State Watch

George Washington University rejects calls to remove Clarence Thomas from teaching role

FILE – Justice Clarence Thomas sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, on Friday, April 23, 2021. Supreme Court justices have long prized confidentiality. It’s one of the reasons the leak of a draft opinion in a major abortion case last week was so shocking. But it’s not just the justices’ work on opinions that they understandably like to keep under wraps. The justices are also ultimately the gatekeepers to information about their travel, speaking engagements and health issues. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

George Washington University (GWU) has rejected its student body’s calls to remove Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from his adjunct professor role in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, GWU officials said that they will not remove Thomas from his current position with the school because he has not violated the school’s policy on academic freedom, saying that Thomas is free to express his own opinion even though his views do not reflect the school. 

“Because we steadfastly support the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation, and 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 Justices Thomas’ employment nor cancel his class in response to his legal opinions,” GWU said in its letter to students. 

“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 discussion that are foundational to our academic mission.” 

The school’s response comes as GWU students recently created a petition in an effort to remove Thomas from his teaching position with the university, citing his concurring opinions on abortion, LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. 

The Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision established nearly 50 years ago that recognized a constitutional right to abortion to women. The decision led to multiple states implementing their own abortion bans and restrictions.

“With the recent Supreme Court decision that has stripped the right to bodily autonomy of people with wombs, and 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, which has gained more than 6,500 signatures, statement read. 

“While also factoring in his wife’s part in the attempted coup in January of 2021, Judge Thomas is actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus (not to mention thousands of campuses across the country). Make your voice heard and help us kick Clarence Thomas out of Foggy Bottom.”

In a statement to the The Hill, GWU’s chapter of College Republicans applauded the school’s decision to keep Thomas as adjunct professor.

“GW College Republicans applauds the University’s announcement today and their commitment to diversity of thought. We deeply agree with the University’s opinion that it is not their role to shield students from ideas they might disagree with,” the student-led organization said. “The free exchange of ideas is integral to our society and to our education. We look forward to the University continuing to uphold its mission of academic freedom.”

Updated: 2:55 p.m.

Tags Adjunct professor Clarence Thomas Clarence Thomas George Washington University George Washington University George Washington University petition Roe v. Wade Supreme Court supreme court abortion ruling Washington D.C.

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