Free Speech

Stanford, and "Procedures That More Quickly Resolve Whether Constitutionally Protected Speech Is Involved in a … Complaint"


Jacob Sullum here at Reason writes about Stanford Dean Jenny Martinez's response on the Stanford satirical e-mail controversy:

Stanford Law School Dean Jenny S. Martinez says she did not hear about the university's two-month investigation of third-year student Nicholas Wallace's satirical flyer mocking the Federalist Society until June 1. That was the same day the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the university's Office of Community Standards a letter on Wallace's behalf, noting that the investigation, which put his diploma on hold two weeks before he was scheduled to graduate, violated Stanford's commitment to freedom of expression.

"I would never have approved such a thing," Martinez said in an email to the "Stanford Law Community" that Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern posted on Twitter. "Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech, is concerned about actions and climate that have the potential to chill speech, and has shared those concerns with the university." …

"When I became aware of this particular situation," Martinez wrote, "I strongly urged the University to consider whether it needs procedures that more quickly resolve whether constitutionally protected speech is involved in a Fundamental Standard complaint." She added that the university should reconsider "the policies and procedures that led to their placing a graduation hold on this student on the eve of final exams." …

"I think it is imperative that we take action to ensure that something like this does not happen again," Martinez said. She noted that the university has said it will "continue to review policies and practices" related to Fundamental Standard complaints that implicate freedom of speech. It said it also is "reviewing procedures for placing holds on student accounts in judicial cases in close proximity to graduation to ensure that holds are limited to cases for which the outcome could be serious enough to affect the timing of degree conferral."

Glad to hear that; read Sullum's article for more.

NEXT: Nametags at Conferences: Four Fails

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  1. Unless someone is fired for this fiasco, this after-the-fact statement is just meaningless cheap talk

    1. You figure Judge Sutton — or one of the other Republican judges who has decided to put one of the Stanford Federalist Society officers on the resume-polishing public payroll — is going to fire someone over this?

      1. She write an app, sell it on TV for $19.95. All those woke people can spare themselves a world of hurt when real Americans decide, enough.

      2. “You figure Judge Sutton — or one of the other Republican judges who has decided to put one of the Stanford Federalist Society officers on the resume-polishing public payroll — is going to fire someone over this?”

        He certainly should, if it turns out that one of the Stanford Federalist Society officers put the student’s diploma on hold. If it wasn’t them, then whoever has the authority to fire that person should exercise it.

  2. How about before starting an Investigation reviewing to see if it is protected speach?

    I understand Stanford has a pretty good law school (#2 according to US News) there is probably some prof there that knows something about the First Amendment and free spech.

    I do know Stanford is a private school, but I think they are bound by their public commitments for free speech.

    1. If Stanford doesn’t have the necessary in-house expertise, I think there is a guy at UCLA that has some knowledge of, and sensible viewpoints with respect to, free speech issues that might be willing to accept a gig as a consultant on these matters.

      His name is escaping me at the moment, but I’m sure I will think of it later…

      1. Name badge turned around, he’ll fix that in a moment.

        1. Quit lookin’ down by his crotch.

    2. Stanford is also bound by a California state statute (the Leonard Law) that applies First Amendment rules to private universities.

    3. The grads of the top law sschools are stupider than students in Life Skills learning to eat with a spoon. Nothing is stupider than a lawyer. No lawyer is stupider than a Top Tier grad. No Top Tier grad is stupider than a Justice of the Supreme Court. National policy is being made by the worst stupidocracy in history. Result? All the self stated goals of every law subject are in utter failure.

    4. “#2 according to US News”
      What do they know, really.
      Stanford has an long reputation of manipulating statistics to boost their US New ranking.

  3. You have to remember here that the process IS the punishment. Just like police use an arrest as a form of “punishment” universities use the disciplinary system as such.

    These are no stupid people. They know that they cannot hold students accountable for “hate speech” except in very limited circumstances. But what they can do is harass them for months with an investigation before ultimately reaching that conclusion.

    Here, one of their own caught the complaint, which is rare, but 99/100 it is going to be the other side that gets “the treatment” and that is perfectly alright with the university administration.

    Here the system did EXACTLY what it was designed to do. The only reason it ever came to light and people cared was because of the subject matter of the complaint. Had that been the Federalist Society being investigated for parody of an ACS event no one would have been the least bit concerned.

    1. Exactly. This bullshit happens to the other side all the time and the universities say “we have to make our students feel safe” (by harassing anyone Marxists want harassed).

  4. Remember when Stanford sued the State of California because it didn’t want to be committed to free speech? That was fun.

  5. It’s like when there’s a drive-by shooting. Nobody saw nothing.

  6. Is it’s Stanford’s choice to allow all constitutionally protected speech, seeing as they are a private university?

    I just find it hard to believe that they don’t have stricter rules for students than the constitution permits.

    1. As I note above, a California statute generally applies First Amendment rules to private universities.

      1. In your view is that Constitutional? Seems to imping on private rights.

        If someone at a private university in California wants to set up a KKK club or a Nazi club, they are obligated to fund it?

        1. “impinging”

          showing once again the need for an edit function for comments

        2. In your view is that Constitutional? Seems to imping on private rights.

          Just a guess, but it could be that this Leonard Law would cut Stanford off from some state services if it didn’t abide by it. That’s how private universities are held to Title IX and other federal anti-discrimination statutes, I believe.

          1. The wiki article on the law says “Under the terms of the law, students may file civil lawsuits to seek injunctive and declaratory relief against their institutions; students may also recover any attorney’s fees related to the case”. And apparently that happened in Corry v. Stanford.

          2. No, the relevant statute (California Education Code § 94367) applies to every private college and university in the state (although there is a carve out for religious schools).

        3. “In your view is that Constitutional? Seems to imping on private rights.”

          It’s hard to see how the Leonard law could be constitutional. A University is certainly an expressive association.

  7. Does this mean that applying to someone on the left the rules and methods that are applied to people on the right may actually work to get things changed? Huh.

    1. I can’t help but remember that RBG’s earlier career in advancing equal rights for both genders* followed the strategy of litigating situations in which men were discriminated against on account of sex.

      Alas, she started the equal rights litigation phase of her career just about when the US military draft was winding down. If she started about three years earlier, we might have gotten a definitive answer to the question of whether a male only draft is constitutional.

      If we get a definitive decision that a male only draft registration is unconstitutional [which can happen because a male who fails to register can face consequences], then and only then will I concede that the ERA isn’t really needed.


      * in the olden day when you couldn’t be cancelled for claiming that there were two genders

      1. All “men” need to do is self-identify as a woman and then they’re exempt from the draft!

    2. When Trump won, the left ran around for a few days wondering, “What if they do to us what we’ve been doing to them?”

      Meaning command and control of the outrage industry.

  8. Sullum is one of the least credible Reason writers. Most of them are pretty bad overall. Very shallow, pretend to care about policy but ultimately they only really seem to care about mean tweets.

    At least we all know not to take what they say seriously any more.

  9. And will she say the same thing the next time some student mocks George Floyd, BLM, or transgender people?

    1. Yes. Yes, she will. Next question?

      1. “Yes. Yes, she will.”

        Poor naive child.

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