Stanford diversity dean who confronted Trump-appointed judge defends her actions

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Stanford diversity dean who confronted Trump-appointed judge defends her actions

The Stanford Law School diversity dean on leave after lecturing a Trump-appointed judge as he was being targeted by an unruly student protest has refused to apologize for her actions.

In her first public comments since the spectacle, Tirien Steinbach, Stanford Law School’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, defended herself in anop-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday in which she claimed she had been asked to be at the event “to observe and, it needed, de-escalate.”

About 100 students ambushed the gathering where Circuit Judge S. Kyle Duncan was attempting to speak to Stanford’s chapter of the conservative Federalist Society about the Court of Appeals. 

During the interruption, Steinbach harangued Duncan, telling him he has caused “harm” to students and that his bench opinions “land as absolute disenfranchisement of [the Stanford community’s] rights.”


Judge Kyle Duncan was speaking to Stanford’s chapter of the conservative Federalist Society when about 100 students barged in.
Judge Kyle Duncan was speaking to Stanford’s chapter of the conservative Federalist Society when about 100 students barged in to protest.

She also spoke of her commitment to free speech — while never offering Judge Duncan an opportunity to speak.

Steinbach said in the op-ed she was asked by the Federalist Society, student protest organizers and administration to attend the event to quell any trouble, which immediately ensued.

“As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides,” Steinbach said.

Then, she took to the podium “to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people,”

“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,” she continued. “I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.”


Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
The Federalist Society

She said she tried to acknowledge the student protesters’ concerns and told them they could respond to Duncan’s speech during the Q&A portion of the event “as long as they were following university rules.

“I pointed out that while free speech isn’t easy or comfortable, it’s necessary for democracy, and I was glad it was happening at our law school,” she wrote.

Two days after the incident, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Law School Dean Jenny Martinez offered their “sincerest apologies” to Duncan for the disruption.

They admitted the hijacking “was inconsistent with our policies on free speech, and we are very sorry about the experience you had while visiting our campus,” the pair wrote.

Though the letter did not name Steinbach, it addressed “staff members who should have enforced university policies failed to do so, and instead intervened in inappropriate ways that are not aligned with the university’s commitment to free speech.”


Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Steinbach said she was asked to be at the event to de-escalate the situation, if needed.
Vimeo / Ethics and Public Policy Center

The apology letter sparked additional protests from student organizations.

Steinbach is reportedly on leave, although it is unclear if it’s disciplinary or voluntary.

The law school administrators will not discipline any of the students who were involved in the disruption, according to reports.

“What happened in that room is a microcosm of how polarized our society has become, and it raises important questions: How do we listen and talk to each other as people, not with partisan talking points?” Steinbach wrote. “How might we start to hear the name-calling, anger, frustration and fury for what it is—people who are unhappy about the way things are and are looking for someone to be held accountable? Is there a way that we can stop blaming and start to talk and listen to each other?

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