Dozens of student leaders continue push to remove Supreme Court Justice from faculty

Media Credit: Auden Yurman | Senior Photo Editor

The University refused Tuesday to fire Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after thousands of people signed a petition calling for his removal.

Updated: July 1, 2022 at 9:43 a.m.

Fifty student leaders penned an open letter calling on the University to remove Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas the law school’s faculty.

Student Association senators, members of the SA’s executive cabinet and leaders of student organizations like Sunrise GW signed Thursday’s letter, which calls on University officials to “rethink” its decision not to fire Thomas, who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and repeal federal abortion protections last week. The letter argues that because the University does not allow discrimination based on “protected characteristics” like race, gender and sexual orientation, they should not employ and platform Thomas as he tries to “strip individuals with uteruses of the right to medicine and queer individuals their right to legally exist.”

The letter argues Thomas’s lecturing contributes to discrimination, which they say nullifies the University’s “academic freedom” defense of Thomas.

“Academic freedom means to learn freely and fairly- absent of discrimination,” the letter reads.

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. He wrote a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe, calling on the Court to reconsider rulings that protect contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.

Nearly 9,000 people have signed a petition calling for Thomas’ removal from the law school’s faculty, but officials rejected those demands in an email sent to the University community Tuesday.

“There is a great difference between the freedom of expression of professors and a Supreme Court Justice stating that it should be legal to strip his queer students of not only their expression but to allow their existence to be criminalized,” the letter reads.

Sen. Christian Williams, CCAS-U, signed the letter and said even if the open letter was largely “symbolic,” he felt it was important to sign the letter to show support.

“Even if Clarence Thomas isn’t removed, then at least we’re able to say we exhausted our options and can go forward from there,” he said.

Signee Christine Yared, the treasurer of Disabled Students Collective and vice president of Women’s Leadership Network, said she heard about the letter through a post from the Women’s Pre-Law Student Association. She said as a leader of student organizations catering to women and disabled students, it is important to fight for “empowerment and equality.”

The letter, addressed to interim University President Mark Wrighton, Provost Chris Bracey and GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew, states student voices are critical to the University’s academic mission and its financial standing.

“I think we were all very horrified at overturning of Roe v. Wade and rightfully angry at the Supreme Court,” she said. “And very frustrated that GW would not listen to our calls to fire Justice Thomas.”

SA President Christian Zidouemba did not sign the letter. He said in a statement to the Hatchet that his cabinet is “working hard” to represent students.

“Cabinet members are able to express their views to the public, and I welcome healthy interaction between students and their government,” he said. “This topic is very important to me, and I want to ensure we carefully consider the many viewpoints and concerns shared by students.”

University officials did not immediately return a request for comment.

“We ask the University to change its mind both because the students are calling for it and because it’s the right thing to do,” the letter reads.

This post was updated to include the following:
This post was updated to include a statement from SA President Christian Zidouemba.

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