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Fellows with conservative think tank at Stanford fire back after attempt to investigate them fails

Left-leaning scholars at Stanford had asked faculty senate to seek probe into Hoover Institution

A trio of fellows at Stanford’s Hoover Institution has fired back at an attempt by other faculty members to investigate the institution for making, in their words, “a travesty of honest intellectual debate.”

“If Hoover fellows continue to be targets for character assassination, it will be clear to us what the true nature of free speech at Stanford has become—and not only to us,” wrote Hoover fellows Victor Davis Hanson, Scott Atlas and Niall Ferguson in The Stanford Review this week.

In a presentation to the Stanford Faculty Senate on February 11, Stanford professors Joshua Landy, Stephen Monismith, David Palumbo-Liu and David Spiegel gave a presentation in which they harshly criticized statements made by Hoover fellows in the past year, arguing the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution’s relationship with Stanford damaged the school’s reputation.

“While Stanford is an academic research institution, we believe that the Hoover is a partisan think-tank, and this has deep consequences with regard to the way each defines the roles its citizens should play,” the professors argued, saying some public actions by Hoover fellows were “so problematic that to move forward without addressing them would be a disservice both to Stanford and to the Hoover.”

The professors asked for “an impartial committee to be appointed by the Committee on Committees to delve deeper into the relationship between the Hoover and Stanford.”

Ultimately, the motion was amended to simply require “increasing interaction” between Stanford Provost Persis Drell and Hoover Director Condoleezza Rice.

During the debate, Drell — a supporter of Hoover’s continued relationship with Stanford — noted she was “left quite confused” at what the goal of the presentation and the motion was. It passed with the votes of three-quarters of the Senate.

And Rice said after the vote: “If it is a matter of cooperation, of integrating more deeply into Stanford, working more effectively with Stanford, I am committed to that. And I do believe that I know how to do it.”

After the vote, Palumbo-Liu acknowledged defeat.

“We actually had no expectation we would win,” he said on Twitter. “The point was to present an overwhelming case and then expose how terribly complicit so many of our colleagues are. Basically, the Faculty Senate put the foxes in charge of the hen house. But we made our case, and it, and the inaction of the Faculty Senate, is now in the public record.”


Part of that public record included a number of attacks against Hanson, Atlas and Ferguson.

While the attempt to investigate Hoover failed, the trio wrote that the presentation “still succeeded in maligning us as individuals.”

“The accusations against us three last week were as various as they were untrue,” wrote the fellows. “And all were presented regardless of clear and published evidence to the contrary.”

The professors, for instance, had criticized Hanson for allegedly questioning the results of the November presidential election, saying Democrat Joe Biden had been “installed” as president. Further, during a television interview on Fox News, Hanson ruminated about voter fraud.

“We now know that such denials of the legitimacy of the election formed the backdrop to an insurrection that cost 5 lives and threatened the lives of Representatives, Congressional staff, and the Vice President, as well as our constitutional democracy,” wrote the professors.

But the trio of Hoover fellows wrote that Hanson “has never questioned the legitimate inauguration of President Biden,” calling the alleged connection between his written work and the events of January 6 in Washington “entirely spurious.”

“Hanson criticized the January 6 riot at the Capitol and called for punishment of any and all street violence during the entire 2020 election year and its aftermath,” they wrote.

The professors, in their presentation to the Faculty Senate, had further argued that Atlas “violated the American Medical Association’s standards for ethical medical conduct” when, as an advisor for President Trump, he both advocated for herd immunity in order to fight the COVID-19 virus and criticized the wearing of masks.

The Hoover fellows said the professors based their charges on a “gross distortions of Atlas’s words,” saying the professors’ goal was to “delegitimize him and his analysis.”

Landy, Monismith, Palumbo-Liu and Spiegel also charge Ferguson “conspired with College Republicans to conduct ‘opposition research’ on a Stanford undergraduate.”

“A leaked email from Ferguson speaks of ‘unit[ing] against the SJWs,’ ‘intimidat[ing] them,’ and ‘grinding them down on the [Cardinal Conversations] committee,’” according to the professors.

But Hanson, Atlas, and Ferguson claim “no such ‘conspiracy’ occurred.” Instead, they objected to “a group of professors’ deliberate misuse of the Faculty Senate and the student newspaper to act as purveyors of their defamation.”

“In addition to harming the reputations of eminent scholars, the ongoing, multi-year campaign by certain faculty members against the Hoover Institution at large—which is patently ideological in its motivation—risks doing considerable collateral damage to Stanford University,” they wrote.

The fellows instead went on offense against Palumbo-Liu, a comparative literature professor who in 2017 formed a new “Campus Antifascist Network” — a name, they note, which is “not accidentally similar to the nationwide ‘Antifa’ movement.”

They further accused Palumbo-Liu of supporting virulently anti-Semitic literature and supporting violent protests over the summer, saying they “believe his charges of abusing campus free speech better apply to his own inflammatory activities.”

The Hoover fellows said they believe the ongoing harassment to be indicative of the opposition to ideological diversity on campus promoted by the professors.

“Far from promoting a ‘diversity of views,’ including political ideas and opinions, the reality of free speech at Stanford today is all too often that a minority of leftist faculty members have the freedom to smear Hoover fellows, and can count on the Stanford Daily to publish their smears,” they wrote.

“Who can blame Team Palumbo?,” wrote National Review’s Jack Fowler in a column about the attack on Hoover. “Imagine what could be bankrolled should they get their mitts on a carefully renegotiated part of Hoover’s $577 million endowment?”

A spokesperson for Stanford did not immediately respond to a request by The College Fix to comment for this story.

MORE: Trump advisor Scott Atlas blasts Stanford colleagues for trying to shut down COVID-19 scientific debate

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About the Author
Senior Reporter
Christian focuses on investigative, enterprise and analysis reporting. He is the author of "1916: The Blog" and has spent time as a political columnist at USA Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and National Review Online. His op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, City Journal, Weekly Standard and National Review. He has also been a frequent guest on political television and radio shows. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Marquette University and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.