Below is my New York Post column about the recent repeal campaign targeting Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. It was always suspicious that a law school would take the unprecedented step of barring a Supreme Court judge. However, the decision to stand by free speech and academic freedom was still a fresh departure from the growing trend of intolerance and orthodoxy. The problem is that most of the targets of these campaigns have neither the status nor the day-to-day work of a Supreme Court justice. Most of them do not have the option of securing a seat on the Supreme Court to guarantee their freedom of speech and academic freedom. For every Thomas, there are thousands of other “emergent masters” who have little support or expectation in today’s intolerant environment.
Here is the column:
Clarence Thomas last week It became the last goal of the canceled culture. The position is not unfamiliar to the Supreme Court justice, but it has created a surprising amount of support at a leading law school. Thousands of people signed A Petition Requesting the removal of Thomas as a professor of law at George Washington University, where I teach. the reason? His vote to overturn Row v. Wade and his concurring opinion in that important case.
In a commendable decision that upholds free speech and academic freedom, GWU announced it would not suspend Thomas. However, the controversy presents a much more serious problem for faculty members who do not hold the high status of a Supreme Court justice.
Hours after Dobbs’ decision to fire Roe, Thomas was once again the target of racial slurs and insults. “Uncle Clarence” trended on Twitter, a reference to the racial slur “Uncle Tom”. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot even led a “Fk Clarence Thomas” chant at a Pride event.
The petition stated that the judge (and his wife) “actively make the lives of thousands of students on campus unsafe.” The decision upset Dobbs, who “removed the right to bodily autonomy of people with a womb” and called on faculty and students to “kick Clarence Thomas out of the fog.”
Nothing new for Thomas. self Incredible life story And career as one of our most successful African-American figures is routinely overlooked. Even the Smithsonian African American Museum passed it He was in the first cut of the great African Americans in its opening. (Anita Hale, the plaintiff in his Senate confirmation hearing, made the cut.)
Of course, if one thing is clear from decades of unfair and relentless attacks, it’s that Thomas isn’t Get away from the crowd. He did the university a great service by not giving in to the campaign. He does not need this position or escalation.
For many of us in teaching, these repeal campaigns have become a constant threat. There have been incentives to fire or discipline faculty members who hold opposing views on various issues Racial justice To Police abuse To Transgender identification To Gender statements To Use of pronouns To Acknowledgment of native land. This includes recent cases Campaign in Georgetown who successfully obtained the resignation of a law professor over a tweet.
put it aside Incomplete description From the decision of Dobbs, he issues a petition A familiar complaint The presence of a faculty member or a speaker with opposing views endangers students and professors. sometimes Students even protest that police protection from events creates an unsafe environment. This includes figures who can share firsthand accounts of their role in historical events, such as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who It is effectively blocked From a lecture at the University of Illinois; Former Vice President Mike Pence was targeted at Stanford University
The GW petition reflects the growing intolerance and orthodoxy that has gripped campuses. When I began teaching 30 years ago, universities were bastions of free speech where a wide range of views and values were consistently defended. Any attack on one was an attack on all.
Today, there is a palpable level of fear and intimidation among many faculty members who could be the next target of one of these campaigns. Most professors are not under tenure protection and universities can cite other reasons for not renewing their contracts.
The percentage of official professors has been decreasing for half a century. Almost Three out of four Today, faculty members are what are called “tenured faculty,” or contract-to-contract faculty.
The problem is that this possibility often seems to depend on adherence to a new orthodoxy on racial justice, police abuse, gender identity, and other issues. When a professor expresses a dissenting view, universities often defend the same principles in Thomas’ argument, but then simply fail to renew the contract for undisclosed reasons.
That’s what happened to St. Joseph’s University professor Greg Manko, who was terminated for criticizing compensation claims, among other things. Three tweets From Manco’s anonymous Twitter account, “South Jersey Giants.” Manko was notified by the school’s human resources department that she was responsible for the “prejudicial or discriminatory” comments and was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. However, after his waiver, the university refused to renew his contract. has registered A Federal litigation.
Public campaigns are often designed to dissuade opposing faculty members or marginalize them in their academic communities.
For some, the constant hostility becomes too much and they leave teaching – which is what these campaigns are all about. For others, these attacks only strengthen their resolve to stay. For example, recently, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) used her speech as GW’s commencement speaker to accuse me of using the law for “improper purposes” to question the constitutionality of the president’s first impeachment. Donald Trump’s ex, including an impeachment. Blatantly false accusations Even his Democratic colleagues at the meeting refused.
The difference is that as a tenured faculty member, I am protected from being called to terminate. Of course, universities can make it intolerable by moving classes, keeping professors off academic panels and committees, and public ridicule. Citing them as examples of intolerance.
Mike Adams, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina, has spent years in court and university litigation, successfully fighting for his right to express conservative views. Investigations and attacks never stopped. Indeed, they resumed with renewed fervor after he denounced Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) for his pandemic laws. tweet who compared eating in cramped quarters to a slave ship. This was a stupid and insulting tweet. But we’ve seen extreme comments on the left — including calls to gas Or to kill Or torture Conservatives – tolerated and even celebrated in universities. Adams was relentlessly criticized for the tweet until he finally relented and agreed to resign. She killed himself A few days before his last day as professor.
Tenure is a difficult, though not insurmountable, safeguard for schools trying to rid themselves of dissenting voices. Indeed, a Princeton professor recently survived a termination campaign after questioning faculty privileges based on race. After classical master Joshua Katz cleared, the university investigated a previous complaint due to a consensual relationship with a student for which he had previously been disciplined. He then fired him in a case that had already been closed.
Most teachers, like Justice Thomas, are contract or adjunct faculty members, but do not have a “day job” like Thomas if fired from the faculty.
Targeting Thomas, given his position, was a relatively easy fight for advocates of academic freedom. Banning a Supreme Court judge from teaching is not like this Getting rid of the “colonial” spell of the university. The latter changes what we are generally called while the former changes us as an educational institution. However, for many faculty members in one position, their continued teaching is both legally and practically “conditional” on satisfying the demands of the majority in universities.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.