Justice Thomas’ Withdrawal Exposes The Growing “Unavailability” of Diverse Opinions in Higher Education

Below is my column in USA Today on the withdrawal of Associate Justice Clarence Thomas from the faculty at George Washington University. The announcement merely said that Justice Thomas was now “unavailable” to teach. While the decision is being celebrated by both GWU and across the Internet, it is only the latest blow to free speech and the struggle to preserve a diversity of viewpoints in higher education. When the university announced earlier that it would not fire Thomas, I wrote a piece expressing doubt about how that victory would play out in the future to protect free speech on campuses. The cessation of teaching the course only magnifies those concerns. Such withdrawals raise the concern over the “unavailability” of a diversity of thought in higher education.

Here is the column:

After 11 years, students at George Washington University Law School will register for courses this fall with one notable difference. They will no longer be able to take a seminar with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The removal of Justice Thomas from the list of lecturers followed a cancel campaign that demanded that the university ban him from any classrooms. At 74, and looking at an upcoming term of major decisions, Thomas hardly needs the aggravation of such protests. However, his departure (even if temporary) is a great loss to students, the law school and free speech.

In a petition, Justice Thomas (and his wife) were denounced as “actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus.” The impetus for the campaign was clearly the recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which critics charged “stripped the right to bodily autonomy of people with wombs” and called on faculty and students to “kick Clarence Thomas out of Foggy Bottom.”

While the university refused to terminate Thomas, the campaign continued and protests were expected in the fall. Now many are celebrating the departure as a triumph, but it is only the latest example of how dissenting viewpoints are being systematically eliminated in higher education.

Indeed, the contrast could not be greater this week as recently retired Justice Stephen Breyer was welcomed on the Harvard Law faculty. No protests. No cancel campaign over his liberal decisions.

Breyer’s return to Harvard, where he graduated and once taught, will be interesting. This liberal icon might now be considered a virtual moderate on a faculty that largely runs from the left to the far left.

new survey report, conducted by The Harvard Crimson, revealed that 82.46% of faculty surveyed identify as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Only 16.08% identified as “moderate” and a mere 1.46% identified as “conservative.” Not a single faculty member identified as “very conservative,” but the number of faculty identified as “very liberal” increased by another 8% in just one year.

Thomas’ withdrawal fits with a long pattern of cancel campaigns, which often take two tracks. First, they seek the termination of faculty with dissenting views. However, tenured or high-profile figures may be more difficult for a university to fire. Few of us believed that a sitting Supreme Court justice would be banned from teaching at the law school.

However, if termination is not possible, these campaigns try to push targets to resign by making their continuation on campus increasingly intolerable.

Recently, a campaign at Georgetown University successfully prompted a law professor to resign. Center for the Constitution Director Ilya Shapiro was suspended because of a single controversial tweet. And while Shapiro was cleared after a long investigation, the law school’s tepid support showed he couldn’t expect much of a future at Georgetown.

Even tenured professors can have enough. Recently, UCLA anthropology professor Joseph Manson resigned after declaring higher education a lost cause due to the now stifling level of orthodoxy on faculties. Manson described how his colleagues remained silent as dissenting faculty members were continually shunned and attacked.

After decades of teaching, he declared “U.S. higher education is morally and intellectually corrupt, beyond the possibility of self-repair, and therefore no longer a worthwhile setting in which to spend my time and effort.”

It is not clear that the cancel campaign prompted the decision of Justice Thomas, but the prospect of protests planned for the Fall could not have helped in his decision making.  What is clear is that his departure is likely to fuel additional efforts to isolate and stigmatize those with opposing views.

Recently, for example, Rep. Susan Wild, D-Penn., used her address as George Washington’s commencement speaker to accuse me of using law for “wrongful ends” for questioning the constitutional basis for former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. The basis of her allegation was a demonstrably false accusation that even her Democratic colleagues refuted in the hearing. It simply did not matter that what Rep. Wild told our graduates was factually untrue. The point is to relentlessly attack and ultimately exhaust those with opposing views.

Such attacks are now a common factor of life for many faculty members offering dissenting views on issues ranging from impeachment to diversity programs to police abuse to transgender identification to vaccines to native-land acknowledgment.

Indeed, this week, University of Michigan medical professor Dr. Kristin Collier faced the same type of attack at an introduction ceremony. Almost half of the University of Michigan’s incoming medical school class walked out of a “white coat ceremony” to protest that fact that she opposes legalized abortion. She was not planning to discuss abortion, but the mere fact that she doesn’t support it made her speaking at the event unacceptable.

For more than a decade, George Washington University Law School benefited greatly from the teaching of Justice Thomas, who combines a legendary career with one of the most inspiring life stories in the history of the court. Whatever the reason for his cessation in teaching, he deserves our thanks.

He also deserved better. He deserved greater public support from individual faculty members. He deserved greater understanding from students. He deserved an equally vocal counter-campaign in support of free speech and a diversity of viewpoints at the university.

Yet, there is now an overwhelming fear among faculty and students that they could be next to be targeted in a cancel campaign or to be shunned by colleagues. These campaigns threaten everything that brings meaning to an intellectual from access to classes to conferences to publications.

This is why many choose to remain silent as the mob pursues their colleagues. For those tagged as dissenters, the atmosphere is perfectly RobespierreanFrench revolutionary leader Abbe Sieyes captured this atmosphere as a liberal thinker who was later suspected of being an independent thinker.

When asked what he had done during the Reign of Terror, he replied: “I stayed alive.”

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley

215 thoughts on “Justice Thomas’ Withdrawal Exposes The Growing “Unavailability” of Diverse Opinions in Higher Education”

  1. In a petition, Justice Thomas (and his wife) were denounced as “actively making life unsafe for thousands of students on our campus.”

    Did the students indicate how Thomas made “life unsafe”? Did the university ask the students how Thomas made “life unsafe”? Does anybody know how Thomas made “life unsafe”?

  2. You personally didn’t know anyone on the right or left advocating violence, but you knew, personally, from reading the papers that almost 500 riots occurred with severe damage. You are hiding behind words just like you hide behind an anonymous name.

    self-deleted: “Again, I don’t personally know anyone on the right or left who advocates for violence. Try to read and keep up: I said: personally.”

  3. I guess you are one of those that think the almost 500 riots during the summer weren’t violent.

    self deleted: “Personally, I don’t know anyone on the left or right, who advocates violence.”

  4. There is one ATS and he is the one presently posting as anonymous and intentionally having his post disappear. That proves who he is.


    “There is only one ATS and he just posted a comment @ 5:55 PM.”

  5. ATS, I note you continue to hide and get yourself deleted from the blog on purpose. You make claims that you aren’t able to defend.

    Anonymous the Stupid, Karen didn’t run away. You failed to prove your case. The only coward in this discussion is you who posts under anonymous and other names.

  6. The illiberalism of the colleges, the weaknesses in law enforcement, the biases of the courts, and the castigation of anyone that dare cross those three, laid the foundation for final ruination of the United States of America. The self-implosion, spurred on from the outside Globalist desires to bankrupt this country, both financially and spiritually, lay in great part to the Democrat Party’s subversion by cultural Marxism and the Republican Party’s obsequious and unprincipled moves toward the Neoliberalism cum Fascism that truly destroyed this country over the last 50 years. Most of the people willing to do the work to fix it, can’t. The Federal bureaucracy is filled to the hilt with self-absorbed lackluster thinkers while openly spiteful towards the general population they were suppose to serve equally. How much revenge can these unelected bureaucrats seek before they kill off the golden goose? I suspect a lot.

    As a very common person, I despise nearly all of D.C. The very few sane people are too outnumbered to make any headway. We are so seriously lost, without any guiding principle or a long-term goal (Build Back BS is NOT a plan, nor sold as one, as demonstrated by its lack of open detailing to the population). BBB is just the WEF controlled economic collapse of society worldwide, while printing money to cash out on and doing a LBO the common man’s last assets. Check out the BIS (Bank of International Settlement) forex credit default swaps or the debt spiral to come from US, to Europe, to Japan and China, as well. This crash will make 2008 look like a very common cold.

    Moreover, we commoners know how many lies – both parties have told – to keep their power alive and grifts going. The day of reckoning is coming for this country. Our enemies know we are doomed with the myriad of FOOLS we have in charge. They snicker and plan (a commodities based currency through BRICS++) because we allowed the most corrupt fool of the past half-century to occupy the office of President. The prior assh*le, as Democrats would call him, had plenty of drawbacks, but Jesus, did anyone in D.C. let him even breathe for a second? How on Earth do you sleep at night knowing we spied, lied, and setup the entire Trump administration to fail?

    (Democrats thoroughly own that one. Just as Republicans own the Iraq and Afghanistan false evidence wars. And BOTH own our selling out to CHINA!)

    The Pandemic caused billions of people to suffer, and potentially die, due to DC-Beijing’s initial designs. Who made that happen? Engineered virus, with D.C. funding the design of it. NIAID and DARPA are likely most responsible for the gain-of-function virus that has the spike protein as the vaccine – a design that does not confer with any known rationale for “vaccine” development. We may very well sterilize most of the population by these shots. GREAT WORK!

    The power games people play are going to be revisited upon them 100 fold. You can take that to the bank. This fall is gonna see absolute chaos break out in my opinion. Famine, massive elections frauds, Trump-ed up indictments, War in multiple countries, and potentially, the worst Civil War ever in human history.

    If I am wrong, I’ll gladly come back and admit it. But, chances are I won’t be able to. Writing blog posts or comments will be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

  7. Yet, most of us would take GHWB over any of the subsequent presidents.

    I was not impressed by Thomas in the hearings.
    I beleived Anita Hill at the time, though today I am far less sure.
    The alleged conduct does not occur in a vacuum and those who do it do not change.

    As a justice Thomas is the one I am most likely to strongly agree with, and concurrently the one I am most likely to strongly disagree with.

    Contra the claims of the left he is and has always been his own independent voice.

    I felt that Thomas was an affirmative action appointment when he replaced Marshall.
    But he is clearly not.

    He is an intellectual giant on this court – whether you agree with him or not.

  8. “They” say there is a pendulum in society and in politics in America, that grand social and political experiment started over 200 years back.
    The progressive far left are having their time right now but if history holds true, this will not be true forever — and when it swings back, it’s going to swing back hard —
    I hope I’m still alive to witness it when it does.

  9. Doctors and lawyers seem to be the two groups most bitten by the woke bug. These will be the elite of society, hardly the “victims” they like to pretend to be. Pity their future clients.

  10. S.M (the dumb one)

    “If true, why do the RW nuts on this site not exhibit any of those traits?”


    “If true, why do the LW nuts on this site not exhibit any of those traits?”

  11. From S.M (the dumb one)

    “30s southern dem were racists then they switched to the rethuglican party- keep up.”

    False – racist southern democrats had to be defeated in the south by republicans. they did not “switch”. It took decades.
    Robert Byrd a grand Cyclops in the KKK served int he Senate until 2010.

  12. The GW administration should have explained in detail why it would not terminate Thomas. In particular, the petitioners’ claim that he made them “unsafe” is absurd and should have been refuted. It’s the same claim NYT staff made about the editorial decision to run a Tom Cotton op ed about the possible use of the Insurrection Act to quell the BLM riots of the summer of 2020.

    Until those in university positions with ostensible authority take on these immature totalitarians and refute their “arguments” there is little hope that vulnerable faculty members will themselves take a stand against the mob.

    Thomas’s decision not to teach this year is a great loss to GW.

    1. My wish would be for Justice Thomas to continue his lectures, but as a live video event that would be open to any who wanted to watch. Maybe tape it and distribute on youtube, rumble and any internet service that would play those recorded sessions, in full without interruption. There is absolutely no reason that only those laying exorbitant fees to attend kawlij should be the only ones to hear his wisdom.

    2. Isn’t it hillarious that GW students are claiming that a 70+ year old black man makes them “unsafe” ?

      The only one in danger with Thomas lecturing at GW was Thomas.

      1. That might be one reason for Thomas’ action. The left is violent, even though some talk big while hiding themselves from sight.

        1. The possibility of violence is one factor,

          Another is the likelyhood of having to deal with massive stupidity from students.

          Recently Yale Law students deprived a guest speaker of their right to free speech.

          All students who participated should have been expelled and never allowed to sit for the bar,
          There was a suggestion that judges should refuse to give any of them clerkships.

          If you are a Yale Law student and you deprive another of their constittutional right to free speech – you are not qualified to be a lawyer.

          Thomas is a supreme court justice – he should not be teaching a seminar at GW and having to deal with what should be advanced students who do not understand the basics of constitutional law.

  13. Don’t you just love inclusiveness and diversity. Kind of gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. We need more black people involved in how our country functions. Of course they have to be a certain kind of minority person.

  14. If Thomas shuts up, the terrorists win. The feckless GW wokestration needs to police its campus or let others do it. I vote hiring some well-dressed gumbahs who own bars and nice cars against the de-civilizers on the Left but that’s just me.

  15. This is silencing and censoring of political and educational diversity of thought. How can individuals think this is a good idea. Colleges and law schools no longer challenge students with different views. Instead they are becoming sanctuaries for people who can only survive life by living in an echo chamber. As a student,I am glad I was challenged by diversity of thought. It made me a better thinker and lawyer. Activism to eradicate opposing is pure laziness and/or fear of challenge to one’s own thoughts.

    1. I have an idea. Let’s force, through impeachment and conviction, the judicial branch and Supreme Court to start doing their job and fulfilling their oaths to support the Constitution per Alexander Hamilton:

      “…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”

      “…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”

      “[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”

      – Alexander Hamilton

  16. Off topic. MSNBC shows a promotional af of one of their news anchor where she is smoking. How dumb. Smoking kills millions. This promoted smoking to young people who don’t know the truth.
    What a dumb tv network

    1. I thought smoking scene were banned from TV. Pretty sure I’m right. Perhaps it doesn’t apply to cable stations. Agree, not a good or responsible look.

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