Two federal judges appointed by former President Trump warned law schools to “crack down” on student interruptions, as many institutions have seen student activists shut down conservative guest speakers.
“Too many institutions of legal education have become laboratories of divisiveness, not leadership,” wrote Judges James Ho, of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Elizabeth Branch, of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Too many educational institutions have stopped teaching students an essential skill of citizenship: knowing how to agree to disagree with one another.”
They said the founders — and federalists — knew the country would be divided, but used federalism and free speech to ease the concerns.
“Thank goodness the Federalists won — America is the most successful nation in human history. But if we do not reverse the toxic environment on our nation’s campuses soon, we may ultimately prove the Anti-Federalists right,” the judges wrote in the National Review on Wednesday.
They pointed to recent incidents at Yale and Stanford where guest speakers were shouted down by student activists.
Last year, a bipartisan panel on free speech at Yale was interrupted. And last week federal Judge Kyle Duncan, a Trump appointee to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was shouted down by students at Stanford Law School while a faculty member stood by.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has called for Stanford to discipline the students and dismiss Tirien Steinbach, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This disgraceful behavior is antithetical to the principles of free speech and open discourse that are essential to the mission of any credible academic institution, let alone a top-tier law school. Such behavior also clearly violates Stanford Law School’s Campus Disruption Policy. As such, Stanford Law School is well within its rights to discipline these students for their behavior, and indeed, I strongly urge the school to do so. Indeed, failing to identify and discipline the students responsible for this reprehensible conduct will only encourage such behavior in the future,” Mr. Cruz said.
Officials from the school sent a letter of apology to Judge Duncan following the incident.
“As has already been communicated to our community, what happened was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus,” said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Stanford, and Jenny Martinez, dean of the law school, in the March 11 letter.
The judges, meanwhile, in their op-ed said many campuses are tolerating intolerance, and they said the problem is that the next generation isn’t learning to debate and exchange ideas or to respect freedom of speech.
“Administrators who promote intolerance don’t belong in legal education. And students who practice intolerance don’t belong in the legal profession.,” Judges Ho and Branch added.