The associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion at Stanford Law School is on leave after she was seen on video not doing anything to stop protesters from shouting out a Trump-appointed federal judge who was invited to give a talk at the school.
“Associate Dean Tirien Steinbach is currently on leave. Generally speaking, the university does not comment publicly on pending personnel matters, and so I will not do so at this time,” Jenny S. Martinez, the dean of Stanford Law, wrote in a memo to the school’s community Wednesday, which was obtained by Fox News Digital.
Protests broke out at the school earlier this month when Judge Kyle Duncan, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, was invited to speak by conservative legal organization the Federalist Society.
Students shouted at him while holding protest signs on March 9, preventing him from delivering his planned talk. Among the protesters’ complaints was how Duncan refused to use a transgender sex offender’s preferred pronouns in a 2020 opinion.
Various videos of the incident show Steinbach not stopping any of the protesters, and at one point even appeared to smirk at a protester’s sign during the incident.
Martinez highlighted in her memo Wednesday that Steinbach has received “hateful and threatening messages” following “viral online and media attention.”
“Actionable threats that come to our attention will be investigated and addressed as the law permits,” she added.
Martinez added in the lengthy memo that “the protest violated the university’s policy on disruption.”
“Stanford’s event disruption policy gives attendees a right to hold signs and to demonstrate disagreement in other ways as long as the methods used do not ‘prevent or disrupt the effective carrying out of a University function or approved activity, such as lectures, meetings, interviews, ceremonies… and public events,’” Martinez wrote.
She explained that while some protesters at the gathering stayed within bounds of the school’s policies, others “crossed the line in sustained heckling that disrupted the event.”
After Duncan was unable to deliver his planned remarks, Steinbach took over and alleged that Duncan causes “harm” through his work as a federal judge. Steinbach also said she was “uncomfortable” by the anger over Duncan’s presence on campus.
“I had to write something down because I am so uncomfortable up here. And I don’t say that for sympathy. I just say that I am deeply, deeply uncomfortable,” Steinbach said, standing feet from Duncan. “I’m uncomfortable because this event is tearing at the fabric of this community that I care about, and I’m here to support.
The outburst from protesters led to calls for the school to apologize to the judge, and Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested the school reprimand students involved.
A petition from First Amendment group Speech First also circulated calling for Steinbach’s removal.
Martinez and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne ultimately apologized to Duncan in a letter earlier this month, with Martinez doubling down on the apology in her memo on Wednesday.
“The President of the University and I have apologized to Judge Duncan for a very simple reason – to acknowledge that his speech was disrupted in ways that undermined his ability to deliver the remarks he wanted to give to audience members who wanted to hear them, as a result of the failure to ensure that the university’s disruption policies were followed,” she wrote.
The initial apology however, drew more outrage from protesters, with hundreds of students gathering outside of Martinez’s classroom last week while wearing masks reading “counter-speech is free speech.”
Martinez said in her lengthy Wednesday memo that “the Federalist Society has the same rights of free association that other student organizations at the law school have.”
“Students calling for the law school administration to restrict the organization or the speakers it can bring to campus are demanding action inconsistent not only with freedom of speech but with rights to freedom of association that civil rights lawyers fought hard in the twentieth century to secure,” Martinez wrote.
Martinez wrote that free speech training will be required for both administrators and students in order to ensure compliance with university policy.
“[I]t should be obvious that the role of any administrators present will be to ensure that university rules on disruption of events will be followed, and staff will receive additional training in that regard,” she wrote.
She announced, “as one first step the law school will be holding a mandatory half-day session in spring quarter for all students on the topic of freedom of speech and the academic norms of the legal profession.”
Martinez said that the Federalist Society is entitled to the same free speech rights as any other student organization on campus.
“Protest is allowed, but disruption is not allowed,” the dean wrote.