Paul L. Caron

Friday, March 24, 2023

DEI Dean Escalates Battle Against Dean; Stanford Law School's Sole Conservative Professor Weighs In

Following up on yesterday's post, Dean Martinez's 10-Page Letter To The Stanford Community About The Disruption Of Judge Duncan's Speech:  Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Diversity and Free Speech Can Coexist at Stanford, by Tirien Steinbach (Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Stanford):

Stanford Law (2022)Stanford Law School’s chapter of the Federalist Society earlier this month invited Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan to speak on campus. Student groups that vehemently opposed Judge Duncan’s prior advocacy and judicial decisions regarding same-sex marriage, immigration, trans people, abortion and other issues showed up to protest. Some protesters heckled the judge and peppered him with questions and comments. Judge Duncan answered in turn. Regardless of where you stand politically, none of this heated exchange was helpful for civil discourse or productive dialogue. ...

My participation at the event with Judge Duncan has been widely discussed. I was asked to attend the event by the Federalist Society, the organizers of the student protest and the administration. My role was to observe and, if needed, de-escalate.

As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides.

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. ...

At one point during the event, I asked Judge Duncan, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I was referring to the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech: to consider not only the benefit of our words but also the consequences. It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served by leaders who ask themselves, “Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?” I will certainly continue to ask this question myself. ...

Whenever and wherever we can, we must de-escalate the divisive discourse to have thoughtful conversations and find common ground. Free speech, academic freedom and work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion must coexist in a diverse, democratic society.

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.

Wall Street Journal Letters to the Editor, A Wake-Up Call From Stanford Law School:

It is no longer possible to ignore the rise of ideological intolerance or the damage that university diversity bureaucracies can do.

Michael W. McConnell (Stanford):

The disruption of Judge Kyle Duncan’s talk at Stanford Law School (“My Struggle Session at Stanford Law School,” op-ed, March 18) was a terrible event—terrible for the speaker, the students who wished to hear him and the law school’s environment as a place of civil discourse. But it was also a necessary wake-up call. Not only for Stanford, I hope, but for U.S. universities in general.

It is no longer possible to ignore the rise of ideological intolerance among a segment of the student body. Most students—left as well as center and right—want to engage in serious discussion of controversial issues, which is impossible when particular ideologies seize control of the conversation and shut down alternatives. That is why it is so important for groups like the Federalist Society to bring a diversity of voices, and for law schools to welcome and protect them.

Nor is it possible to ignore the damage that university diversity bureaucracies can do to the scholarly values of liberal education. Diversity and inclusion are of course good things, but neither value is advanced by partisanship and censorship.

The good news is that the institutions charged with defending liberal education have taken note. The Stanford administration is exploring ways to strengthen academic freedom and clarify the substance and enforcement of rules of student conduct. Faculty are discussing long-term ways to improve the climate of discourse at the law school. And I have heard that students on both sides of the divide are thinking of ways to draw back from the abyss. It is too soon to be sure, but on the rubble of this disaster some good things may grow.

Ed Whelan (National Review), Stanford DEI Dean Escalates Battle Against Law-School Dean:

In a remarkable op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Stanford law school DEI dean Tirien Steinbach escalates her battle with law school dean Jenny Martinez. Steinbach had already given Martinez ample cause to fire her. It’s difficult to see how Martinez could avoid doing so now. ...

In her letter, Martinez revealed that she had placed Steinbach on leave. In explaining university policy, Martinez pointedly observed:

[W]hen a disruption occurs and the speaker asks for an administrator to help restore order, the administrator who responds should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying, for that imposes the kind of institutional orthodoxy and coercion that the policy on Academic Freedom precludes. For that reason, I stand by my statement in the apology letter that at the event on March 9, “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”

Steinbach never recognizes or acknowledges that the disruption of Judge Duncan’s event violated Stanford policy. ... Steinbach never acknowledges or apologizes for her own gross misconduct. On the contrary, she defends her conduct in terms that directly conflict with Martinez’s criticism of her: She aimed “to give voice to the [protesting] students.” She “wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus” so that he could ponder “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” So much for Martinez’s admonition that administrators “should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying.”

Steinbach fundamentally disagrees with Dean Martinez (and with Stanford’s president) on the role of freedom of speech and on the relationship between free speech and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (or DEI).  ...

Steinbach’s op-ed is titled “Diversity and Free Speech Can Coexist at Stanford.” But Martinez and Steinbach have very different ideas of what such co-existence involves. It is difficult to see how Martinez and Steinbach can co-exist at Stanford. It’s time for Martinez to realize that Steinbach’s juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

New York Post, Stanford Diversity Dean Who Confronted Trump-Appointed Judge Defends Her Actions:

The Stanford Law School diversity dean on leave after lecturing a Trump-appointed judge as he was being targeted by an unruly student protest has refused to apologize for her actions. ... Steinbach refused to take blame, even though top officials at the school said after the student protest that “staff members” present failed to properly intervene.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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