“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
November 30, 2023
From American Association of University Professors: Polarizing Times Demand Robust Academic Freedom
“Since its founding in 1915, the American Association of University Professors has been the most prominent guardian of academic freedom for faculty and students....
“The AAUP therefore calls on college and university administrations to:
“Recommit themselves to fully protecting the academic freedom of their faculties to teach, conduct research, and speak out about important issues both on and off campus, as called for in Academic Freedom in Times of War.
“Protect the freedom of students to express their positions on such issues on and off campus. Students should be free to organize and join associations to promote their common interests, and students and student organizations should be free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly and privately, in the words of the AAUP’s Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students.
“Safeguard the independence of colleges and universities by refusing to comply with demands from politicians, trustees, donors, faculty members, students and their parents, alumni, or other parties that would interfere with academic freedom....”
Full text at AAUP website
Whistleblower Highlights More Alleged Censorship Activities Based at Stanford
[Editor’s note: We have been regularly posting articles about alleged censorship activities being done directly at Stanford by people on Stanford's payroll (along with volunteer students), using campus buildings and even using Stanford’s name. The following is among the latest articles about these alleged activities.]
“A whistleblower has come forward with an explosive new trove of documents, rivaling or exceeding the Twitter Files and Facebook Files in scale and importance. They describe the activities of an 'anti-disinformation' group called the Cyber Threat Intelligence League, or CTIL....
“Emails from CISA’s NGO and social media partners show that CISA created the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) in 2020, which involved the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) and other US government contractors. EIP and its successor, the Virality Project (VP), urged Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to censor social media posts by ordinary citizens and elected officials alike....
“The documents also show that Terp and her colleagues, through a group called MisinfoSec Working Group, which included [Renee] DiResta [on the Stanford payroll], created a censorship, influence, and anti-disinformation strategy called Adversarial Misinformation and Influence Tactics and Techniques (AMITT). They wrote AMITT by adapting a cybersecurity framework developed by MITRE, a major defense and intelligence contractor that has an annual budget of $1 to $2 billion in government funding....
“The AMITT framework calls for discrediting individuals as a necessary prerequisite of demanding censorship against them. It calls for training influencers to spread messages. And it calls for trying to get banks to cut off financial services to individuals who organize rallies or events....
“Breuer went on to describe how they thought they were getting around the First Amendment. His work with Terp, he explained, was a way to get ‘nontraditional partners into one room,’ including ‘maybe somebody from one of the social media companies, maybe a few special forces operators, and some folks from Department of Homeland Security… to talk in a non-attribution, open environment in an unclassified way so that we can collaborate better, more freely and really start to change the way that we address some of these issues.’... It is here that we see the idea for the EIP [Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership] and VP [Stanford’s Virality Project] . . . .
“Despite their confidence in the legality of their activities, some CTIL members may have taken extreme measures to keep their identities a secret. The group’s handbook recommends using burner phones, creating pseudonymous identities, and generating fake AI faces using the ‘This person does not exist’ website.'” . . . .
Full article at Public
See also our prior article “Stanford’s Roles in Censoring the Web” and Stanford Prof. Jay Bhattacharya's essay “The Government Censored Me and Other Scientists. We Fought Back and Won”
Where Free Speech Ends and Lawbreaking Begins
“Those who care deeply about free speech are asking themselves many questions at this urgent moment: What should we make of the calls to punish Hamas apologists on campus? After all, this is America, where you have the right to say even the vilest things. Yes, many of the same students who on October 6 called for harsh punishment for ‘microaggressions’ are now chanting for the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state. But Americans are entitled to be hypocrites. ...
“I would put my free speech bona fides up against anyone. I’m also a lawyer and sometime law professor who recognizes that not all speech-related questions can be resolved by invoking the words First Amendment.
“Much of what we’ve witnessed on campuses over the past few weeks is not, in fact, speech, but conduct designed specifically to harass, intimidate, and terrorize Jews. Other examples involve disruptive speech that can properly be regulated by school rules. Opposing or taking action against such behavior in no way violates the core constitutional principle that the government can’t punish you for expressing your beliefs.
“The question, as always, is where to draw the line, and who’s doing the line-drawing....”
Full op-ed at The Free Press
From Wall Street Journal: Inside Ohio State’s DEI Factory
[Editor’s note: Author John Sailer is the director of university policy at the National Association of Scholars. As a result of a public records request, Sailer obtained more than 800 pages of Ohio State’s Diversity Faculty Recruitment Reports that were required as part of the university’s hiring process. More recently, Ohio State’s Board of Trustees ordered the termination of these hiring practices.]
“A search committee seeking a professor of military history rejected one applicant ‘because his diversity statement demonstrated poor understanding of diversity and inclusion issues.’ Another committee noted that an applicant to be a professor of nuclear physics could understand the plight of minorities in academia because he was married to ‘an immigrant in Texas in the Age of Trump.’
“These reports show what higher education’s outsize investment in ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ looks like in practice. Ohio State sacrificed both academic freedom and scholarly excellence for the sake of a narrowly construed vision of diversity....
“In some cases, committees evaluated diversity statements through an explicitly ideological lens. A committee searching for a professor of freshwater biology selected finalists ‘based upon a weighted rubric of 67% research and 33% contribution to DEI.’ To evaluate the statements, the committee used a rubric that cited several ‘problematic approaches’ for which a candidate can receive a zero score -- for example, if he ‘solely acknowledges that racism, classism, etc. are issues in the academy.’ It isn’t enough for a freshwater biologist to believe that racism pervades higher education."
Full op-ed at Wall Street Journal
See also our November 16, 2023 Newsletter excerpts of an article by Bari Weiss who starts her op-ed that “it is not about diversity, equity and inclusion” but rather the bloated and often anti-intellectual bureaucracies that have been created in the name of DEI.
See also our prior article "Stanford's Ballooning DEI Bureaucracy" that compares the number of fulltime DEI administrators at Stanford with schools that are twice and triple Stanford’s size.
From Stanford Daily: Installation of 240 More Cameras Raises More Privacy Concerns
“As students returned to campus this fall, many noticed new infrastructure in their residences: security cameras.
“A $2.35 million project to bolster security at Stanford is driving 240 new security camera installations per year, including at select student residences and dining halls.... The cameras have been subject to intense scrutiny in light of privacy concerns on campus....
“Temporary covert cameras may be used when deemed necessary for a police investigation, according to the VSSS [Video Safety and Security at Stanford] website. The site further acknowledges that, although the University does not employ any facial recognition tools, other government agencies may use such tools upon retrieving footage.
“‘A thorough security vulnerability assessment [of an area] is performed by DPS,’ [Stanford spokesperson] Rapport wrote, in order to pinpoint any safety and property risks. Non-covert camera installations are accompanied by ‘conspicuous, standardized signage,’ she wrote, to alert passersby of the cameras’ presence....
“‘[Stanford undergraduate Kayla] Myers said she wished Stanford was more transparent about how the use of security camera footage: ‘If anything, knowing that security cameras are around dorms makes me feel a bit uneasy because it’s like a reminder that students’ regular daily behavior is being surveilled.’”
Full article at Stanford Daily. A copy of Stanford's 13 pages of video surveillance standards is here; see also our prior posting from Stanford Review, “Stanford’s Security Regime Takes Root”. We also note that the administrative group that is overseeing these student surveillance activities is the same group that oversaw the now-discredited "Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative" and its lists of proscribed words and phrases.
Other Articles of Interest
Just Stop Making Official Statements About the News
Full article at New York Magazine Intelligencer
University of Southern California Relegates Professor to Remote Teaching for Expressing Anti-Hamas Sentiments
Press release from FIRE
College Leaders Refocus Attention on Their Students’ Top Priority: Jobs After Graduation
Full article at Hechinger Report
Powerful Forces Are Fracking Our Attention. We Can Fight Back.
Full article at NY Times
Our Institutions of Higher Education Are Waging a War on Truth
Full article at The Hill
At MIT, Fear, Frustration, and Flailing Administrators
Full article at Chronicle of Higher Education
Report Shows Blacks and Hispanics Lag in STEM PhDs
Full article at Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Student Data Lead Black, Hispanic Parents to Action
Full article at Gallup
“We recognize that words can sometimes cause offence, but we reject the idea that hurt feelings and discomfort, even if acute, are grounds for censorship. Open discourse is the central pillar of a free society, and is essential for holding governments accountable, empowering vulnerable groups, and reducing the risk of tyranny.” From the Westminster Declaration
Comments and Questions from Our Readers
See more reader comments on our Reader Comments webpage.
Wow! 17K Stanford administrators [and staff] is absurd. Does a master organizational chart exist to show the density of administrators in all specific areas of responsibility? Would love to see it, if it exists. Unfortunately, all the "accountability" being requested will be insufficient to fix such a bloated bureaucracy because most of the responsibilities and accountabilities must be
to other components of the bureaucracy, not to Stanford's core missions. Since administrators will protect themselves and their own, only a mandate from the Board of Trustees to a new President and senior leadership team can tame this beast.
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.
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.