Stanford ‘equity’ dean who let judge get heckled says she didn’t get ‘balance’ right in her role to de-escalate

The New York Times appeared to go out of its way to defend the reputation of Stanford Law School’s diversity dean Sunday with some rather selective editing on how she handled student protests of a conservative judge.

In March, U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan from the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had been invited to speak by Stanford’s Federalist Society. The event not only made news because of student behavior toward the guest on March 11, and subsequent protests of administrators, but also because of the involvement of the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, Tirien Steinbach.

Currently on leave for the roles she played disrupting the event where Duncan was set to discuss “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter,” Steinbach spoke with the Times and expressed, “My role was to de-escalate, and to, I hoped, give the judge space to speak his prepared remarks.”

“In hindsight, she said, she did not get the balance right. She noted, however, that she had been speaking to students in the room, and did not realize that her words would be blasted out to the world,” the outlet went on to state, notably without including an actual quote from her on that point.

In other words, the problem to the associate dean wasn’t so much what she said or how she behaved as it was the fact that she had been caught. Of course, after having her remarks, prepared mind you, spread across social media, Steinbach penned an op-ed to double down on what she had done.

“I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which included getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people,” she wrote and claimed, “My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue.”

In that op-ed, Steinbach defended, asking “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” by writing, “It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served as leaders who ask themselves, ‘Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?”

Likewise, the Times touched on that when they wrote, “That is, was the decision by Judge Duncan to speak worth the division it was causing students?”

Of course, the Times glossed over the associate dean’s own activist background as the former chief program officer at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and that she had taken the side of the protesters, upset over Duncan’s positions from the bench that included his refusal to use a gender dysphoric person’s pseudo-pronouns.

“Luckily they’re in a school where they can learn the advocacy skills to advocate for those changes,” she said while interrupting the judge’s time to speak to say his opinions “land as absolute disenfranchisement of their rights.”

Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law’s dean had issued a formal apology to Duncan in the aftermath and was herself subject to the ire of protesters who lined the hall and stared her down as she exited her constitutional law classroom with a smattering of students who had chosen education over activism.


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Kevin Haggerty


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