The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Expensively credentialed, negligibly educated Stanford brats threw a tantrum

On the Stanford University campus in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
4 min

An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated Tirien Steinbach, Stanford Law School associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, told student protesters that they had violated Stanford's non-disruption speech policy. Steinbach reportedly told students they had not violated the policy. The version has been updated.

Before reading this, watch the nine-minute video, widely available online, of last week’s mob victory at Stanford Law School. Note especially Tirien Steinbach, who, you should not be shocked to learn, is the law school’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. Pseudo-intellectual smugness and moral cowardice apparently are necessary and sufficient prerequisites for DEI careers — there are many thousands of them — enforcing campus orthodoxies.

Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a Columbia Law School graduate who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, was invited by Stanford Law School’s Federalist Society chapter to talk about his court “in conversation with the Supreme Court.” Some progressive students, and Steinbach, especially dislike some of his views concerning social issues — same-sex marriages, transgender rights, abortion, pronouns, etc. After anti-Duncan posters were placed around campus, Steinbach, in an email, associated herself with Duncan’s critics, but said protests must comply with Stanford’s policy against disrupting speakers.

After being introduced by the Federalist Society’s president, a gay man, Duncan tried to speak into a din of shouting: “You’re not welcome here, we hate you,” “You have no right to speak here,” etc. After about 10 minutes, Duncan responded angrily to the hecklers and asked for help from the Stanford administrators present, sitting like potted plants amid the chaos. Steinbach went to the lectern and read a statement obviously written in anticipation of this opportunity to pander to the inflamed progressives:

She was “pained” that Duncan was welcomed at the school because his previous work and words had caused “harm” to students, including the “absolute disenfranchisement of their rights.” She blamed him for inflaming the protesters by responding to them. She was “deeply, deeply uncomfortable” because the Federalist Society’s event was “tearing at the fabric of this community.” Continuing with her self-absorbed inventory of her feelings, and fluent in DEI-speak, she told of her labors creating “a space of belonging” and “places of safety.” She said, with Duncan standing nearby, that even “abhorrent” speech that “literally denies the humanity of people” should not be censored “because me and many people in this administration do absolutely believe in free speech.”

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The “many” — implied: not all — Stanford administrators who believe in free speech (as much as Steinbach does) do not believe so fervently that they enabled him to deliver his prepared remarks. During a brief, tumultuous question period he was called “scum,” and afterward Steinbach reportedly said the protesters had not violated Stanford’s non-disruption policy and that Duncan had been disrespectful to the audience because he did not continue reading his prepared remarks through the howling gale of insults.

Ilana Redstone

counterpointHere’s what was really going on in the fracas at Stanford Law

The law school rabble evinced learned behavior: No one is born feeling entitled to insult and silence others. Where did the privileged boors learn this? At home, around the dinner table? Unlikely, although:

The noun “parent” has become a verb as many people embrace the belief that perfectibility can be approximated if parents are sufficiently diligent about child-rearing. So, “helicopter parents” hover over their offspring to spare them abrasive encounters with the world. And “participation trophies” are given to everyone on the soccer team, lest the excellence of a few dent others’ self-esteem — the fuel that supposedly propels upward social mobility.

Larded with unstinting parental praise and garlanded with unearned laurels, these cosseted children arrive at college thinking highly of themselves and expecting others to ratify their complacent self-assessment. Surely it was as undergraduates that Stanford’s law school silencers became what they are: expensively credentialed but negligibly educated brats.

Guest Opinion: Where the Stanford Law students went wrong — and how to do better

Stanford’s president and the law school’s dean jointly say they are sorry about the unpleasantness. Not, however, so sorry, as of this writing, that they have fired Steinbach — although they say she refused to do her job: “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.” The depth of that commitment can be gauged by this tepid rebuke, in bureaucracy-speak, of Steinbach for being improperly “aligned.” As this is written, many of Stanford’s future lawyers are demanding that the dean apologize for apologizing.

Stanford has not expelled any of the imperfectly “aligned” disruptors. The school might be improved by the departure of the student whose idea of intellect in the service of social justice was to shout sexual boastings and scabrous insults. Readers can find in the Washington Free Beacon the insulter’s unintended proof that there is indecent exposure of the mind as well as the body.