Updated: July 27, 2022 at 4:33 p.m.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will not teach a Constitutional Law Seminar this fall, according to an email addressed to students in the seminar that was obtained by The Hatchet.
Gregory Maggs, who has co-taught the course with Thomas since 2011, stated in an email addressed to the class that Thomas is “unavailable” to co-teach the course in the fall, and Thomas is no longer listed as a lecturer on GW Law’s course list. Thomas’ withdrawal from the course comes a month after more than 11,000 community members signed a petition demanding his removal from GW, but officials declined to remove him from his role after he voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Unfortunately, I am writing with some sad news: Justice Thomas has informed me that he is unavailable to co-teach the seminar this fall,” Maggs said in an email obtained by The Hatchet. “I know that this is disappointing. I am very sorry.”
Thomas did not immediately return a request for comment. Maggs deferred multiple requests for comment to GW’s communications office.
“The seminar has not been canceled but I will now be the sole instructor,” Maggs said in the email. “For those of you still interested in taking the course, I assure you that we will make the best of the new situation.”
University spokesperson Tim Pierce said Thomas notified GW Law that he was “unavailable” to co-teach the seminar this fall.
“The students were promptly informed of Justice Thomas’ decision by his co-instructor who will continue to offer the seminar this fall.” Pierce said in an email.
Pierce declined to say if Thomas’ withdrawal is permanent or if the University expects Thomas to return to teaching in future semesters. Pierce also declined to say whether Thomas’ unavailability is related to the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent student protests against the justice.
Fifty student leaders penned an open letter last month calling on GW to remove Thomas from teaching after the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Thomas wrote a concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, also calling on the Court to reconsider rulings that protect contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
“Academic freedom means to learn freely and fairly – absent of discrimination,” the letter reads.
Provost Christopher Bracey and GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew said in an email to the University community last month that Thomas’ views “do not represent” the views of GW Law or the University as a whole, but said employing Thomas will allow students to exchange ideas and that debate is essential to the University’s educational mission.
“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,” last month’s email states.
This post updated to include the following:
This post was updated to include Maggs’ deferral of requests for comment to GW’s communications office. This post was also updated to include Pierce’s comment.
Zach Blackburn contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the July 29, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.