The Stanford Law Dean’s shameful attack on free speech meant this for the educational masses

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“Is the juice worth squeezing?” Even though it sounds like hipster bullshit, it could become a gravestone for free speech at Stanford University. It’s the wise words of Stanford DEI Dean Tirien Steinbach that could be called one of the most embarrassing moments in modern legal education.

Over the years, free speech has been in free fall on our campus. Many faculty members have purged conservatives and libertarians from their ranks in what has become an academic echo chamber. Usually conservative speakers are blocked or canceled with the support of professors and students.

However, what happened at Stanford this week shocked even those of us who have defied this orthodoxy for years.

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The Stanford Federalist Society invited Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to speak on campus. This is a great opportunity to hear the views of one of the highest judicial officials in this country. Some students also tended to apply to Duncan for the prestigious clerkship, so this was an opportunity to forge important connections.

Students walking on Stanford University campus

Students walking on Stanford University campus (Google Maps)

However, the liberal student decided that allowing a conservative judge to speak on campus was intolerable and began to “deplatform” him by shouting at him. It was reminiscent of an equally embarrassing event at Yale Law School when another conservative speaker was also cancelled – law students later objected to the fact that campus police were present.

At this event, Duncan plans to speak on the topic: “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: COVID, Guns, and Twitter.” A video shows students preventing Duncan from speaking and a judge having administrators summoned to allow the event to continue.

Dean Steinbach then took the stage and, instead of demanding that the students allow the show to go ahead, Steinback launched a tirade at the judges for trying to be heard despite such objections.

General view of the Main Quadrangle and Hoover Tower buildings on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California.

General view of the Main Quadrangle and Hoover Tower buildings on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. (David Madison/Getty Images)

Steinbach explained, “I had to write something because I’m so uncomfortable here. And I’m not saying that out of sympathy, I’m just saying that I’m very, very uncomfortable.”

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One would expect that the next line would be a denunciation of those who refuse to let opposing views be heard in law school. Instead, it turned out to be the freedom of speech itself that was so stressful and painful for the law dean.

Steinbach stated, “It’s inconvenient to say that for many people here, your work has taken its toll.” After a perfunctory nod to free speech, Steinbach proceeded to disembowel himself to the delight of the law students.

He continued, “again I’m still asking, is the juice worth squeezing?” “Is it worth the pain it’s caused, the division it’s caused? Do you have anything really important to say about Twitter and guns and Covid that’s worth the impact this is having on the divisions of these people.”

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It’s an argument familiar to many of us in higher education. Freedom of speech is now often portrayed as dangerous and a threat to public safety. Steinbach suggested that it was Judge Duncan who should be ashamed of trying to speak out when others objected to his views, including himself.

View of the Hoover Tower and Stanford University campus from Stanford Stadium.

View of the Hoover Tower and Stanford University campus from Stanford Stadium. (David Madison/Getty Images)

Dean Steinbach then encouraged those who opposed Duncan to come out in protest. Many do. That’s not a problem. The problem comes to the show to interfere with that. What is critical is that Steinbach was asked to step forward as administrator to speak on behalf of the law school, not other protesters.

The response to Steinbach’s humiliating intervention is also all too familiar. MSNBC regular Elie Mystal defended the law student in preventing the judge from speaking. He called conservatives “victims” and whined just for students to express themselves.

Mystal is a “justice correspondent” for Nation magazine and writes for Above the Law, a leading anti-freedom website. He was known for racist attacks on black conservatives and calling the Constitution “trash”.

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Despite her inflammatory history, I would be the first to speak out against conservatives who shout at Mystal or prevent her from speaking. However, liberals insist that preventing others from speaking is an exercise in free speech.

Cancel campaigns are now a common occurrence in schools from Yale to Northwestern to Georgetown. Blocking others from speaking is not an exercise in free speech. This is the opposite of free speech.

Nevertheless, the faculty has supported the claim. CUNY Dean of Law Mary Lu Bilek shows how far this trend has come. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was barred from speaking about the “importance of free speech”, Bilek insisted that interfering with free speech was free speech. (Bilek later canceled himself and resigned).

Even student newspapers have declared against speeches falling outside the protections of free speech. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, professors literally rallied around a professor physically attacking pro-life supporters and tearing down their displays.

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Stanford must now decide whether the “juice” of free speech is worth the “wringing” of the masses.

The ominous juices that Steinback mocks are what define and sustain higher education.

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