Elite University Vows To Strengthen Free Speech Commitments After Law Students Harassed, Heckled Speaker

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Stanford University vowed to tighten up its commitment to freedom of expression after law students shouted down a conservative judge in early March, according to a campus-wide message sent on Monday.

University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne informed the campus community that the school would be implementing “new initiatives to safeguard and strengthen” free expression and viewpoint diversity, according to the Monday letter. The announcement was sent to kick-off the spring quarter and references a March 9 incident during which Stanford Law School (SLS) Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Tirien Steinbach berated Federal Judge Kyle Duncan during his on-campus speech after Duncan asked for an administrator to silence student hecklers who disrupted the event. (RELATED: Federal Judges Won’t Hire Clerks From Stanford Law After Students Shouted Down Federal Judge)

“Learning thrives in an environment of discussion and experimentation, in which both new and old ideas encounter dissent and countervailing views. That environment is essential to preparing students for life after Stanford. The world is a place of disagreement, and we would not be preparing students adequately if we sheltered them from ideas they find difficult,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote.

A view of Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019 in Stanford, California.

STANFORD, – MARCH 12: A view of Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019 in Stanford, California.(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Stanford offers a Civic, Liberal, and Global Education (COLLEGE) requirement to teach first-year students “skills in the constructive discussion of contentious issues,” according to the letter. The new initiatives, which were not specifically named, come on the heels of a memo issued by SLS Dean Jenny Martinez on March 22 that announced Steinbach was placed on leave, that all students will receive free speech training and that faculty will be trained on responding to disruptions.

“We must continue building understanding and active dialogue about both the opportunities and the expectations of being members of this community, including shared commitments to both free expression and to dignity and integrity in our interactions,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. “These commitments must be reflected in our current community as we interact in classrooms, residences, and offices. They must also be shared with prospective faculty, staff, and students who are considering joining Stanford, and through orientations of new community members.”

Stanford University did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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