Officials announced GW Law will not fire Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after more than 6,000 people signed a petition calling for his termination after he voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and end federal abortion protections.
Provost Christopher Bracey and GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew said in an email Tuesday that employing Thomas will allow students to exchange ideas and that debate is essential to the University’s educational mission to train students to address the world’s problems. Rising junior Jon Kay started a petition calling on officials to remove Thomas from his teaching role at GW on Sunday, and it has since amassed more than 6,000 signatures.
“Because debate is an essential part of our University’s academic and educational mission to train future leaders who are prepared to address the world’s most urgent problems, the University will neither terminate Justice Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class,” Bracey and Matthew said in the email.
Thomas has lectured at GW Law since 2011, co-teaching a constitutional law seminar with his former clerk Gregory Maggs, and is set to teach that course again in the Fall 2022 semester, according to GW Law’s course catalog. Thomas wrote a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the case that overturned Roe – also calling on the Court to reconsider rulings that protect contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
Neither Maggs nor Thomas immediately responded to a request for comment.
The email states while Thomas’ views “do not represent” the views of GW Law or the University as a whole, Thomas has “academic freedom and freedom of expression and inquiry” like all other faculty members. GW’s academic freedom guidelines, which officials quoted in the email, state it is not the University’s responsibility to “shield” individuals from opinions they may find offensive.
“Just as we affirm our commitment to academic freedom, we affirm the right of all members of our community to voice their opinions and contribute to the critical discussions that are foundational to our academic mission,” the email states.
Kay, the creator of the petition, said in an interview Sunday that if GW did not remove Thomas, the organizers of the petition would seek to protest in person on campus when the fall 2022 semester began.
“With his explicit intention to further strip the rights of queer people and remove the ability for people to practice safe sex without fear of pregnancy, it is evident that the employment of Clarence Thomas at George Washington University is completely unacceptable,” the petition states.