Months after being at the center of a campus free speech controversy at Stanford University, Tirien Steinbach is stepping down as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Stanford Law, according to an announcement from law school dean Jenny Martinez.
Steinbach was placed on leave by the law school in March after Kyle Duncan, a conservative federal judge, was shouted down by students during a speech he was invited to give on campus. When Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene and restore order, Steinbach asked pointed questions about his judicial record instead, telling Duncan, “Your work has caused harm.”
Stanford administrators apologized to Duncan shortly after the disrupted event, noting that “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.”
On Thursday, Martinez noted in an email to the law school community that Steinbach was leaving to pursue another opportunity, adding, “Steinbach and I both hope that [Stanford Law] can move forward as a community from the divisions caused by the March 9 event. The event presented significant challenges for the administration, the students, and the entire law school community. As I previously noted, tempers flared along multiple dimensions. Although Associate Dean Steinbach intended to de-escalate the tense situation when she spoke at the March 9 event, she recognizes that the impact of her statements was not as she hoped or intended.”
Martinez added that both Steinbach and Stanford could have handled the situation better.
Following the announcement, the free speech group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression released a statement pointing to Steinbach’s role in shutting down Duncan’s speech and expressing optimism for how the university will approach free speech issues in the future.
“Stanford recommitted strongly to free speech in the weeks that followed. Today’s announcement that Steinbach will leave her post is hopefully another signal that Stanford intends to adopt a no-tolerance policy on viewpoint discrimination,” said Alex Morey, FIRE’s director of campus rights advocacy. Morey also noted the “free speech bona fides” of interim president Richard Saller, who will lead Stanford following the resignation of Marc Tessier-Lavigne on Wednesday amid findings that he “co-authored papers with serious flaws,” which he then left uncorrected.