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A Stanford University law school dean at the center of a free speech controversy has been placed on leave amid continuing criticism of the March 9 event, at which students shouted down federal judge Kyle Duncan, an anti-LGBTQ+ conservative, who had been invited to speak on campus.
Officials apologized to Duncan shortly after protesters interrupted his scheduled talk. With criticism still pouring in from free speech groups and conservative politicians, Stanford Law School announced Wednesday that Tirien Angela Steinbach, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, is on leave. Steinbach has been criticized for not enforcing Stanford’s free speech policies; when Duncan asked for an administrator to help manage the event as his talk was repeatedly interrupted, Steinbach instead asked pointed questions about his judicial record.
“Generally speaking, the university does not comment publicly on pending personnel matters, and so I will not do so at this time,” Stanford Law dean Jenny S. Martinez wrote Wednesday in a statement addressing the controversy. “I do want to express concern over the hateful and threatening messages [Steinbach] has received as a result of viral online and media attention and reiterate that actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits. Finally, it should be obvious from what I have stated above that at future events, the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and all staff will receive additional training in that regard.”
The statement added that Stanford’s “commitment to diversity and inclusion means that we must protect the expression of all views,” and that the law school will be adopting “clearer protocols for managing disruptions” and “adding educational programming on free speech and norms of the legal profession.”
Martinez also noted that Stanford will introduce “mandatory educational programming for our student body rather than referring specific students for disciplinary sanctions” for their role in the protest.