First leader says it’s about ensuring consistent funding decisions
Does the Stanford University bureaucracy need someone to oversee “academic freedom” issues?
The College Republicans on campus don’t think so, and they’re warning their peers that the student government’s new cabinet position will actually be used to suppress controversial speech, including the speakers and events the group hosts.
The Stanford Daily reports the Associated Students of Stanford University created the position of director of academic freedom two weeks ago.
The director is supposed “to work with University administration to ensure free exchange of ideas while making sure speakers invited by student groups uphold the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard,” which is Stanford’s short and broadly worded student-conduct statement.
The first official to hold the office, grad student Zintis Inde, told the Daily he wants to “work in a proactive way to examine and refine free speech policies on campus to reflect the current climate and our values as a community.”
He’s not going to make decisions about specific speakers and events, but work toward establishing policies that “can be applied fairly” by student leaders “to all groups applying for funding and ensure a healthy culture of free speech on campus.”
The Stanford community has reacted poorly to invited speakers and planned events that challenge campus orthodoxy. Staff encouraged students to tear down flyers for a talk on radical Islam and the administration banned its livestream. Officials threw up bureaucratic hurdles to a “Make Stanford Great Again” event while inviting radical-left activists as university guests.
A Stanford resident advisor offered to “physically fight Zionists” on campus, and most recently the CR’s tabling event in favor of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh drew vandalism and assault (above).
The new student government position is a “countermeasure” intended to restrain conservative student groups from bringing their desired speakers, CRs member Michael Whittaker said:
“Thinly veiled behind the newspeak is the true goal,” Whittaker wrote in an email to The Daily, “to defund and obstruct controversial speakers who offend the sensibilities of the pantheon of diversity.”
SCR Vice President Philip Eykamp ’20 stood in support of Whittaker, speaking on behalf of the organization.
“We find the position of ‘Director of Academic Freedom’ to be by its nature Orwellian,” he wrote in an email to The Daily. “Academic freedom should be a fairly simple issue of protecting free speech and discourse on college campuses, and thus the introduction of a regulatory position to cover the issue raises concerns for us about the potential inhibition of academic freedom inherent to this role.”
Shanti Katipamula, president of ASSU, told the Daily the new position is an “advocacy role” with no ability to make external policy decisions. ASSU leaders have long held that the student government “cannot limit a student group’s access to funds based on the content of their speech,” she said.