Stanford-Yale Contagion Spreads To Tennessee House

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Stanford-Yale Contagion Spreads To Tennessee House; Dramatically Different Punishments, Too Little vs Too Much

Tennessee Disruption

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 7, 2023) – The contagious idea that it’s permissible to shout down someone you disagree with in a public forum, most recently exhibited at Stanford Law School [SLS] and Yale Law School [YLS] where invited speakers were shouted down so they could not speak, may have spread to Tennessee where several members of the state’s House of Representatives took over the chamber with a bullhorn so that nobody else could be heard.

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In these cases the arguments supporting the wrongful acts, which violated the applicable rules, were justified by bogus arguments that the protections of free speech and academic freedom do not apply to someone with whom others strongly disagree, and that shouting down a speaker is simply an exercise of the right of free speech.

However, there was a strong difference regarding the outcome.

The Dean of SLS announced that, although the university knew who the disruptive students were, and that what they did clearly violated the university's very strong policies protecting freedom of speech, there would be no punishment at all for the guilty, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has announced that he plans to oppose the admission to the bar of SLS's law students known to have violated the free speech rules.

In stark contrast, the Tennessee House expelled two or the three disruptors by an overwhelming number of votes.

Such expulsions may be seen as too harsh a punishment for the Tennessee disruption, while many - including members of the U.S. Congress and several federal judges - feel that not imposing any discipline at all at Stanford only emboldens students who might consider shouting down another speaker in the future, and effectively blocks bar admission authorities from deciding if people who engaged in such actions have the requisite character and fitness to be admitted to the bar and become lawyers.

SLS's refusal to take any action against those known to be guilty is especially wrongful because the applicable remedies available to the Dean under the university's disciplinary policy include such minor and almost insignificant punishments as "education" and "community service."

Violations of applicable rules which protect freedom of speech - including the right of the speaker to speak, and the related right of audience members to be able to hear - cannot be ignored by Stanford, says Banzhaf, who notes that many of their graduates may face problems being admitted to practice, that a growing number of judges will not consider their graduates for judicial clerkships, and that two congressional committees are seeking to have SLS's accreditation revoked for not enforcing its own rules.