Thanksgiving reading: antisemitism and hatred in American universities

November 23, 2023 • 12:45 pm

I’ve read these, and, living on campus and hearing from friends elsewhere, it makes me ill to read about the sudden tsunami of hatred and turmoil on American campuses. There is no way that this is not going to disrupt education.  Most of the turmoil, of course, is caused by pro-Hamas or pro-Palestinian students trying to disrupt university activities. That’s okay by me so long as they are exercising free speech and doing it in a way that doesn’t violate university regulations, but often that’s not the case. (Even at my own university, over 20 pro-Palestinian students and 2 faculty were arrested for blocking University facilities.)  But the mishigass is widespread, and before I go off to eat, I proffer two articles for you to read. The first, from Commentary, is relatively short, but the second, from Legal Insurrection, is long.

Both show the ideological rot spreading in our universities. I don’t solely blame the students, because often college administrations and faculty promote this kind of stuff:

Read ’em if you want; click on the headlines to do so:

From Legal Insurrection. I realize that the title is a bit hyperbolic, but there’s a lot of intriguing stuff in this piece:

The video that inspired the title.  This young Jewish student at Washington University has an epiphany, and I don’t think she’s far off. Imagine! Now the pro-Palestinians have the right to demonstrate, I presume, and even call for the deaths of Jews, but it’s still distressing to see stuff like this happening. It is, of course, because lots of students, inspired by the Zeitgeist and their ignorance, have lost their moral compass.

Real headline or satire?

October 17, 2023 • 10:00 am

See the first headline below to answer the title question. You already know the answer from the headline itself, but if you don’t, have a look.  Real or satire?

Of course it’s real, and you can click on it to go to the source. It’s the Daily Fail, but if you reject the reporting because of that source, you’re making a mistake. Proof is below!

Excerpts. First the background (also see my posts here and here).

Harvard’s Arab Alumni Association has appealed for donations to help students’ mental health after they were subjected to ‘relentless bullying and intimidation’ for blaming Israel for the Hamas terror attacks.

The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee issued a letter on October 7, co-signed by 33 other Harvard student organizations, stating: ‘We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.’

The students leading the 33 organizations and the Solidarity Committee were named and faced calls to be blacklisted from future employment. They included the son of British businesswoman Jo Malone.

As I wrote, some people started doxxing the students by publishing their names online (note that the Fail named one above!), which of course could hurt their job prospects. It was at that point that the groups took down the letter, with several of the student organizations withdrawing their signatures.

More from the Fail:

On Wednesday, the Harvard Arab Alumni Association wrote to members appealing for help in supporting the students.

‘They may require legal counsel, healthcare, mental health support, financial aid or mentorship to navigate these turbulent and uncertain times.’

‘They have been subjected to relentless bullying and intimidation,’ the association wrote, in a letter obtained by reporter John Hasson.

‘This situation is rapidly deteriorating as some students find their names on watchlists, creating severe risks for their immigration status and future career prospects.

‘Our ask and plea to you all is to extend your hand to these students and provide the vital assistance they need within your capacity and scope of influence.’

Neither Harvard nor the association have responded to’s request for comment.

 The mother of the doxxed student was “heartbroken” at the situation and presumably mad as hell at her son.

Among those signing the letter was perfume tycoon Jo Malone’s son, who helps lead a pro-Palestinian Harvard group behind the letter.

Josh Willcox, 22, is listed as one of three students who run the Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee, according to Harvard’s directory of student groups.

His mother, Jo, a British perfume giant founder who sold her eponymous company to Estee Lauder in 1999, refused to address her son, simply saying the war in the Middle East had left her ‘heartbroken’ as she branded the attack by Hamas as ‘abhorrent.’

If you don’t believe all this, here’s the letter as tweeted by John Hasson, with the HAAA begging for money for legal help, healthcare, and mental health support, as well as financial aid. Health and mental-health support are of course available free for students from the Harvard health service.

This is an instantiation for “snowflake”.  In no uncertain terms, the student groups promulgated their views to the world, holding Israel responsible for Hamas’s acts.  They should have known that people would be able to find out who were members of those groups, and that that would have consequences.  If they aren’t willing to stand behind their words with their names, then they shouldn’t have signed on (even as groups) in the first place.  And of course their legal and mental-health/health issues come solely because they were doxxed.

The “relentless bullying” no doubt involved both public pushback against the letter not involving doxxing (and there was plenty of such pushback), as well as the doxxing itself.

I wouldn’t have doxxed them, but that outcome was pretty predictable. And once they were doxxed, it’s perfectly legal for any employer not to hire them based on what they said.  (This is something I recently learned.)

More backlash from The Fail (click to read):

Just a brief summary:

A prominent benefactor to Harvard, who made a donation of over $500 million, with a commitment of $300 million this year alone, pressured the university to speak out in defense of Israel following last weekend’s terror attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis, it has emerged.

Ken Griffin, who built his wealth on Wall Street, reached out to the head of the university’s board, Penny Pritzker, requesting that the educational establishment take a strong stance in defense of the country.

His call came after a letter from student groups blamed Israel for the attacks, but before university leaders had responded publicly.

As you know, Harvard President Claudine Gay issued not one but TWO statements clarifying an early and somewhat weasely letter from nearly the entire Harvard administration about the war. The first letter was rife with “both-side-ism”, while Gay’s two followups assured people that Harvard really did condemn Hamas’s acts. I’m wondering whether letters from donors played a role in her decision. (Surely a letter signed by more than 350 Harvard faculty members, criticizing the admin’s initial letter, did play a huge role.)

I can’t help but find this letter more ironic than funny. The irony is what makes this an “oddity” post. If the students are truly traumatized, I’m sorry for that. But on the other hand, they should be willing to stand behind their statements with their names. That’s why I never post anonymously, and urge readers here to use their names if they have no good reason to be anonymous or pseudonymous.


h/t: Jay

Harvard groups walk back their anti-Israel statement

October 12, 2023 • 10:00 am

On October 7 or 8, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee issued a statement signed by 33 student groups, most of them Muslim-oriented organizations.  (The signers removed their names before they removed the document, but you can see the list of signers at my first post about this.)

Here’s the statement, which blames the “apartheid regime” of Israel as the only entity to blame for Hama’s butchery.  You can also find it at the Institute for Palestine Studies until it’s taken down, or on this tweet.

This disgusting statement was attacked by many people, including Congresspeople from both parties and, importantly, by the President of Harvard, though she waited a few days to see where opinion might fall. In its report yesterday, the Harvard Crimson (the student newspaper) reports that many (but not all) of the signing groups have withdrawn their support for the statement, and that the names of the 33 signatories (2 groups had withdrawn before that) had been removed from the online statement. Now, however, they have removed the entire statement. If you go to the Google doc site where document used to be, you see this:

As I said, the original statement is above and at other sites, and undoubtedly will be on the web forever.

Here’s the Crimson article describing why some of the groups withdrew their support (or click below to read):

An except:

Amid continued national backlash, multiple Harvard student groups have withdrawn their signatures from a controversial statement calling Israel “entirely responsible” for the ongoing violence, and group members have faced doxxing attacks.

As of Tuesday night, at least five of the original 34 signatories — including Amnesty International at Harvard, Harvard College Act on a Dream, the Harvard Undergraduate Nepali Student Association, the Harvard Islamic Society, and Harvard Undergraduate Ghungroo — had withdrawn their endorsements, though the full list of endorsing groups was taken off the public statement earlier Tuesday. [JAC: both Amnesty International at Harvard and The Harvard Graduate School of Education Islamic Society had originally signed, too, but decided to remove their endorsement before the letter was published].

The reversals followed severe condemnation and calls by thousands of Harvard affiliates to disavow the statement, which was originally penned by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee. It did not explicitly condemn violence against Israeli civilians, though a spokesperson for the group later wrote in a statement that “the PSC staunchly opposes violence against civilians — Palestinian, Israeli, or other.”

Of course. Note that “Palestinians” comes before “Israeli.”

Here are three groups that decided that discretion was the better part of anti-Semitism (via the New York Post):

And from the Crimson, another group withdraws:

In a statement to The Crimson Tuesday night, Act on a Dream said the group signed the statement as “a result of miscommunication and a lack of due diligence in sharing the statement with the entirety of the board.”

“Our board members were not made aware that AOD as an organization had signed on to the PSC statement, so the endorsement of their statement in no way reflects their individual opinions about the ensuing violence in Palestine and Israel,” the statement reads. “As an organization, we want to express our empathy and solidarity for all the victims who have been affected by the violence in the region.”

“As an immigrants’ rights organization, we are also sensitive to our community’s need for privacy and safety,” the statement continues.

Well, if the statement doesn’t endorse the violence as an inevitable result of Israeli “colonialism” and apartheid-ism, it at least excuses the violence, which is nearly as bad. The statements are weaselly, and the apologies could have been better. However, these are inflamed young Harvard undergraduates and grad students, so I’ll let that go for the nonce.

But what is puzzling is WHY these groups, even in the face of opprobrium from Harvard’s President and many others, would withdraw their support for the original statement. Those statements are forceful, and I wouldn’t have thought that pushback would lead to mass retraction. Pro-Palestinians are not that malleable.

Here’s a possible explanation:

But even as some groups have moved to walk back or clarify their original endorsements, concerns over doxxing and student safety have emerged.

As of Tuesday evening, at least four online sites had listed the personal information of students linked to clubs that had signed onto the statement, including full names, class years, past employment, social media profiles, photos, and hometowns.

At around 3 p.m. Tuesday, the original statement was updated to remove the names of the signatory organizations.

“For student safety, the names of all original signing organizations have been concealed at this time,” a footnote on the current statement reads.

On its Instagram page, the PSC also announced that a vigil planned for Tuesday evening to mourn “all civilian lives lost” had been postponed “due to credible safety concerns and threats against student security.”

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in a Tuesday statement that the College was aware of the safety concerns.

“We have been in contact with students and have alerted authorities,” Palumbo wrote.

Some also called for students involved with the statement to be publicly named and face professional consequences.

“I have been asked by a number of CEOs if @harvard would release a list of the members of each of the Harvard organizations that have issued the letter assigning sole responsibility for Hamas’ heinous acts to Israel, so as to insure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members,” billionaire hedge fund manager Bill A. Ackman ’88 wrote in a Tuesday post on X that has since garnered more than 11,000 reposts.

“If, in fact, their members support the letter they have released, the names of the signatories should be made public so their views are publicly known,” he added.

Now I don’t support this doxxing at all. The groups and their members have a right to post such a statement, horrific as it is, and the students shouldn’t be punished for exercising free speech.  Some might argue that not wanting to hire the students is simply “facing the professional consequences”, and, indeed, companies might be legally able to reject a student for their political views, but I’m not sure about that. And even if that can be done, I wouldn’t endorse such actions.

UPDATE: Apparently it is legal. An article in today’s NYT, titled “N.Y.U. law student sends anti-Israel message and loses a job offer,” says this:

A law firm’s job offer to a New York University law student was rescinded on Tuesday for what the firm described as “inflammatory comments” about Hamas’s attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis. And at Harvard, student groups began to take back their signatures on a letter that blamed Israel for the violence.

The actions were part of a wave of fallout on campuses for students, who are deeply polarized over the fighting.

At N.Y.U., Ryna Workman, the president of the university’s Student Bar Association, wrote in a message to the group on Tuesday that “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.”

“This regime of state-sanctioned violence created the conditions that made resistance necessary,” Mx. Workman wrote in the Student Bar Association bulletin. “I will not condemn Palestinian resistance.”

The backlash was swift.

By evening, the law firm, Winston & Strawn, said the comments “profoundly conflict” with its values and without naming the student, said it rescinded its offer of employment.

In view of this (even the NYT connects the NYU issue with the endorsement cancellations at Harvard), one wonders whether this mass withdrawal of support for the Palestinian resistance was caused not by rethinking the issue, or by public pushback, but by fear of future unemployment.  Yes, I’m cynical about this, but today’s students are consumers who don’t want to scupper their careers by signing a statement that most people abhor.

You be the judge. The statement is still out there, and if nothing else it demonstrates the obtuseness and ignorance of students at what is supposed to be America’s best university.

h/t: Wayne

Stanford Law dean who stood up to professor-deplatforming students is named Provost of the University

August 25, 2023 • 11:45 am

I’m sure you remember the fracas at Stanford Law School last spring, when federal judge Kyle Duncan, a conservative, was deplatformed (shouted down and forced to terminate his talk) by Stanford Law Students. The students’ deplatforming was egged on by SLS DEI dean Tirien Steinbach, who interrupted the disruption to give Duncan a lecture about how hurtful his judicial decisions had been.

Things happened quickly.  In a joint letter, SLS Dean Jenny Martinez and Stanford’s soon-to-be-ex-President Marc Tessier-Lavigne (he resigned after falsified data was found in papers he authored) apologized to the judge on behalf of SLS, and Steinbach was put on leave and then fired. Martinez (whose classes were also disrupted after she criticized the deplatforming) wrote a long (10-page) letter again criticizing the students and, above all, defending free speech at Stanford, saying that the school will abide by the First Amendment and will develop a program for educating SLS students about free speech and specifying how  with disruptive protestors will be dealt with. Have a look at the letter; it’s good.

Now the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Martinez has been named Provost of Stanford University—the school’s highest academic officer. It’s good news for the school and for freedom of speech there.

An excerpt:

Months after her lengthy missive defending free speech made national headlines, Jenny S. Martinez has been named provost of Stanford University.

As dean of Stanford’s law school, Martinez saw the campus through controversy after a student protest of a federal judge in March turned into a cultural flashpoint.

“As dean, she has been a champion of inclusion, and a clear and reasoned voice for academic freedom,” Richard Saller, Stanford’s interim president, wrote in his announcement of Martinez’s promotion. She will take office on October 1.

. . .As leaders across higher ed question how to respond to free-speech flaps, Martinez has served as an example.

National commentaries hailed her memo as a watershed moment, signaling that college leaders were becoming more open to issuing forceful defenses of academic freedom and free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, for instance, called Martinez’s letter a “tour de force.”

That stance often clashes with students, who increasingly say that colleges shouldn’t invite speakers to campuses if their views might be offensive to students of color and LGBTQ students, among other groups.

The only fly in the ointment I see is that Martinez explicitly said that no student who protested would be singled out and punished, and I wonder if that philosophy will be applied in the future. For if there’s no punishment specified for disrupting speech (Chicago has one), then there’s no impetus not to disrupt.

Even so, I think this is an important development, and we’ll see how Stanford deals with disruptions in the future. It hasn’t had a particularly good record on free speech. FIRE puts it at #107 in its college free-speech rankings, gives it a “yellow” light (green is best), and rates its speech climate as “average”.  The rankings include 203 colleges, and of course the University of Chicago is #1. Stanford is below the median.

Martinez’s job will be to improve Stanford’s ratings.

As The Chronicle notes:

By elevating Martinez to its top academic post, Stanford is making a statement in the continuing free-speech debate. Leaders across the country will look to Martinez to uphold that stance, particularly as she assumes jurisdiction over not only the law school but also Stanford’s entire student body.

She’ll also be second in command to [Richard] Saller, an interim president who will take the job after Tessier-Lavigne resigned. An investigation found that while Tessier-Lavigne hadn’t personally engaged in research misconduct, he had “failed to decisively and forthrightly correct mistakes in the scientific record.” His resignation is effective September 1.

h/t: Wayne

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.

Oxford students try to deplatform Kathleen Stock and punish the university group inviting her

May 19, 2023 • 9:45 am

Kathleen Stock was a professor at Sussex until she was forced to resign after being harassed and ostracized for her views on gender. I don’t know much about her except she’s a serious and honored scholar with views that are opposed by gender activists, and that is sufficient reason to defend Stock’s right to free speech. That right includes the right not to be shouted down or deplatformed if she has a valid invitation to speak.  But that appears to be difficult if you’re involved in the gender wars.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about her:

Kathleen Mary Linn Stock OBE is a British philosopher and writer. She was a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex until 2021. She has published academic work on aesthetics, fiction, imagination, sexual objectification, and sexual orientation.

Her views on transgender rights and gender identity have become a contentious issue. In December 2020, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of services to higher education, a decision which was subsequently criticised by a group of over 600 academic philosophers who argued that Stock’s “harmful rhetoric” contributed to the marginalisation of transgender people. In October 2021, she resigned from the University of Sussex.  This came after a student campaign took place calling for her dismissal and the faculty trade union accused the university of “institutional transphobia.”  A group of over 200 academic philosophers from the UK signed an open letter in support of Stock’s academic freedom.

An OBE is not to be taken lightly! Stock is also a “gender nonconforming lesbian”.  As far as I can see, her views align with those of J. K. Rowling, questioning the rights of transgender women only insofar as they encroach on essential rights that devolve only on natal women.  And, again as far as I know, she left Sussex because, in view of the harassment, bullying and pervasive calls for her to be fired, she did not feel safe on campus, the University administration didn’t lift its finger to defend her. In view of this ostracism, Stock got panic attacks and suffered a mental breakdown. Unable to do her job, she therefore left Susses. Apparently, Stock’s academic freedom did not outweigh her “harmful rhetoric” or right to not be harassed.  Here’s a bit from a Guardian article about her:

In a lengthy interview with BBC Woman’s Hour, Kathleen Stock claimed the student protests grew out of hostility from other academics. She said a lack of support from her colleagues and the unions led her to resign.

“There’s a small group of people who are absolutely opposed to the sorts of things I say and instead of getting involved in arguing with me, using reason, evidence, the traditional university methods, they tell their students in lectures that I pose a harm to trans students, or they go on to Twitter and say that I’m a bigot.

“So thus creating an atmosphere in which the students then become much more extreme and much more empowered to do what they did,” Stock said.

Stock said her “personal tipping point” came after Sussex’s branch of the University and College Union responded to a protest against Stock on campus in early October by calling for a university-wide investigation into transphobia.

“It was when I saw my own union branch’s statement, which basically backed the protesters and implicitly made it obvious that they thought I was transphobic and accused Sussex University of institutional transphobia,” Stock said.

“When union committee members basically back intimidation against you as an employee, then that’s a bit of a blow.”

Again so long as her views are debatable—which they are, as the dons below emphasize—Stock should be given the right to be heard, not be deplatformed, and above all be heard by those who oppose her.

I asked Emma Hilton about Stock, and got this response (quoted by permission):

Now Kathleen writes and teaches at University of Austin. And speaks publicly, like at Oxford. She recently debated at Cambridge, and one of the students on her side of the debate spent half of his talk blasting her. I was in Italy with her a couple of months back. She’s warm, funny as hell, great company and it’s just unreal that the image of her as a monster was allowed to take hold.  

No matter whether you agree with her views, and even in view of Britain’s lack of a First Amendment, it’s wrong to try to deplatform Stock. But this, according to the Torygraph article below, is precisely what Oxford students tried to do when Stock was invited to debate at the Oxford Union, the university’s famous debating society.  That she is just one of several people involved in a verbal to-and-fro is not sufficient for the protesting students.  One side of the debate cannot be allowed to be give ! These students are immature, acting like children stoppering their ears when they hear something they don’t like. Worse: they are trying to stopper other people’s ears!

Click to read. If the article is paywalled, I found an archived version here:

The attempt to deplatform her  has been fought by 40 academics (see Dawkins’s tweet below), and this attempt has been connected with the Oxford Student Union (different from the Oxford Union) voted to sever ties with the Oxford Union, which would deny the latter a booth at the fresher’s fair that’s essential in recruiting students. From the Torygraph:

Oxford dons have warned students that freedom of speech is at risk as a trans row engulfs the university.

More than 40 academics – including Prof Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, and Prof Nigel Biggar, the theologian – have intervened in support of a planned appearance at the Oxford Union by Prof Kathleen Stock, a leading feminist, in a letter to The Telegraph.

In the biggest row to erupt at the university since Rhodes Must Fall, students have tried to cancel Prof Stock’s talk – claiming that she is transphobic for her view that it is fiction to claim “transwomen are women”.

It comes amid a spate of free speech rows at universities featuring speakers with gender-critical views – including attempts by the University of Bristol to ban the public from a feminist society talk and activists at the University of Edinburgh preventing a screening of a women’s rights documentary.

The view that “transwomen are women” is certainly a debatable one; we’ve debated it here. It can be construed in several ways: are transwomen equivalent to biological women, and should be called “women”; do they have all the rights and privileges of biological women, most notably the “right” to compete in sports against biological women, or to be incarcerated in women’s prisons? And so on.  Society desperately needs to thrash out these issues because, given the skyrocketing rate of transitioning—particularly from biological men to trans women—the issues are only going to get more pressing.

Here’s Richard’s tweet, and I’ve put the faculty letter below, adding the signers below the fold. There’s also a student letter here.

More from the Torygraph:

The letter from the Oxford dons is one of the most significant interventions by academics in recent controversies over free speech on campus.

They say they possess “a range of different political beliefs, Left and Right”, but are united in their belief that “universities exist, among other things, to promote free inquiry and the disinterested pursuit of the truth by means of reasoned argument”.

The letter adds: “Professor Stock believes that biological sex in humans is real and socially salient, a view which until recently would have been so commonplace as to hardly merit asserting.

. . .The row at Oxford first erupted in April when the university’s LGBTQ+ society said it was “dismayed and appalled” that the debating society had “decided to platform the transphobic and trans exclusionary speaker Kathleen Stock”.

It accused the Union of “disregarding the welfare of its LGBTQ+ members under the guise of free speech”.

The Junior Common Rooms of Christ Church, St Edmund Hall, St Anne’s and St Hilda’s have backed the LGBTQ+ society and passed motions calling for her invite “to be rescinded in support of the trans community”.

The row escalated last week when Oxford’s Student Union (SU) voted to sever ties with the 200-year-old debating society, accusing it of having a “toxic culture of bullying and harassment”.

The move would prevent the Union from having a stall at the freshers’ fair, which is an important source of membership sign-ups that fund the university.

But there is some hope:

The Union has said that the talk with Prof Stock will go ahead despite planned protests. It will set up “welfare spaces” to help students cope with the gender debate.

The university said it “does not support the no-platforming of any lawful speech at university events or on university premises”.

It is understood that trustees of the SU have written to the Union and could reverse the move to ban the debating society from the fresher’s fair after the university sought to understand the decision and uphold its free speech duties.

The faculty letter is below, with the list of signers (given in the Torygraph) below the fold. Note that the letter emphasizes the diversity of political views among the dons, and is basically a simple defense of free speech and of the right to debate controversial issues,  as well as a condemnation of the Student Union for punishing the Oxford Union.  I can’t see anything objectionable about the letter, or about Stock’s appearance, particularly because it’s a debate, Jack, and one side is given the opportunity to go after Stock’s views.  It appears that many extreme gender activists have reached the point where they believe that anyone who disagrees with them should be censored.  Here’s the faculty letter:


We are academics at the University of Oxford, possessed of a range of different political beliefs, Left and Right. We wholeheartedly condemn the decision of the Oxford University Student Union (Oxford SU) to sever its ties with the Oxford Union (the Union) after the latter’s refusal to rescind an invitation to the philosopher and gender-critical feminist Kathleen Stock.

Professor Stock believes that biological sex in humans is real and socially salient, a view which until recently would have been so commonplace as to hardly merit asserting. Whether or not one agrees with Professor Stock’s views, there is no plausible and attractive ideal of academic freedom, or of free speech more generally, which would condemn their expression as outside the bounds of permissible discourse. Unfortunately, the position of her opponents seems to be that Professor Stock’s views are so illicit that they cannot be safely discussed in front of an audience of consenting and intelligent adults at the main debating society at the University of Oxford. If this were the case, it is doubtful that they could be safely expressed anywhere – a result that, as her opponents are no doubt satisfied to find, would amount to their effective prohibition.

Fortunately, it has become clear that the Union’s capitulation cannot be secured by the usual methods of moralistic browbeating and social censure. However, Oxford SU is now threatening its financial model by seeking to prevent the Union from having a stall at future freshers’ fairs. This is dangerous territory. Universities exist, among other things, to promote free inquiry and the disinterested pursuit of the truth by means of reasoned argument. To resort to coercion and financial threats when unable to secure one’s preferred outcome in debate would represent a profound failure to live up to these ideals.

Universities must remain places where contentious views can be openly discussed. The salient alternative to this, one apparently favoured by many of Professor Stock’s opponents, is simply unacceptable: a state of affairs in which the institutions of a university collude to suppress the expression of controversial, but potentially true, viewpoints in an effort to prevent them from becoming more widely known.


h/t: Emma

Click “read more” to see the academics who signed.

Continue reading “Oxford students try to deplatform Kathleen Stock and punish the university group inviting her”

The Washington Post decries the suppression and deplatforming of speech by students

May 1, 2023 • 9:30 am

Is a turning point really being reached in the War Against Wokeness?  Every time I read a piece in the mainstream media decrying  the pernicious antics of the Authoritarian Left (one of the terms I use for “the woke”), I think to myself, “Is the tide really turning at long last?”

Well, it’s not going to any time soon—if for no other reason than that most of the mainstream media (and this still includes the NYT) is still woke, and because DEI initiatives have firmly installed themselves on college campuses, grasping onto academia like an octopus. (The idea behind these isn’t bad, but the way these initiatives are perpetrated, hand in hand with Diktats against “hate speech”, is harmful.)  Such initiatives, employing thousands of minions throughout the U.S., won’t easily go away, even if the Supreme Court, as expected, rules against affirmative action based on race.

BUT, here we have the entire editorial board of the Washington Post applauding the actions of schools like Stanford and Cornell in resisting the demands of the woke. Yep, the entire editorial board; this is no one-off by a disaffected academic.  And it mentions at least two schools whose anti-wokeness I hadn’t heard of. Click headline below to read:

Here are the incidents of pushback they describe (quotes from the Post are indented:

a.) The statement by the president of Cornell University that trigger warnings should not be mandatory.

In March, a Cornell University sophomore and member of the undergraduate student assembly saw a friend become visibly disturbed while reading “The Surrendered,” a Chang-rae Lee novel with a graphic rape scene. So she spearheaded a resolution that “implores all instructors to provide content warnings on the syllabus for any traumatic content that may be discussed.”

On the surface, this story has all the trappings of a wider phenomenon increasingly prevalent on American university campuses: the curtailing of academic inquiry, and sometimes even free speech, for the protection of perceived student “sensitivities” — invisible boundaries whose contours are never quite clear but almost always couched as barriers against “harm.” What happened next is cause for celebration: The Cornell administration immediately struck down this resolution, a welcome reminder that academic institutions have the power to defend their fundamental values — and are willing to use it.

“We cannot accept this resolution as the actions it recommends would infringe on our core commitment to academic freedom and freedom of inquiry, and are at odds with the goals of a Cornell education,” wrote Cornell’s president, Martha E. Pollack, and its provost, Michael I. Kotlikoff, in a letter rejecting the student assembly’s plea for trigger warnings. Although they did note, understandably, that “in some cases faculty may wish to provide notice,” an outright trigger warning requirement, they noted, “would have a chilling effect on faculty, who would naturally fear censure lest they bring a discussion spontaneously into new and challenging territory, or fail to accurately anticipate students’ reaction to a topic or idea.”

b.) Penn State strikes back as well:

Earlier this month, Neeli Bendapudi, the president of Penn State, released a recorded statement defending her university’s embrace of controversial speakers. The Supreme Court, she reminded her viewers, has long held that public universities such as Penn State are bound by the First Amendment. But she also reiterated a moral reason to continue welcoming diverse, and even offensive, opinions: “For centuries, higher education has fought against censorship and for the principle that the best way to combat speech is with more speech.”

Watch the video.  Bendapudi naturally has to say that she deplores the message of many of the “hate speech” speakers whose rights she nevertheless defends.  But she shouldn’t have to say this to defend freedom of speech; she should maintain institutional neutrality and leave her personal opinion out of this.  Still. . .it’s better than nothing, and a good lesson for Penn State students. (It’s a reiteration of Mill’s arguments from “On Liberty”.)

c.) From Vanderbilt (and Harvard):

A similar defense is being waged at private institutions. At Harvard University, a group of more than 50 faculty members last month established the Council on Academic Freedom, a group “devoted to free inquiry, intellectual diversity, and civil discourse.” Vanderbilt University, likewise, announced last month that it would become the U.S. foothold for the Future of Free Speech project, an initiative of the Danish think tank Justitia. “For a university to do its work, faculty and students must have maximum freedom to share their ideas, assert their opinions, and challenge conventional wisdom — and one another,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier in a statement.

A few years ago, Diermeier was the Provost of the University of Chicago.

The article then mentions the results of the long survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE; download its 54-page report here).  FIRE’s own summary:

  1. Roughly three-in-five faculty (61%) surveyed said that “a university professor should be free to express any of their ideas or convictions on any subject,” and more than half (52%) said speech should only be restricted “where words are certain to incite physical violence.”
  2. On average, 81% of faculty supported allowing four different hypothetical controversial speakers on campus, compared to 48% of the students who were asked about the same speakers in FIRE’s College Free Speech Rankings (CFSR) survey.
  3. More than half of faculty (55%) said students shouting down a speaker is never acceptable. Four-in-five said this about students blocking entry into a campus speech and 92% said this about students using violence to stop a campus speech. In FIRE’s CFSR the percentages of students who say these actions are never acceptable are 38%, 63%, and 80% respectively.
  4. Roughly one-in-10 (11%) faculty reported being disciplined or threatened with discipline because of their teaching, while 4% reported facing these consequences for their research, academic talks, or non-academic publications.
  5. Liberal and conservative faculty have starkly different views on mandatory diversity statements for job applicants, the value of political diversity on campus, and when freedom of speech should be restricted. They also have very different social and professional experiences on campus.
  6. Faculty are split evenly on whether diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) statements are a justifiable requirement for a university job (50%) or are an ideological litmus test that violates academic freedom (50%). Three-in-four liberal faculty support mandatory diversity statements while 90% of conservative faculty and 56% of moderate faculty see them as political litmus tests.
  7. More than half of faculty (52%) reported being worried about losing their jobs or reputation because someone misunderstands something they have said or done, takes it out of context, or posts something from their past online. Almost three-quarters of conservative faculty (72%), 56% of moderate faculty, and 40% of liberal faculty reported feeling this way.
  8. A significant portion of faculty (ranging from 18% to 36%) endorsed their college’s administration launching a formal investigation into other faculty members for their controversial expression.
  9. Roughly one-third (34%) of faculty said they often feel they can not express their opinions on a subject because of how students, colleagues, or the administration would respond, compared to one-fifth of students surveyed for FIRE’s CFSR.
  10. The percentages of faculty who said they were very or extremely likely to self-censor in different contexts ranged from 25% (in academic publications) to 45% (on social media). Only 8% of all faculty said they do not self-censor in any of the four contexts asked about.

Yes, these data are pretty distressing, especially the disparity between faculty, who are generally favorable towards free speech and academic freedom, and students, who are substantially more censorious. The degree of chilling of speech is high.  Of course, conservative faculty are far less supportive of mandatory DEI statements (which may well be unconstitutional) than are liberal faculty.  I was going to write more about the FIRE report, but it’s long and you can get the gist of it above.

Finally, the Post counts the “turning point” of the Zeitgeist to the letter by Stanford’s President and Stanford Law School (SLS) Dean Jenny Martinez to Judge Kyle Duncan, apologizing for the abysmal and juvenile behavior of SLS students at a talk by conservative judge Kyle Duncan. Well, it’s a letter, and yes, they did put the offending DEI dean, Tirien Steinbach, on leave, but there was no attempt—and we don’t know if there will be in the future—to discipline students who try to disrupt talks or deplatform speakers. So far Stanford has talked the talk but not really walked the walk.  Is it a turning point that prompted other schools to grow a backbone, or only one of the earliest efforts of pushback by schools? Who knows. The Post op ed ends this way:

Thankfully, trigger warnings and other such measures are not always successful in taking root. But, at least in certain universities, they’ve triggered long-overdue defenses of unimpeded academic inquiry. For far too long, administrators and professors have been silent. Not anymore.

Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

I should add that several universities have adopted some of my own University’s Foundational Principles, most notably the Principles of Free Expression, which have been adopted in some form by over 80 universities. Unfortunately, only one school—the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—has adopted our powerful statement of institutional neutrality, the “Kalven report.”  Despite this, the University of Chicago has, up to now, lacked a formal committee for monitoring these violations, but this is now being fixed.


h/t: Ginger K.

NYT article defends the DEI dean at Stanford who escalated a judge’s talk into a conflagration and bad publicity for Stanford Law School

April 10, 2023 • 11:00 am

Well, author Vimal Patel, in a bizarre NYT article in which nearly every paragraph is just one sentence, has decided to take a new tack about the fracas at Stanford Law School (SLS) that involved the deplatforming of a visiting conservative judge, the disruption of his talk by a bunch of unruly and juvenile students, and the escalation of the mess by the dean of SLS. Patel has decided to praise dean Tirien Steinbach as an advocate of free speech and friend of the conservative Federalist society. Sadly, what Patel says seems like a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible.

I’ve written before about this whole sad tale (see posts here): Circuit Court judge Kyle Duncan was scheduled to give a talk at SLS about the relationship between his court and the Supreme Court. The talk was sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society. Before the talk, the DEI dean of SLS, Tirien Steinbach, got the students heated up by sending them an email, telling them how harmful judge Duncan’s decisions had been (see below).  Then, when his talk got interrupted by the inevitable shouts and noises from protesting students, Duncan asked for help from an administrator (four were present). Steinbach took it upon herself to get up and read a short prepared speech directed at both the students but also at Duncan, again telling him how harmful his decisions and opinions had been.

SLS dean Jenny Martinez, along with Stanford’s President, wrote to Duncan apologizing and saying that changes will be made. Martinez then wrote a long letter to the SLS community saying that the student behavior was against Stanford rules, that there would be changes so that students would learn about how free speech works, and, tellingly, that Steinbach was on leave.

This piece praises Steinbach; if you read it, you wouldn’t know that she really did anything out of line, but was standing up all the while for free speech.

A few excerpts:

The Back Story

That bare-bones narrative missed a more complicated situation, illustrating the perils of rushing to judgment based on a viral video.

To begin with, Ms. Steinbach had a cordial, productive relationship with the leader of the student-run Federalist Society, Tim Rosenberger Jr.

Ms. Steinbach, who started at Stanford in 2021, said she wanted to expand the role of D.E.I. to include groups like veterans, older students and conservatives. She viewed herself as a bridge builder.

. . .In January, when Mr. Rosenberger could not find a co-sponsor for an event with Nadine Strossen, a former head of the American Civil Liberties Union and a champion of free speech, he found a partner in Ms. Steinbach, who moderated the event.

“That took some courage,” he said.

Well, very cordial of Rosenberger. But it’s not really courageous because Steinbach anticipated that there would be disruption, sent out an email that would promote disruption, and had prepared some remarks that called out the judge—an extraordinary flaunting of her virtue exactly where it wasn’t needed!

On the morning of Judge Duncan’s talk, Ms. Steinbach sent an email to the entire law school, approved by Dean Martinez. She summarized the concerns that students had with Judge Duncan but said that students who tried to stop speech “would only amplify it,” and she linked to the free-speech policy.

Ms. Steinbach’s connection to students might have made her confident that she could be the broker between the two sides.

Well, you can read Steinbach’s email here, which begins this way (her links):

Today, Federal Judge Kyle Duncan (Fifth Circuit) will be speaking at an event on the topic of The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns and Twitter.  While Judge Duncan is not expected to present on his views, advocacy or judicial decisions related directly to LGBTQ+ civil rights, this is an area of law for which he is well known. Numerous senatorsadvocacy groups, think tanks, and judicial accountability groups opposed Kyle Duncan’s nomination to the bench because of his legal advocacy (and public statements) regarding marriage equality, and transgender, voting, reproductive, and immigrants’ rights. However, he was confirmed in 2018. He has been invited to speak at SLS by the student chapter of the Federalist Society.

A coalition of SLS students have expressed their upset and outrage over Judge Duncan’s invitation to speak at SLS.  For some members of our community, Judge Duncan, during his time as an attorney and judge, has “repeatedly and proudly threatened healthcare and basic rights for marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ people, Native Americans, immigrants, prisoners, Black voters, and women,” and his presence on campus represents a significant hit to their sense of belonging.

Then she pays lip service to free speech, but during her PREPARED REMARKS during the disruption, she questioned whether “the juice was worth the squeeze” (i.e. does freedom of speech justify the harm it does?) and FIRE has posted Steinbach’s prepared remarks, which include these remarks that were directed to the judge himself (bolding is mine):

Steinbach:. . . . Even in this time. And again I still ask: Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Duncan: What does that mean? I don’t understand…

Steinbach: I mean is it worth the pain that this causes and the division that this causes? Do you have something so incredible important to say about Twitter and guns and COVID [the topics of Duncan’s speech] that that is worth this impact on the division of these people who have sat next to each other for years, who are going through what is the battle of law school together, so that they can go out into the world and be advocates. And this is the division it’s caused.

When I say “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” that’s what I’m asking. Is this worth it? And I hope so, and I’ll stay for your remarks to see, because I do want to know your perspective. I am not, you know, in the business of wanting to either shut down speech, because I do know that if they come for this group today, they will come for the group that I am part of tomorrow. I do believe that.

And I understand why people feel like the harm is so great that we might need to reconsider those policies. And luckily they’re in a school where they can learn the advocacy skills to advocate for those changes. I hope that you have something to share with us that we can learn from. I hope you can learn too while you’re in this learning institution. I hope you can look through the spectacle and the noise to the people holding the signs. The people who are here to learn. The people just like you who absolutely are fighting for, working for freedom. Just to be free, to be themselves. That is what they are here for. They are here because they feel harmed not just by your speech. If it was just words that would be one thing. You have authority, and you have power to make decisions that impact the lives of millions.

And I hope if you learn anything that you can listen through, if you can listen through your partisan lens, your hyper-political lens and just look and see human beings who are asking you to take care, and like all guests on our campus, we ask that you come with good intentions and respect. And I do want to hear your remarks, and I do want to say thank you for protecting the free speech that we value here of our speakers and of our protesters, and I want to remind you all of one thing: I chose to be here today. You all chose to be here today. Many people go before Judge Duncan who do not necessarily choose to be there. And they have to listen to everything he says. Literally thousands of people. You have a choice. You do not need to stay here if this is not where you want to be. You can stay if this is where you want to be right now. But make that choice.

If you do choose to stay here, I do think we should give space to hear what Judge Duncan has to say, and I hope that also you will take the question and answer and comments section to say what you need to say and ask the questions you need to ask. I’m really grateful to be in this institution. I look out and I don’t ask, “What is going on here?” I look out and I say, “I’m glad this is going on here.”
How patronizing can you get? Note that she says “I’m glad this is going on here,” when was what going on was a fracas. I suppose she was glad she had the chance to deliver her prepared remarks, directed as much to Duncan himself as to the students. It’s simply reprehensible that she had to chew out the judge, but of course that what she wanted to do. And remember—the topic of Duncan’s speech had nothing to do with the policies that Steinbach was calling out as “harmful.”
 More from the piece:


Mr. Rosenberger said that he had been upset by Ms. Steinbach’s remarks in the lecture hall but that she had been something of a “scapegoat” for the university’s broader failure to protect speech.

He said that he wished an official had stepped to the podium and warned students that further disruption would be in violation of the university’s free-speech policy — but that Ms. Steinbach, as D.E.I. dean, was not that messenger.

“If she was the administrator whose job was to enforce the no-disruption policy, then yeah, she totally failed, but that’s not her job description,” Mr. Rosenberger said. “People have called her stupid and incompetent. She’s a smart and good person who was just put in a really bad spot.”

Finally, Patel dug up a professor (not at SLS!) to defend Steinbach, saying she should have received “more support”:

Julian Davis Mortenson, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Michigan and a Stanford alumnus, suggested that there had been a broader failure.

“Law schools need to have plans and protocols in place for controversies like this, which are going to happen with increasing frequency,” he said. “Stanford was not adequately prepared.”

Barring context he is unaware of, he said, he was disappointed that Ms. Steinbach had not received more support.

“An administrator on the ground, in a room literally full of shouting people, got them to stop shouting and also insisted that they should listen to the speech,” Professor Mortenson said.

Did Mortensen actually read the transcript of Steinbach’s remarks? She did NOT get them to stop shouting (though she did ask for respect for the judge at the same time she was disrespecting him), and, moreover, she again went through the litany of Duncan’s “harmful” views and decisions when she addressed the audience–and the judge.

No, Steinbach deserves no support. Yes, she did pay lip service to free speech, but then did everything she could to undermine it. I don’t think, as a DEI dean, she would be unaware of the results. Had she not given the caveat about free speech, she would have been fired instead of been put on leave.  But the NYT, determined to say something different from what everybody else was saying about Steinbach (including the SLS dean herself), decides to defend a dean who asks whether free speech can be justified if it causes harm. She didn’t help her cause when she wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal called “Diversity and free speech can coexist“. Two excerpts:

As a member of the Stanford Law School administration—and as a lawyer—I believe that we should strive for authentic free speech. . . .

I don’t think the word “authentic” is an accident; I suspect she means that inauthentic free speech is speech that harms the audience by offending them. It’s juice that isn’t worth the squeeze.

And this:

. . . At one point during the event, I asked Judge Duncan, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I was referring to the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech: to consider not only the benefit of our words but also the consequences. It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served by leaders who ask themselves, “Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?” I will certainly continue to ask this question myself.

What happened in that room is a microcosm of how polarized our society has become. . . .

Not that Steinbach did anything to increase the polarization! I still think that Steinbach should be fired, though I don’t call for that often. She has become a symbol of the kind of DEI initiatives that increase polarization—something that DEI isn’t supposed to do but does too often.

I don’t favor Duncan’s views, either, and his behavior towards the students was sometimes impolite, but remember that he was repeatedly attacked and egged on. The blame for this falls on both Steinbach and the SLS students, most of whom don’t seem to understand that free speech involves not just the freedom to speak, but the freedom of the audience to listen.