Students at Stanford Law School have been forced to undergo free speech training after an embarrassing incident involving a visiting federal judge.
In March, Judge Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee, was ambushed by students and an associate dean at the prestigious university. The judge was subjected to an embarrassing 6–minute tirade condemning his life‘s work.
Woke students clicked their fingers in support – after progressive colleges warned handclapping can cause offense – and cried ‘Yes‘ in agreement. Judge Duncan stood and shook his head in amazement while the faculty member also voiced her support for free speech. When he tried to reply to the remarks, however, students screamed: ‘Let her finish!’
The incident shocked the legal and education worlds and prompted an apology from the school president and an assurance to “safeguard“ free speech. The university established a committee to review the incident and came to the conclusion that requiring students to complete free speech training was the best course of action.
While the first round of free speech training was completed in May, additional sessions have been held throughout the summer and into the fall. According to sources close to the school, the training has been “contentious“ as many students feel it infringes upon their free speech rights.
Some fear that the university is silencing student dissent. Others, however, feel the rules are necessary and that the issue of heckling a visiting speaker is the real problem, not the content of the heckling itself. The Stanford incident comes amid a nationwide debate about free speech on campus. In recent years, students at other schools have been accused of stifling debate by heckling or shutting down conservative speakers.
At a hearing in July, the University of California–Berkeley was asked to explain why students have been allowed to shout down conservative speakers. The school‘s general counsel defended its handling of the situation but said it was “a challenging area for all universities.”
Critics of the current student climate have noted that the students who heckled Judge Duncan were law students, who should know better.
The incident and subsequent free speech training may lead to a re–evaluation of how diversity training and student codes of conduct are taught and enforced at law schools around the country.
In the meantime, the university has sent a strong message that heckling will not be tolerated regardless of the views of the speaker. It remains to be seen whether law schools around the country will take similar steps and start training their students on the boundaries of free speech.