If you are at all curious about how the war on campus free speech has evolved since student arsonists torched the University of California at Berkeley in 2017, look no further than the angry mob of infantile Stanford law students who shut down a talk by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kyle Duncan last week. Intolerant campus leftists have been shouting down speakers for years now, but what transpired at Stanford law school last week was special: The students’ effort to squash intellectual diversity was condoned and even enforced by a prominent university administrator.
Ducan, who had been invited by the Stanford Federalist Society to give a talk titled “Covid, Guns, and Twitter,” was driven from the podium by Stanford Law School’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach.
Due to heckling, Duncan asked an administrator to control the students, who were violating Stanford’s free speech policies. That’s when Steinbach stepped in, took the podium from Duncan, and personally chastised him with prepared remarks.
Steinbach said of their behavior in her pre-written speech, “I’m glad this is going on here.” “The Stanford Review” reported that students at the talk were screaming and holding obscene signs, such as “Judge Duncan can’t find the clit.”
While Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez have apologized to Duncan, it appears neither the offending students nor Steinbach have been disciplined for their breach of university policy they’ve agreed to follow.
Student writers at the Stanford Review penned a strong op-ed pressuring the university to fire Steinbach, whose conduct they said, “degrade[s] the principles of free speech [and] degrade[s] the prestige and reputation of Stanford Law School itself.” Getting rid of Steinbach is a good place to start, but ultimately it won’t fix the problem, which is the hundreds of thousands of Steinbach-like administrators across the country who are taking over universities.
Administrators are the scourge of higher education. They make the lives of students and professors astronomically more difficult by policing speech.
At most institutions, there are more administrators than faculty. At Yale, there are more administrators than undergraduate students. University bureaucrats, with their often seven-figure salaries, are a major factor in the outrageous cost of tuition (which is only getting worse thanks to Biden’s student loan bailout plans).
For hundreds of years, universities conducted research and managed classrooms without bureaucrats, and non-instructional functions were handled by faculty department heads. Today, the day-to-day activities of the only people who really matter at the university — the students and the faculty — are hindered by overgrown and unnecessary university administrations.
A 2015 Vanderbilt study found that federal regulatory compliance makes up 3 to 11 percent of schools’ operating expenses and eats up 4 to 15 percent of faculty and staff’s time. Red tape universities have invented is also expensive and time-consuming. Things like dual enrollments or independent studies require approval from multiple pencil pushers, yet all that should really be needed is the consent of the involved student and faculty members.
The most damaging administrators are people like Steinbach, who are responsible for injecting “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) into every classroom and campus activity. DEI administrators indoctrinate students with mandatory “sensitivity” training the moment they step on campus. At some institutions, they can affect departments’ hiring decisions, mandating racial quotas that often diminish the quality of professors. According to the DEI zealots, “if you are just hiring the best people, you’re part of the problem.”
The humanities have been declining for decades, but the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have also been infected by wokeism, thanks to the DEI heads. Academic departments have their own diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, which give mandatory DEI seminars to majors that would otherwise never be exposed to such nonsense.
Another important part of the problem is that administrators are highly partisan. Studies show that university bureaucrats are even more left-wing than professors (and that’s saying something). Leftist faculty reportedly outnumber their conservative counterparts six-to-one, whereas leftist staff outnumbers conservative bureaucrats 12-to-one.
Perhaps the most damning thing university administrators have ever done was subject faculty and students to deranged and un-scientific Covid measures. Students were barred from functioning like normal human beings. They were defrauded out of their tuition dollars and forced into remote learning. They weren’t allowed to visit one another in each other’s dorm rooms, and they were surveilled to ensure obedience.
Students and faculty were subjected to ineffective and unethical mask, vaccine, and booster mandates, and some were even thrown out for non-compliance. Administrators also implemented mandatory, Communist-esque reporting systems, which required students and staff to turn in colleagues and classmates who disobeyed the Covid edicts.
Bureaucrats’ handling of Covid was arguably the most egregious of their offenses. They shut down campuses, inhibited learning, and needlessly made the lives of students and professors miserable.
Administrators’ crimes against higher education have gone unchecked, which means they will only get bolder. Steinbach knowingly violated Stanford’s free speech policies, and she has not been fired nor apparently disciplined. She and her colleagues will continue to flex their power, stifle learning, undermine the quality of professors, and shut down viewpoint diversity until faculty and students stand up and demand they be banished from campus.