The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

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.