controversy. Law schools across the country wrestled with how—or even if—they should commemorate the contentious Supreme Court justice after his untimely passing on Feb. 13. Only 20 miles away, Georgetown University Law School’s decision to hold a memorial in honor of Scalia sparked protest by both faculty and students. Scalia’s legal career included many rulings that put women, minorities, and LGBT individuals at a disadvantage. 

Many pointed out that it was ironic that a school originally named after George Mason, the founding father who famously refused to sign the Constitution, renamed itself after one of the Supreme Court’s most famous originalists. Elie Mystal of Above the Law seconded this notion, as well as the fact that Scalia, a Harvard Law School grad who taught at the University of Chicago, likely would have wanted nothing to do with George Mason University, a lower-ranked institution. Writes Mystal:

“Good lord. You are deemphasizing the name of a founding father to honor a man who fetishisized the beliefs held at the founding? A guy who didn’t go there, or have any connection to the school, who wouldn’t have hired a George Mason law student as a bathroom attendant, much less a Supreme Court clerk? That’s the guy you are renaming your law school after? Your Twitter hashtag is now #ASSLaw (Antonin Scalia School of Law). Who was in second place, Donald Trump?”

Another pain point was the announcement’s timing with George Mason’s acceptance of a huge donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. 

Following the announcement of the name change, the school now known as the Antonin Scalia School of Law disclosed that it accepted two donations totaling of $30 million dollars, one of which was a $10 million dollar grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. 

George Mason University has had a long history with Koch. The Koch brothers have made heavy investments in academia. Of the $23.4 million dollars the industrialist brothers donated to schools in 2014, George Mason received $16.8 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity

George Mason currently houses the Institute for Humane Studies, a libertarian non-profit that offers seminars and scholarships for college students. Charles Koch is currently the chair of the board of directors at IHS. 

Correction: Scalia completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at Georgetown University. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law.

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*First Published: Mar 31, 2016, 7:03 pm CDT