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Professor: Stanford Law students were right to scream and yell at federal judge

It’s ‘very difficult to uphold the traditional liberal view that the best remedy for hate speech is more speech’

A professor of film studies at Portland State University believes the Stanford Law students who screamed and yammered at Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan were right to do so — because it’s “extraordinarily difficult for anyone to call this out while claiming to do so from a position of political neutrality.”

Earlier this month, Stanford Law School students berated Duncan at a scheduled talk, leading the school’s diversity dean to intervene. This arguably ended up making things even worse.

For PSU’s Jennifer Ruth (pictured), Duncan’s appearance was merely the latest manifestation of the “astonishingly effective coordination of power politics by people who have zero respect for the rules that govern democracies, and — if possible — even less respect for the rules that govern colleges and universities.”

Folks like Christopher Rufo and governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott fall into this group due to their efforts at battling critical race theory and other aspects of campus “wokeness.”

Introducing Jennifer RuthThis “concerted attack,” Ruth says, requires an appropriate response. Judge Duncan “participates in the now well-oiled judicial machinery of advancing political power through caricature, exaggeration, and doublespeak,” and the Stanford Law protesters understood this — that “something existential is at stake.”

MORE: ‘DEI Inc.’ and academic freedom inevitably conflict, scholars say

Ruth notes that the 1967 University of Chicago Kalven Report, cited by Stanford Dean Jenny Martinez in her post-Duncan imbroglio letter, also addresses that “something existential”:

“From time to time instances will arise in which the society, or segments of it, threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry. In such a crisis, it becomes the obligation of the university as an institution to oppose such measures and actively to defend its interests and its values.”

This argument isn’t new to Professor Ruth; last year she wrote a book about it titled “It’s Not Free Speech.” The book contends that since “traditional liberal ideals have had very limited effectiveness in responding to the resurgence of white supremacism in American life it is time […] to rethink the parameters and practices of academic freedom.”

According to Ruth and co-author Michael Bérubé, the academic freedom and free speech of academics who allegedly defend “colonialism and theories of white supremacy” must be re-evaluated as those topics have “no intellectual legitimacy whatsoever” and “call into question [scholars’] fitness to serve.”

Given this and the “democracy-destroying potential of social media,” the authors argue it is “very difficult to uphold the traditional liberal view that the best remedy for hate speech is more speech.”

MORE: Over 30 percent of Canadian academics would choose social justice over academic freedom: report

IMAGES: Shutterstock.com; PSU AAUP screencap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.