Are Duke Law Faculty Forcing a Student-Run Journal to Publish an Offensive Article?

It does not seem that way, despite some reporting to the contrary.


The Above the Law headline is flashy: "Student Staff Resign After Duke Law School Faculty Try to Force Anti-Trans Article Into Journal." The subhed declares "Pretty sure this student-run journal is supposed to be… student-run." The story begins:

Duke Law School Faculty have incited a turf war with the student staff at Law and Contemporary Problems, the school's oldest law journal. At the heart of the dispute is the Faculty Board's insistence that an upcoming "Sex in the Law" issue include an article by UK philosophy professor Kathleen Stock. As Stock has spent the last few years aggressively promoting herself as the professor willing to rubberstamp whatever anti-trans sentiment will get her a media interview, it's not exactly a mystery how she intends to use the student journal as a vehicle.

Although the ATL story has lots about Stock, it says nothing about the actual content of Stock's article.

The ATL story certainly sounds bad, as most law journals are led and managed by students, with minimal faculty supervision (let alone control). Forcing student editors to publish an article would be quite a breach of journal norms, but is that really what occurred? As it turns out, there is much more to this story than the ATL story suggests.

When I saw that the journal in question was Law & Contemporary Problems, my antenna went up. This is not the typical student-run journal. To the contrary, it is a faculty-run journal dedicated to publishing symposia on "contemporary problems." The way things work is that academics propose symposia to the journal, and such symposia are expected to present a range of viewpoints. Students do the basic editorial work, but unlike with normal student-run journals, editorial content decisions are made by the faculty board and the "special editors" of accepted symposia (as is detailed on the journal's website). Indeed, these guidelines make clear that only the faculty board can reject an article, and further explain that while student editors will help with line edits and the like, they "will not, however, suggest any substantive changes to the article," let alone make substantive editorial demands.

In this case, the board received a proposal for a symposium on "Sex and the Law" put together by Duke law professors Doriane Coleman and Kim Krawiec. This symposium was to include authors representing a range of viewpoints.. One contributor was to be Kathleen Stock, a philosopher at the University of Sussex in the UK. who is a controversial, if also misrepresented, figure in debates over sexuality and gender identity. [I will insert the names of the other contributors once I've confirmed them.]

When the symposium proposal was under consideration, some student editors objected to including Stock. In an effort to be sensitive to some student concerns, the faculty board sought input from the existing editors of the journal before making a final decision on the symposium as a whole. At no point did the faculty board consider excluding Stock. Given the opportunity to express input on whether to publish the symposium with a contribution from Stock, the then-serving student editors voted in favor of publication, and the faculty board accepted the symposium.  This was the state of play last Fall.

Fast forward to 2021. A new student editorial board took over. The new board, unhappy about its predecessor's decision, tried to reverse course and excise Stock from the symposium. Although the symposium had been approved by both the faculty board and the prior student editorial board, some students were sufficiently upset with the Stock contribution that they wanted to remove it. As should not surprise, the faculty board refused. Some students were unhappy with this decision, and several opted to resign from the journal.

The faculty board, for its part, sent out the following notice to students:

Like the broader institution of which we are a part, Law and Contemporary Problems is committed to the vigorous and open exchange of ideas. The journal publishes issues that engage with matters of contemporary legal importance and feature contributions by a range of scholars in different disciplines. The issue on Sex in Law was approved in Fall 2020 by both the faculty advisory board and the 2020-2021 student editorial board after extensive discussion. The current student board members have recently asked that one of the pieces in that issue be removed. We respect the concerns and commitments of the students who have chosen to resign, but what they have asked of us is inconsistent with the journal's core scholarly mission

Assuming there are not other relevant facts about which I am unaware, it seems to me that this is far from the faculty takeover of a student journal that ATL suggested. It further seems to me that the faculty editors did nothing wrong. To the contrary, they sought greater student input than the journal's current practices require. At the same time, the faculty board held firm to the principles upon which academic discourse is based–the open exchange of ideas and viewpoints–while also refusing to allow the journal to breach its commitment to publish this symposium–a symposium that is largely filled with contributions that takes views quite different from those advanced by Stock.

One final note: I have not seen Stock's contribution to the symposium, but it would not matter. The symposium's special editors and the faculty board are entrusted with responsibility for evaluating the quality of symposium contributions at this journal, not the students, and publication of an individual symposium contribution should not be canceled due to disagreement with the argument it presents.

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  1. Thanks for providing a counterpoint to what has been reported on this controversy. Your OP included lots of important and relevant facts.

    1. Hi, lawyer scumbags. Student run journals of surgery, bridge engineering, plumbing technology. Ridiculous. Students know shit. Even upon graduation, the real learning begins. It takes 10000 hours to learn a skill or a narrow area of the law.

      Student law reviews were started by an alcoholic Dean at Harvard. He wanted to spend more time drinking, less time checking bibliographies. He wanted free labor in exchange for ego. He invented the Student Law Review. He made it exclusive, to do that Tom Sawyer trick. Only the best students qualify for this free, gruesome, job at hard labor.

      Your lawyer profession is a disgrace. Law students do not know anything, let alone judge advances and innovations.

      Get rid of the student law review. They can intern and assist the professionals, to learn a lot, not to lead.

      Obama was editor at Harvard. He was lazy and shiftless, a great delegator. He got the trick.

      1. You can call former Pres. Obama lazy and shiftless around here, but don’t try referring to a conservative as a “sl_ck-j_w” or “c_p succ_r.” Trying to parse the Volokh Conspiracy’s ostensible civility standads — and its censorship practices — can be quite tricky . . . at least until you learn the ins-and-outs of the viewpoint-driven discrimination.

        1. Hey Arthur, do you ever wonder if Prof. Volokh deletes a comment of yours every once and a while just to fuck with you? I would.

          1. I did not call Obama lazy, and shiftless, a fellow editor did, at a party. He was there. I was not.

            Eugene cannot delete comments anymore. Reason Foundation does not believe in deleting comments. Eugen sends nasty, angry, disruptive emails, especially after a sexual term is used. This is a Russian thing.


  2. The far more important question is how to treat the mentally ill the have been led to believe their mental illness is actually gender dysphoria and can be cured or treated with hormones and surgery. The mental health profession has a long sordid history of pseudo diagnosis of the mentally that are discredited after a few decades. Frontal lobotomies, electric shock treatments, repressed memory, to name just a few.

    What is astonishing is the willingness to embrace one of the most barbaric mental health treatments in the history of the mental health profession along with being oblivious to the harm being done.

    1. Are all gays mentally ill, in your judgment, Tom for equal rights?

      1. Artie, illness is defined by an impairment in function. The sole purpose of life is reproduction. Everything else is a waste of time or in service of reproduction. You decide who is more impaired.

        A wheelchair bound boy with cerebral palsy and mild intellectual disability. He is flirty, and would love to have sex with a girl.

        A gay billionaire, who has completed the novel of the century, and helped find a cure for cancer.

        1. Technically, helping a relative have more children also counts, in direct proportion to the fraction of genes you share in common; Aiding your brother or sister to have two extra kids counts as much as having one child yourself.

          And I suppose a gay billionaire could easily afford to win the reproductive sweepstakes by making donations to a sperm bank.

          But, setting that aside, you’ve pretty much got it right: In Darwinian terms, being gay is about as destructive as it gets.

      2. “Are all gays mentally ill, in your judgment, Tom for equal rights?”

        Do gays need surgery?

        1. What does that have to do with anything? I could do with a spot of Lasik, but that doesn’t make me mentally ill.

  3. “We respect the concerns and commitments of the students who have chosen to resign…”

    Why do they have to say things like this? Can’t they say something like “We do not respect the concerns and commitments of the students who have chosen to resign. These attitudes reflect poorly on the students and their academic ability.”

    1. Nothing wrong with basic politeness and professional behavior. There’s not nearly enough of it in our public life these days. Nothing to be gained by a public insult.

      1. There’s also nothing wrong with criticizing behavior that is harmful to the mission of the Journal to explore and examine ideas.

        1. “Bless their hearts” should cover it.

        2. You can criticize behavior without attacking them.

          “We respect the concerns and commitments of the students who have chosen to resign, but we believe their position to be misguided.”

          1. What if you don’t respect their concerns and commitments? You know, the correct position.

  4. Professor Stock has just published a thoughtful book on sex and gender, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism, I recommend it; even if you disagree with some of her contentions, she presents her analysis without engaging in the ad hominem attacks to which she often has been subjected.

    1. Ah, yes, a TERF.

      No wonder an ultra-conservative like her would trigger those poor students!


  5. As it turns out, there is much more to this story than the ATL story suggests.

    Evergreen comment.

    1. Fun fact: That is also an evergreen comment about the Volokh Conspiracy at just about every mainstream legal blog.

      My condolences to those who figured the Conspirators were mainstream, or libertarianish, or “often libertarian,” or anything other than polemical right-wingers.

      1. What mainstream legal blogs did you have in mind? (Serious question.)

  6. For a shockingly reasonable article about Kathleen Stock in the Guardian (you’d never read it in the NY Times) go here:

    Another lesbian who realized just how bad trans activism has become.

  7. Some students were unhappy with this decision, and several opted to resign from the journal.

    A handful of whiny, self-important, infantile twenty-somethings down, many to go. Carry on, clingers.

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