Stanford DEI Prof Believes Student Protest Was Authentic Free Speech

Stanford DEI Prof Believes Student Protest Was Authentic Free Speech

Stanford DEI Prof Believes Student Protest Was Authentic Free Speech

Standard DEI professor Tieren Steinbach doesn’t get it. She’s currently on leave from Stanford and is defending her actions in an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal. According to her, the student protesters were engaged in “authentic” free speech.

Steinbach believes that the vitriol from the students was quite mild, even as some screamed at Judge Duncan hoping his daughter would be raped some day. But you see, that’s “authentic” free speech don’tcha know. Then, when Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to step up, imagine his surprise when Professor Steinbach came to the podium with her prepared remarks, which aren’t mentioned in her little op-ed. 

I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.

Except he wasn’t welcome, not even after Steinbach finished her prepared in advance diatribe directed mostly at Judge Kyle Duncan. The Stanford student tantrums continued with her tacit approval. 

The entire incident shows just how far our universities have gone down the tubes. Administrators and professors let the students run the asylum as it were with zero consequences. Yes, amazingly Jennifer Martinez, the dean of Stanford Law School, called out the students and defended not only her prior apology to Judge Duncan, but free speech in a ten page letter sent to the student body and administration. As she notes, free speech doesn’t mean screaming in another’s face to shut them up if you don’t like what they have to say. Free speech means dialogue, reason, courtesy, and listening. None of which the students exhibited that day or since.

It’s also a shame that in her letter Ms. Martinez felt she had to defend her earlier apology to Judge Duncan. In a better world, the students would be expected to apologize to the judge. But at least Stanford Law is trying to teach its charges, and uphold as a standard, some rudiments of the American Constitution.

You can read the entire letter here. My only quibble is the consequences the student protestors will face. Which is essentially NONE. 

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).


Given this, focusing solely on punishing those who engaged in unprotected disruptions such as noisy shouting during the lecture would leave perversely unaddressed the students whose speech was perhaps constitutionally protected but well outside the norms of civil discourse that we hope to cultivate in a professional school. As a law school, it is within our educational mandate to address with students the norms of the legal profession with regard to, for example, offering substantive criticism of legal arguments and positions rather than vulgar personal insults, and the potential consequences for their professional reputations of such speech.

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.

Quite honestly, will the shrieking Stanford students learn anything during that mandatory free speech session? I have to presume they won’t given the consistency of their actions during that event and since.

For example, they want free speech as long as it is on THEIR terms. Yet when a media outlet published some of their names (freedom of the press), they demanded a cease and desist. Evidently they can dish it out, but cannot take the heat.

Back to Steinbach. It’s highly evident from her op-ed that her definition of “authentic” free speech involves looking at it through the lens of diversity, equity, and fairness for all the right people, but not everyone. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion plans must have clear goals that lead to greater inclusion and belonging for all community members. How we strike a balance between free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion is worthy of serious, thoughtful and civil discussion. Free speech and diversity, equity and inclusion are means to an end, and one that I think many people can actually agree on: to live in a country with liberty and justice for all its people.

I honestly don’t know what Steinbach is smoking, but there wasn’t anything serious or thoughtful about the “discussion” that took place at Stanford two weeks ago, and it sure as hell wasn’t civil! 

Will this be a wakeup call to universities? Only if there are actionable consequences. A half day session on the meaning of free speech won’t move the needle, nor will Tirien Steinbach’s ‘I have no idea why some people are so offended by what happened’ woe is me op-ed.

Feature Photo Credit: Original artwork by Victory Girls Darleen Click

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1 Comment
  • Cameron says:

    Expulsions and barring them from admission to any law school for at least five years is the only thing they will listen to.

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