Stanford equity dean Tirien Steinbach gets a pink slip after inciting law students to disrupt a speaker

July 21, 2023 • 11:30 am

Tirien Steinbach was the associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford Law School (SLS), and became infamous for egging on the schools’s students to attack visiting speaker Judge Kyle Duncan, who’s on the Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit. I posted on her actions here and their fallout here.  Short take; Steinbach more or less urged students to deplatform the Judge’s talk (he’s a conservative), both before and during the talk, when she interrupted the Judge to lecture him about how his actions had “harmed” the students.

The dean of the law school, Jenny Martinez, wrote a letter of apology to the Stanford community for the demonstrations (you can see it here). In response, the obstreperous SLS students demonstrated in Martinez’s class, and shortly thereafter Dean Steinbach was put on leave.

On March 10, FIRE wrote a letter to Stanford’s President (now replaced after allegations of scientific misconduct), which ended this way:

When the university allows speakers like Judge Duncan to be silenced, it sends the message to all in the Stanford community that those who engage in unlawful, disruptive conduct have the power to dictate which voices and views may be heard on campus. If reports about last night’s disruption are accurate, Stanford must take immediate steps to reaffirm its commitment to n  expressive rights for all. Failure to do so quickly and clearly will be to Stanford’s lasting shame.

Given the urgent nature of this matter, we request a substantive response to this letter by Tuesday, March, 14.

I don’t know if FIRE ever got a response, much less a substantive one, but it was announced by Martinez (and put in a tweet by a FIRE attorney), that Steinbach will be “leaving her post.” Ten to one she was fired.

Here’s the statement, which you can click to enlarge. It’s written as if Steinbach decided to “pursue another opportunity,” but I bet what happened is that she was given the choice of leaving or of being fired. Stay tuned for more (I’ve asked FIRE).


Finally, below is a new emailed statement from FIRE’s Director of Campus Rights Advocacy Alex Morey:

The Stanford Law shoutdown made everyone question whether Stanford really cared about free expression. What set the event apart was DEI dean Tirien Steinbach, who, for all intents and purposes, facilitated the shoutdown when she should’ve been enforcing the rules.

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.

Stanford’s brand new interim president, Richard Saller, has some solid free speech bona fides, including coming from ultra-speech-friendly UChicago, and having previously been on record about the importance of academic freedom.

We’re hopeful that after some administrative house cleaning over the last 48-hours, today represents a promising new day for higher ed best practices at Stanford.

I wonder if the SLS students have learned anything from this whole dismal affair. This just underscores the need for all serious universities in America to have a section on “freedom of speech” during student orientation.

13 thoughts on “Stanford equity dean Tirien Steinbach gets a pink slip after inciting law students to disrupt a speaker

    1. I suspect that this is just in the private sector. I bet Steinbach will be re-employed quickly. It’s a little mafia.

      1. Sure, Steinbach may soon enough join Meredith Raimondo at Oglethorpe U. But Stanford is an academic windvane which Ogle and its like or not. It is even possible that Oberlin will not find the funds to employ more Raimondos and Steinbachs, due to certain financial embarrassments it has suffered in recent years.

      2. I was going to say somewhere that there is a fair chance she will just be quietly reassigned somewhere else at Stanford. Administrators don’t like actually firing one of their own.

        1. That would be constructive dismissal. Easier to pay the two months severance, or whatever you get after just two years in the position, and see the back of her. That’s a pretty damning letter.

    2. This shift in wind direction has already been noted in the corporate world …

      Goes to show you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, huh, Jon?

    3. > The default trajectory is probably something like wokeness ending out where American Christianity is now – still sort of powerful in its way, but not hegemonic, and non-Christians can still be fine and have religious freedom in most places. What we both worry about is a “soft landing” where ordinary people lose interest and go away, but all the legal apparatus of wokeness – the diversity bureaucracies, forced quotas, normalization of censorship, and the like – stick around by inertia without any reckoning or reconsideration.

  1. Well, to cite Jerry, cut off my legs and call me shorty. That is good news. Ideally, she would simply have been fired with Stanford saying so, but it’s reasonable to suppose that other employees at Stanford with similar ideas will get the message: if you think that you can enforce your employer’s policy à la carte, you are wrong, and there will be negative consequences for you, possibly dismissal.

    Another small victory:
    Lee Jussim: SPSP Abandons Mandatory DEI Statements. July 17, 2023
    Paragraph 1 of article:
    In a major (albeit partial) victory against the increasingly authoritarian and oppressive norms within academia, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) recently announced that it is abandoning its requirement of a DEI statement for proposals for presentation at its annual conference. Many of us have argued that such statements constitute a modern version of loyalty oaths, but to a particular progressive worldview rather than to a nation or government.

    Maybe wokeness has peaked. But the problems in academia remain:
    – too many members of the faculty and the administration are woke radicals
    – insufficient political oversight of public universities in blue states (no enforcement of the principle “If you want to save the world, do it on your own time.”)
    – too many non-woke members of the faculty and the administration don’t want to or feel that they can’t, or can’t oppose the wokification of university life

    To appear soon:
    Lee Jussim et al.: The Radicalization of the American Academy. in: The Palgrave Handbook of Left-wing Extremism, Volume 1, August 2023, edited by José Pedro Zúquete

    I guess this is an earlier (and probably much shorter) version:
    Lee Jussim: The Radicalization of the American Academy. Dec 9, 2022

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