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“The first step is to remind our students and colleagues that those who hold views contrary to one’s own are rarely evil or stupid, and may know or understand things that we do not. It is only when we start with this assumption that rational discourse can begin, and that the winds of freedom can blow." Former Stanford Provost John Etchemendy

From Our Latest Newsletter​

"To be true to the best you know" - Jane Stanford

April 15, 2024

Updated Responses to Reader Survey

Click here to see updated responses to our Reader Survey: What should be the two or three highest priorities for Stanford's current or next president?


For those still interested in responding, the survey form remains available here.


Stifling University Free Speech: A Tale of Two Campuses


Excerpts (links in the original):


“Last week, student demonstrators at the University of Michigan drowned out the University president’s speech during an Honors Convocation and brought an end to the event. The protest was organized by the TAHRIR Coalition, a group of 80 University of Michigan student organizations advocating for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Ironically, the Michigan student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, once associated with free speech, is part of the coalition and helped to organize the protest.


“Also last week, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) was at the University of Maryland to deliver the Irving and Renee Milchberg Endowed Lecture on the subject of ‘Democracy, Autocracy and the Threat to Reason in the 21st Century.’ Here, too, student protestors shouted down and heckled Rep. Raskin. Here, too, the event ended abruptly. Raskin had only been able to deliver a few minutes of his intended lecture.


“In Michigan and Maryland, we see two polar opposite responses to infringements on freedom of speech: one that endeavors to uphold free speech values and one, while using words that suggest otherwise, that fundamentally undermines campus speech.  We can only hope that the Michigan model prevails.


Darryll Pines, president of the University of Maryland, seemed positive about the outcome of the Raskin lecture. ‘What you saw play out actually was democracy and free speech and academic freedom’ [said Pines]. Professor Howard Milchberg, a professor of physics at the university, reiterated the president’s sentiments: ‘It didn’t go as planned…it was an actual exercise of democracy rather than a story of about democracy.’


“Back at Michigan, the response of the university president was, at first, to release a fairly milquetoast statement on the right to protest but not to disrupt. This was followed, however, by three students who had been identified as part of the protest being issued citations for trespassing. These students are barred from entering four campus buildings and may now be unable, in a poetic turn of events, to attend their own graduation....”


Full article at Real Clear Education


Campus Censorship Set for Record-Breaking 2024


Excerpts (links in the original):


. . . “2023 was the worst year ever for campus deplatforming attempts -- and 2024 is already on track to blow it out of the water. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has already recorded 45 deplatforming attempts as of 15 March, a pace of around 200 for the year, but I suspect that it will be even higher as shout-downs have become such a popular tactic among activists. Free speech on campus has been threatened for a long time, it’s not getting better, and anyone who can’t see that is being willfully blind.


“FIRE noted a record-setting 155 deplatforming attempts in 2023. Almost half (70) of those succeeded -- also a new record. These included the Whitworth University disinvitation of Chinese dissident Xi Van Fleet; the cancellation of multiple screenings of the film Israelism at Hunter College and the University of Pennsylvania; and the shout-down of 5th Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford Law School....”


Full op-ed at UnHerd


Stanford’s Faculty Senate Postpones Motion to Rescind Its Prior Condemnation of Dr. Scott Atlas




“Stanford University’s Faculty Senate will weigh dueling motions [on Thursday, April 11] about whether to rescind its 2020 condemnation of Scott W. Atlas, a Hoover Institution senior fellow who was an adviser to former President Donald Trump about Covid-19.


“At the height of the pandemic, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution criticizing Atlas for promoting ‘a view of Covid-19 that contradicts medical science.’ It cited his remarks that discouraged mask-wearing and that encouraged Michiganders to ‘rise up’ against their governor in response to public-health measures, among others. The November 2020 resolution, which was approved by 85 percent of the senate membership and drew national attention, characterized Atlas’s behavior as ‘anathema to our community, our values, and our belief that we should use knowledge for good.’ …


“‘Our motion to rescind the censure of Atlas is not about relitigating the 2020 motion but about restoring due process, which everyone recognizes was not given to Atlas,’ John W. Etchemendy, a former Stanford provost and one of the faculty members behind the effort, said in an email. ‘I believe the great majority of senators acknowledges the flawed process and is in favor of correcting that mistake.’


“At the same time, the Faculty Senate committee that sets the agenda has proposed a competing motion: to table the call for a retraction until it undergoes further discussion....”


Full article at Chronicle of Higher Education. According to Stanford Daily, at last Thursday's Faculty Senate meeting, the motion to rescind the censure of Dr. Atlas was not adopted but instead was sent to committee.


Colleges Are Supposed to Make Citizens, Which Is Why Protecting the Right to Protest Is Essential


Excerpts (links in the original):


“In the now infamous December 5th Congressional hearing with the presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn, Republican Congressman Brandon Williams told Claudine Gay that ‘your mission is to educate’ but all he sees is ‘hateful and threatening anti-Semitic demonstrations.’ ...


“The shut-up-and-study crowd ignores the fact that virtually every college and university in the United States has a dual mission: the development of students’ critical thinking skills (via knowledge production and dissemination) and the preparation of students to be informed, engaged citizens....


“Appealing to safety concerns and community belonging, a number of universities, including Columbia, Cornell and Lehigh, have tightened their rules governing student demonstrations. At least three schools -- Columbia, Brandeis and George Washington University -- have suspended their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman noted that the failure of these universities to offer detailed justifications for the suspensions has ‘left the impression that they may be engaging in viewpoint-based censorship, and attempting to deliberately silence pro-Palestinian voices critical of Israel.’ …


“The administrative impulse to avoid controversy at all costs is making a mockery of higher education’s avowed commitment to preparing students for citizenship. When student free expression rights are trampled on, they are deprived of the opportunity to practice the hard work of living in community with people who hold diverse views. We are reminded here of Jacob Mchangama’s astute observation that ‘To impose silence and call it tolerance does not make it so.’ How will students learn to navigate the sometimes rough-and-tumble world of life in a pluralistic, multicultural democracy? When their future neighbors put up lawn signs with messages they oppose or find offensive, there will be no dean on call to remove them....


“To be clear, while colleges and universities should have a high level of tolerance for confrontational and disruptive student protests, there are some basic ground rules that must be followed. The targeted harassment of individual campus community members is, of course, verboten. So too is the heckler’s veto -- that is, shouting down campus events -- as happened last month at the University of Michigan when pro-Palestine student protesters derailed the university’s annual Honors Convocation. It’s also important for students to keep in mind that exercising their free expression rights does not extend to violating reasonable time, place and manner restrictions such as keeping clear of fire exits or prohibiting the use of megaphones in the library.”  …


Full op-ed by Carlton Professors Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder at “Banished” on Substack 


Other Articles of Interest


Protestors Disrupt Dinner for Graduating UC Berkeley Law Students at Dean’s Home

Full article at Yahoo as reprinted from Telegraph. See also copy of Dean Chemerinsky’s letter as well as NBC News video of the incident. 


Poll Shows Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Efforts to Roll Back Campus Due Process Rights

Full article at FIRE website


Legal Experts Say Pending Title IX Changes Threaten Free Speech and Due Process

Full article at College Fix

Employers Find Gen Z Is Failing in the American Workplace

Full article at Red Balloon. Compared to Washington Post Gen Z Needs to Be Treated Differently. 


Harvard DEI Office Plans Another Year of Segregated Graduation Ceremonies, Finally Adds One for Jewish Students.

Full article at Campus Reform


Harvard Students Form Academic Freedom Group Amid Debates Over Speech, Neutrality

Full article at Harvard Crimson


Tara VanDerveer Announces Retirement After 38 Seasons at Stanford

Full article at Go Stanford. See also Stanford Daily.


Samples of Current Activities at Stanford

Click on each article for direct access; selections are from Stanford Report and other Stanford websites. 


Stanford Study Flags Unexpected Cells in Lung as Suspected Source of Severe COVID


Stanford Doctors Develop First FDA-Approved Gene-Editing Treatment


Generative AI Develops Potential New Drugs for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria


Navigating the Nuance: The Art of Disagreeing Without Conflict

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln 

Comments and Questions from Our Readers

See more reader comments on our Reader Comments webpage.

Need Dialog, Not Prohibitions

I suggest the university produce forums in which ultimate concerns about war and peace presently unfolding be formally debated, subject to the rules of decorum. This is what the university is for, not prohibitions on argument or advocacy. Silence renders learning impossible. 

Hoping for Balanced Speech at Stanford

I am so in support of the opinions expressed here and hope Stanford will adopt a more balanced approach to free speech. I can only hope.


Teaching Young People and Others How to Disagree Civilly

While I believe that supporting free speech is very important in and of itself, I also believe that there is a related component that is often ignored. That component is teaching people, especially young people, how to disagree civilly/how to constructively respond to free speech they might not agree with.

Stanford Internet Observatory

If your leadership team has not looked into the Stanford Internet Observatory, and its link to the Election Integrity Partnership, funded through the Obama/Biden Department of Homeland Security, please take a look. This is a powerful online censorship weapon. The university has no business participating in the policing of election related free speech in our country.  

Question About Ties to the Alumni Association

Q.  I notice that the SAA website contains no links to the Stanford Alumni for Free Speech and Critical Thinking website. Why is that?


A. Our website is not linked at the SAA website since we intentionally did not seek to become an affiliate of SAA. Among other things, we wanted to maintain independence, including since SAA became a subsidiary of 

the university in the mid-1990’s. That said, there are a number of current and former Stanford administrators and trustees who receive our Newsletters and read the materials that are posted at the website.

About Us

Member, Alumni Free Speech Alliance


Stanford Alumni for Free Speech and Critical Thinking is an independent, diverse, and nonpartisan group of Stanford alumni committed to promoting and safeguarding freedom of thought and expression, intellectual diversity and inclusion, and academic freedom at Stanford.  


We believe innovation and positive change for the common good is achieved through free and active discourse from varying viewpoints, the freedom to question both popular and unpopular opinions, and the freedom to seek truth without fear of reprisal from those who disagree, within the confines of humanity and mutual respect.  


Our goal is to support students, faculty, administrators, and staff in efforts that assure the Stanford community is truly inclusive as to what can be said in and outside the classroom, the kinds of speakers that can be invited, and what should always be the core principles of a great university like Stanford.  We also advocate that Stanford incorporates the Chicago Trifecta, the gold standard for freedom of speech and expression at college and university campuses, and that Stanford abides by these principles in both its policies and its actions.  

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