Law School Dean Jenny Martinez: “the hate mail and appalling invective that have been directed at some of our students and law school administrators in the wake of March 9 are of great concern to me.”
The latest development in the Stanford Law School shout-down of 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan has focues on the antics of Stanford Law School Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach. I concluded that The Stanford Law School Culture, Not The Diversity Dean, Is The Problem (but I repeat myself).
Then things got worse when it was revealed Stanford Law Protester Screamed At Conservative Judge: “We hope your daughters get raped!”
The latest news is that the Diversity Dean is on leave, though the exact circumstances and terms are not known. That was revealed in a letter sent to the Stanford Law Community by Dean Jenny Martinez. You can read the full letter here. The main focus of the letter is to portray Stanford Law as the victim because of the negative reaction from the public:
As my message to you last week indicated, I had hoped to wait until after final exams concluded at the end of this week to offer any further comments on the disruption of Judge Kyle Duncan’s speech at a student Federalist Society event on March 9, 2023, and the school’s response to that disruption. However, continuing outside attention to these events, as well as the volume of hateful and even threatening messages directed at members of our community, have led me to conclude that a more immediate statement is necessary.
As we consider the role of respectful treatment of members of our community, I want to be clear that the hate mail and appalling invective that have been directed at some of our students and law school administrators in the wake of March 9 are of great concern to me. All actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits.
She then addressed the claim by some students that heckling and disruption was their own free speech:
Some of the protestors at last week’s event stayed within the bounds of permissible, non-disruptive counter-speech, while others crossed the line in sustained heckling that disrupted the event. Some students contend that the judge invited the heckling with offensive comments or engagement with protestors. These arguments misunderstand the nature of the disruption policy. The policy would not be meaningful to protect the carrying out of public events and the right of attendees to hear what is said if it applied only when a speaker said things protesters in an audience found agreeable. Nor does the fact that the speaker departs from their planned remarks and engages with the hecklers justify further heckling that disrupts the event. The Stanford disruption policy prohibits not just conduct that literally drowns out the speaker, but also that which “disrupt[s] the effective carrying out” of the event (emphasis added).
The President of the University and I have apologized to Judge Duncan for a very simple reason – to acknowledge that his speech was disrupted in ways that undermined his ability to deliver the remarks he wanted to give to audience members who wanted to hear them, as a result of the failure to ensure that the university’s disruption policies were followed. That apology, and the policy it defends, is fully consistent with the First Amendment and the Leonard Law.
The Stanford Dean rejected the claim that law schools as institutions must have a political position on issues. That is a common problem where institutional positions end up enforcing orthodoxy. It was a problem for me at Cornell Law School in June 2020 when the now-former Dean announced an institutional position against my criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement organizers and lead activists.
The Stanford Dean wrote:
At the same time, I want to set expectations clearly going forward: our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is not going to take the form of having the school administration announce institutional positions on a wide range of current social and political issues, make frequent institutional statements about current news events, or exclude or condemn speakers who hold views on social and political issues with whom some or even many in our community disagree. I believe that focus on these types of actions as the hallmark of an “inclusive” environment can lead to creating and enforcing an institutional orthodoxy that is not only at odds with our core commitment to academic freedom, but also that would create an echo chamber that ill prepares students to go out into and act as effective advocates in a society that disagrees about many important issues. Some students might feel that some points should not be up for argument and therefore that they should not bear the responsibility of arguing them (or even hearing arguments about them), but however appealing that position might be in some other context, it is incompatible with the training that must be delivered in a law school.
In concluding, the Dean announced that Steinbach is on leave, and the disrupting students will be re-educated not disciplined (emphasis in original):
In closing, I will address some issues that have been the subject of many inquiries from inside and outside the university,2 and then I will discuss what steps the law school is taking to ensure that these events are not repeated.
First, Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach is currently on leave. Generally speaking, the university does not comment publicly on pending personnel matters, and so I will not do so at this time. I do want to express concern over the hateful and threatening messages she has received as a result of viral online and media attention and reiterate that actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits. Finally, it should be obvious from what I have stated above that at future events, the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and all staff will receive additional training in that regard.
Second, with respect to the students involved in the protest, several factors lead me to conclude that what is appropriate here is mandatory educational programming for our student body rather than referring specific students for disciplinary sanction (which at Stanford is administered by the central university’s Office of Community Standards and involves a deliberate process including fact-finding and hearings)….
There were easily a hundred students in the room, however, and some individual students crossed the line into disruptive heckling while others engaged in constitutionally protected non-disruptive protest, such as holding signs or asking pointed questions. Even if we could come up with a fair process for identifying and distinguishing between the two categories of students consistent with First Amendment values, the particular circumstances of this event raise additional concerns. Given the sometimes uncertain boundary between permissible audience reactions and impermissible disruptions at an event, “a warning and a request that defendants curtail their conduct” before proceeding to sanction can in some circumstances be important in preventing a constitutionally impermissible chilling effect on speech. In re Kay, 464 P.2d at 152. Such an onsite warning might not be required in all cases, and students had been generally informed of the policy against disruptions (including by schoolwide email the morning of the event). In this instance, however, the failure by administrators in the room to timely administer clear and specific warnings and instead to send conflicting signals about whether what was happening was acceptable or not (and indeed at one point to seemingly endorse the disruptions that had occurred up to that point by saying “I look out and say I’m glad this is going on here”) is part of what created the problem in the room and renders disciplinary sanction in these particular circumstances problematic.
There will be a half-day all-school reducation program as well (emphasis in original):
Accordingly, as one first step the law school will be holding a mandatory half-day session in spring quarter for all students on the topic of freedom of speech and the norms of the legal profession.
The question is how abject a failure Stanford Law School was in not providing the students with the proper education in the first place.DONATE
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