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Stanford Law's Diversity Dean on Leave After Run In With Federal Judge

AP Photo/Ben Margot, File

Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez has confirmed that the associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion is on leave after she was seen on video interrupting a recent lecture by federal judge Kyle Duncan, who was being heckled by students.


The incident happened during an event hosted by the school’s Federalist Society earlier this month. Duncan, who sits on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, asked DEI administrator Tirien Steinbach to intervene, but she appeared to join in, accusing him of causing “harm.”

"Your opinions from the bench land as absolute disenfranchisement," she told Duncan. “Do you have something so incredibly important to say about Twitter and guns and COVID that that is worth this impact on the division of these people?”

In a detailed letter released Wednesday, Martinez stood by her apology to Duncan, which she said was given "to acknowledge that his speech was disrupted in ways that undermined his ability todeliver the remarks he wanted to give to audience members who wanted to hear them, as a result of the failure to ensure that the university’s disruption policies were followed. That apology, and the policy it defends, is fully consistent with the First Amendment and the Leonard Law."


She continued: "Enforcement of university policies against disruption of speakers is necessary to ensure the expression of a wide range of viewpoints. It also follows from this that when a disruption occurs and the speaker asks for an administrator to help restore order, the administrator who responds should not insert themselves into debate with their own criticism of the speaker’s views and the suggestion that the speaker reconsider whether what they plan to say is worth saying, for that imposes the kind of institutional orthodoxy and coercion that the policy on Academic Freedom precludes. For that reason, I stand by my statement in the apology letter that at the event on March 9, '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.'" 

Going forward, Martinez said there will be “mandatory educational programming” for all students on freedom of speech and “the norms of the legal profession,” instead of disciplinary action against specific ones involved in the protest.


Additionally, she said a more thorough policy with “clear protocols for dealing with disruptions” is something they will look to adopt and educate faculty, students, and staff on in the future.

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