A federal appeals court judge is calling for Stanford University to fire one of the college's associate deans after she participated in a student-led protest during his scheduled appearance on campus. He's also calling for the university to discipline the students that were involved.
According to multiple outlets. the university's Federalist Society chapter had invited Fifth U.S. Circuit Court Judge Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee, to give a lecture at Stanford's law school. Last Thursday, Duncan appeared at the school for his talk to the group of students who had invited him. Instead, he was shouted down by almost a hundred students who prevented him from giving his address in spite of Stanford's documented free speech policies published by the university's Office of Community Standards.
The protesters were angry with Duncan over a 2020 opinion in which he refused to use a transgender offender's preferred pronouns, according to several outlets.
During an interview with The Washington Free Beacon about the incident, Duncan said, "If enough of these kids get into the legal profession, the rule of law will descend into barbarism."
The heckling continued as Duncan tried to ask school administrators to step in and quiet the protesters. Despite the law school's free speech policy to prevent the interruption of guest speakers, none of the administrators who were in the room moved to quiet the students.
According to video clips of the incident posted to social media, it was then that Tirien Steinbach, the school's associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) stepped to the podium. Instead of admonishing the students, Steinbach proceeded to lecture the judge for several minutes from prepared remarks, accusing Duncan of causing "harm" through his work on the appeals court.
"I had to write something down because I am so uncomfortable up here. And I don't say that for sympathy. I'm just saying I'm deeply, deeply uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable cuz this event is tearing at the fabric of this community that I care about and am here to support. And I don't know and I have to ask myself and I'm not a cynic to ask this: Is the juice worth the squeeze? Is this worth it?" Steinbach said.
"It's uncomfortable to say that for many people here, your work has caused harm. Has caused harm," she said.
Steinbeck repeated she was "uncomfortable" by Duncan's appearance on campus and kept asking, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?"
When Duncan asked her what that meant, he didn't understand, she replied, "I mean is it worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes? Do you have something so incredible important to say about Twitter and guns and COVID that that is worth this impact on the division of these people who have sat next to each other for years, who are going through what is the battle of law school together, so that they can go out into the world and be advocates. And this is the division it's caused."
When recalling the incident to the Free Beacon, the judge described it as a "bizarre therapy session from hell."
Duncan wasn't given the opportunity to continue with his lecture. After a hostile question and answer session, he was escorted out the back door by U.S. Marshals who were there to protect him, according to the outlet.
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In a commentary for The Daily Signal, GianCarlo Canaparo, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote, "It seems that the protesters targeted Duncan because they perceive the judge as being hostile to progressive social causes."
Canaparo noted the National Lawyers Guild, a left-wing group that helped to organize the protest, wrote, "Duncan's record, jurisprudence, views, and personal conduct are beyond 'disrespectful': they are as antithetical to the social justice mission of NLG as it is possible to be."
"To date, no protester, Stanford administrator, or defender of their actions has argued that any of Duncan's rulings were legally wrong. Rather, according to the National Lawyers Guild, its contempt for him stems from a 'strong moral commitment' to progressive politics," the senior legal fellow wrote.
Judge Duncan later said nobody should feel sorry for him. He said he felt bad for the Federalist Society group who invited him to speak.
"They're a small group, obviously way outnumbered," Duncan said. "They are the ones who lack power and status at Stanford Law. It's ridiculous that they can't get treated with civility, and it's grotesquely unfair."
After Duncan's event was over, Steinbach told the members of the Federalist Society that the protestors had not violated the Stanford disruption policy, claiming their screaming tantrum was "exactly what the freedom of speech was meant to look like—messy."
Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez later apologized to Duncan in a joint letter, saying, "We are taking steps to ensure that something like this does not happen again." But the administrators did not reveal exactly what steps they were taking.
Judge Duncan accepted Tessier-Lavigne and Martinez's apology, according to The National Review.
"I particularly appreciate the apology's important acknowledgment that '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.' Particularly given the depth of the invective directed towards me by the protestors, the administrators' behavior was completely at odds with the law school's mission of training future members of the bench and bar," Duncan said in a statement to the outlet.
The judge also noted the Stanford administrators' promise to make sure this doesn't happen to another guest speaker.
"Given the disturbing nature of what happened, clearly concrete and comprehensive steps are necessary. I look forward to learning what measures Stanford plans to take to restore a culture of intellectual freedom," he said.
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