Stanford law students shouted down a federal judge during his scheduled Thursday talk as administrators stood by, with one stepping in to say his speech “denies the humanity of people.”
Prior to the lunchtime talk by Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, titled “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter,” Stanford Law School Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach sent an email to students affirming their right to protest the event, according to a screenshot obtained by Ed Whelan, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. At the talk, she said she was “uncomfortable” with the event because it was “tearing at the fabric of this community that I care about and I’m here to support.”
“Your advocacy, your opinions from the bench land as absolute disenfranchisement of their rights,” Steinbach told Duncan, according to a recording of the event. “For many people here, your work has caused harm.”
With the acquiescence of @StanfordLaw administrators, Stanford law students yesterday shouted down Fifth Circuit judge Stuart Kyle Duncan at a scheduled event on topic of “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter.” 1/
— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) March 10, 2023
Students shouted phrases like “your racism is showing” and “respect black women.”
“So you’ve invited me to speak here, and I’m being heckled nonstop,” Duncan said. “I’m just asking for an administrator.”
While continuing to accuse Duncan of harm, Steinbach said she wanted to give him “space to finish” the remarks.
“We believe that the way to address speech that feels abhorrent, that feels harmful, that literally denies the humanity of people, that one way to do that is with more speech and not less,” she said.
After affirming the value of freedom of speech, she continued to accuse Duncan of causing harm.
“Is it worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes?” she asked. “Do you have something so incredible, so important to say about Twitter and guns and COVID that is worth this impact?”
Duncan has a record of defending a traditional view of marriage in court. In 2020, Duncan upheld Texas’ ban on abortion during COVID-19 that declared it a non-essential medical procedure.
Nico Perrino, Executive Vice President of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the whole scenario “was bizarre and incredibly chilling.”
“In my over 10 years at FIRE, I’ve never seen a dean of a major university respond to disruptions of a campus speech by occupying the podium, suggesting the university revisit its protections for free speech, praising the hecklers, condemning the speaker, and asking rhetorically if hosting the speech was ‘worth the squeeze,'” he said.
“If that’s how Stanford’s promises of free speech are utilized in reality, the school might as well toss those promises in the garbage,” Perrino continued. “What student would want to host a potentially controversial speaker after witnessing the administration’s response to this event?”
The event was hosted by the Federalist Society’s Stanford chapter.
Steinbach, Stanford Law, and Whelan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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