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Stanford Law Students Shamelessly Attempt to Silence Dissent

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A Wake-Up Call for Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education

Prior to delving into this article, take the time to view the nine-minute video capturing the recent tumultuous event at Stanford Law School. Pay close attention to Tirien Steinbach, the law school's associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion. It seems that a combination of self-satisfied pseudo-intellectualism and moral timidity are common qualifications for DEI positions—of which there are countless—tasked with upholding campus dogmas.

Cancel culture, a social phenomenon marked by the public shaming and ostracizing of individuals or groups due to their controversial views or actions, has permeated various aspects of society. This mentality promotes intolerance and stifles intellectual growth, as it discourages individuals from engaging in open, constructive debates to challenge their beliefs and broaden their understanding of complex issues.

The actions of the Stanford law students mirror the core principles of cancel culture. Instead of respectfully listening to the speaker and then presenting counterarguments, the students chose to engage in disruptive behavior to silence the dissenting opinion. This approach not only reflects immaturity but also undermines the primary purpose of educational institutions, which is to foster an environment conducive to learning and the free exchange of ideas.

It is crucial for academic institutions to take a stand against such childish and intolerant behavior, and to reaffirm their commitment to intellectual diversity and open dialogue. By doing so, they can cultivate an environment in which students are encouraged to challenge their own beliefs and engage with differing perspectives, ultimately leading to a more well-rounded and inclusive educational experience.

March 9th, 2023: A Turbulent Event at Stanford Law School

On March 9th, 2023 at Stanford Law School, the Stanford Federalist Society organized an event titled "The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: COVID, Guns, and Twitter." The Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan was a featured speaker. Despite calls from liberal student organizations to cancel the event, the society remained steadfast, and the show went on.

As Judge Duncan attempted to address the audience, a cacophony of dissent arose. Approximately 60 student protestors raised their voices, drowning out the judge's speech for 20 to 30 minutes. Their message was clear: Judge Duncan was not welcome, and they held no respect for him. Amidst the chaos, the judge appealed to the school administrators for intervention.

Tyrion Steinbeck, the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, finally took to the podium. Her speech, however, was a disorganized and disjointed attempt to address the situation. She expressed her discomfort with the judge's presence and questioned whether the "Juice was worth squeeze" given the discord it generated. While she claimed that many in the administration believed in free speech, she also hinted at the need to reconsider the university's free speech policy due to the harm caused.

Inaction from Administrators, Apologies, and Protests

Throughout Steinbeck's perplexing address, three other administrators stood by, doing nothing to quell the disruption. Following her speech, a disorderly Q&A session ensued, with student protestors continuing their interruptions.

Two days after the incident, Stanford Law School issued an apology to Judge Kyle Duncan. They acknowledged the inconsistency with their free speech policies and expressed regret for his experience on campus. The school reminded students of their right to protest, but not to disrupt proceedings, and recognized the failure of staff members to enforce university policies.

 The way this event unfolded was not aligned with our institutional commitment to freedom of speech. The school is reviewing what transpired and will work to ensure protocols are in place so that disruptions of this nature do not occur again, and is committed to the conduct of events on terms that are consistent with the disruption policy and the principles of free speech and critical inquiry they support.

In a twist of irony, dozens of students protested Dean Jenny Martinez for apologizing to Judge Duncan. Undeterred, she defended her decision and penned a 10-page memorandum on the importance of free speech, addressed to the law students. The fact that these students seemed unfamiliar with the concept of free speech, despite their legal education, leaves one to wonder about the state of today's law schools.

A Controversial Recommendation and Calls for Accountability

In a perplexing move, the Acting Associate Dean of Students recommended in an email to the Federalist Society's leadership that students seek support for their mental health from the very person who had interrupted and insulted Judge Duncan, Tyrion Steinbeck. This suggestion was akin to advising someone wishing to hone their public speaking skills to consult with a notoriously poor orator.

Judge Duncan, deeply affected by the incident, called for Steinbeck's dismissal and disciplinary action against the disruptive students. He described the experience as a "bizarre therapy session from hell." While some might interpret this remark as likening the protesting law students to demons, such a comparison would be extreme. Even demons, one might argue, would not have behaved so poorly.

At the time of reporting, Tyrion Steinbeck is on leave from Stanford University, while the students involved have yet to face disciplinary measures. The situation raises questions about accountability and the consequences of such disruptive behavior in academic institutions.

Analyzing the Incident: Key Takeaways

  1. The Role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Programs: Tyrion Steinbach, the Associate Dean of DEI at Stanford, was tasked with designing programming, strategy, and providing counseling to students in matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. While DEI programs aim to create an environment of equal opportunity, particularly for historically marginalized groups, the incident at Stanford raises questions about their effectiveness. Critics argue that these programs can inadvertently create hostility towards conservative views and foster new forms of inequality and discrimination.
  2. The Distortion of Liberal Values: Steinbach's actions might appear supportive of liberal values, but in reality, they represent a more extreme-left stance. By attempting to suppress free speech for those she opposes, she contradicts the fundamental principles of liberalism. Her catchphrase, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?", could also be applied to DEI programs themselves, as they may unintentionally cause more harm than good.
  3. Characteristics of Left-Wing Extremism: Research on authoritarianism suggests that individuals often develop an authoritarian mindset before adopting a specific political ideology. Left-wing authoritarians, in particular, tend to experience intense emotions and perceive the world as a dangerous place. This may explain the paranoid and antagonistic reaction of the protesting law students at Stanford. Lacking critical thinking skills, these students resorted to disruptive tactics to silence opposing ideas, mirroring the characteristics of cancel culture.
  4. Leadership Failure and Student Behavior: While instances of liberal students disrespecting conservative figures on campuses are not uncommon, the extreme behavior of the Stanford law students can be attributed to a failure of leadership. The students' actions were likely emboldened by left-wing authoritarians fostering a sense of paranoia, distrust, entitlement, and arrogance. The administrators' role in enabling this behavior raises concerns about the integrity of academic institutions and their commitment to upholding the principles of free speech and intellectual diversity.
  5. Defending the Protesting Law Students: Some individuals have attempted to defend the actions of the protesting law students at Stanford, claiming that this new generation of law students is superior for taking a stand against perceived injustice. However, their approach of shutting down free speech and resorting to disruptive tactics to drown out dissenting views does not reflect maturity or superiority. Instead, it suggests a troubling shift towards intolerance and a disregard for intellectual diversity.

Final Thoughts: The Need for True Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The failure of DEI programs can be attributed to their reliance on bullying and immature behavior, rather than empathy and compassion. To foster meaningful change, the world needs individuals who are willing to listen, compromise, and accept diversity of thought. It is essential to treat people as equals and include varying viewpoints in discussions. The solution lies in embracing the true meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion, transcending the superficial implementation of these concepts in academic institutions.

The Stanford Law School shouting incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges that educational institutions face in maintaining an environment that encourages open dialogue, respect for differing opinions, and a genuine commitment to intellectual diversity.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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