Intimidation-Produced Silence at Stanford

John Rosenberg:

Back in the late middle of the last century I attended Stanford for my last three years of college and my last three years of graduate school. Since then I have looked in vain for the dividend checks from that investment, but one thing I have received with some regularity is the alumni magazine.

Along with its almost equally depressing news of classmates either more successful or deceased, Stanford usually presents impressive representatives of the unusually talented undergraduates it attracts, as well as items highlighting other accomplishments on campus. A recent issue, however, featured a symposium by four senior faculty members on “What Should Free Speech Mean in College?” that is discordantly, uncharacteristically depressing — in no small part because the editors obviously had no idea how bad the picture they painted makes Stanford look.

Michael McConnell, law professor, director of the Constitutional Law Center, former judge on the the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and one of the few conservatives at Stanford, struck a common note with his observation that “at Stanford, students frequently appeal to the university to silence other students whose views make them feel uncomfortable. Students of a conservative persuasion tell me that they do not feel free to express their views—even mainstream, reasonable views shared by millions of Americans—in class or in common spaces, for fear of attracting a torrent of abuse from fellow students and occasional disapproval from a small minority of ideologically intolerant faculty. They simply self-censor; they keep their mouths shut.”