Stanford University students protested school dean Jenny Martinez for apologizing to Fifth Circuit Appellate Judge Kyle Duncan after he was shouted down by students and one administrator last week.
Over the weekend, Martinez, along with Stanford President and Bing Presidential Professor Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., sent a letter to Duncan apologizing for the behavior of their students and an administrator during his appearance on campus Thursday.
On Monday, the dean arrived to her classroom and found her whiteboards covered in fliers criticizing her and Duncan.
“We, the students in your constitutional law class, are sorry for exercising our 1st Amendment rights,” read one of the fliers while others asked “where was his apology?” in reference to judge Duncan.
“‘COUNTER-SPEECH’ IS FREE SPEECH,” read another flyer on the white board among copies of apology letter to Duncan.
Martinez arrived to the classroom where she teaches constitutional law to find a whiteboard covered in fliers attacking Duncan and defending those who disrupted him. The fliers parroted the argument, made by student activists, that the heckler’s veto is a form of free speech. pic.twitter.com/AjfN9VooBP
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) March 14, 2023
Students protesting Martinez’s Monday class dressed in black and wore face masks reading “counter-speech is free speech” while staring down the dean, according to five students present. Student protestors also formed a human corridor from the dean’s classroom to the building’s exit, comprising nearly one-third of the law school, students told the Washington Free Beacon.
Fifty out of the 60 enrolled in Martinez’s class reportedly participated in the protest. Students who chose not to participate also received a similar stare down, according to the outlet.
“They gave us weird looks if we didn’t wear black and join the crowd,” said first-year law student Luke Schumacher, who is enrolled in Martinez’s class and declined to participate in the protest. “It didn’t feel like the inclusive, belonging atmosphere that the DEI office claims to be creating.”
Another student who requested anonymity said the protest was “eerie.”
“The protesters were silent, staring from behind their masks at everyone who chose not to protest, including the dean,” the anonymous student said. “[That] form of protest would have been completely fine” during Duncan’s Thursday appearance.
Martinez did not immediately respond for comment, the outlet reported.
“According to fliers put up across campus by activists citing the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights — the U.S.’s oldest civil rights coalition — as a judge and lawyer, Duncan has been a right-wing advocate for laws that would harm women, immigrants and LGBTQ+ people,” The Stanford Daily reports. “The fliers cite examples of his attempts to deny same-sex couples adoption rights and how he served as lead trial and appellate counsel in a case that stopped transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice at state institutions.”
The Washington Free Beacon previously reported that some students also took issue with Duncan’s refusal to use the preferred pronouns of a transgender sex offender in a 2020 opinion.
Duncan, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, was interrupted by students during his March 9 appearance at Stanford University. After Duncan requested a school administrator to control the student’s behavior, the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion arrived and echoed the students’ sentiments by accusing the judge of causing “harm.”
“Your opinions from the bench land as absolute disenfranchisement” of the students’ rights, Steinbach said, according to the Washington Free Beacon. She further accused him of “tearing the fabric of this community.”
Steinbach, who continued criticizing Duncan and appeared emotional at times, insisted the university believes in “free speech,” including speech that “denies humanity.”
“We write to apologize for the disruption of your recent speech at Stanford Law School,” Tessier-Lavigne and Martinez’s Saturday letter read. “We are very clear with our students that, given our commitment to free expression, if there are speakers they disagree with, they are welcome to exercise their right to protest but not to disrupt the proceedings.”
“In addition, staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so,” the letter reads, noting Steinbach’s behavior was “inappropriate” and not “aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”
“We are taking steps to ensure that something like this does not happen again,” the letter concluded. “Freedom of speech is a bedrock principle for the law school, the university, and a democratic society, and we can and must do better to ensure that it continues even in polarized times.”