“Something Existential is at Stake”: Professor Defends Silencing of Federal Judge at Stanford Law School

We have discussed the cancellation of federal appellate Judge Kyle Duncan by Stanford Law School students, a disgraceful attack on free speech that led to an apology from both the law school dean and the university president. However, as I discussed earlier, many faculty support such anti-free speech measures. One is Professor Jennifer Ruth, who teaches film studies at Portland State University. In a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Ruth commends the law students for preventing Judge Duncan from being heard on campus.

The Stanford Federalist Society invited Judge Duncan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to speak on campus. However, liberal students, including members from the National Lawyer’s Guild, decided that allowing a conservative judge to speak on campus is intolerable and set about to “deplatform” him by shouting him down.In this event, Duncan was planning to speak on the topic:  “The Fifth Circuit in Conversation with the Supreme Court: Covid, Guns, and Twitter.” A video shows that the students prevented Duncan from speaking from the very beginning. Many called him a racist while others hurled insults like one yelling “We hope your daughters get raped.”Duncan was unable to continue and asked for an administrator to assist him.Dean Steinbach then took the stage and criticized the judge for seeking to be heard despite such objections. Steinbach, who was put on leave, recently doubled down in defending her widely criticized actions.

Professor Ruth’s support for silencing opposing viewpoints is part of a long-standing anti-free speech position. It is an extension of her book It’s Not Free Speech: Race, Democracy, and the Future of Academic Freedom (with Penn State Music Professor Michael Bérubé) declaring certain views as advancing “theories of white supremacy” and thus having “no intellectual legitimacy whatsoever.” Once declared as harmful, it is no longer free speech and therefore worthy of censorship or cancellation. It is that easy. Of course, Ruth ignores that some of us view her anti-free speech views as an “existential threat” to higher education. However, we would be the first to protect Professor Ruth from being cancelled on campus. Of course, that will never be necessary. Ruth is celebrated in her views and does not have to fear any retaliation or cancellation for her view that others should be silenced.

On this occasion, Ruth defended her call for cancelling Duncan by citing the Kalven Report. In 1967, the University of Chicago assembled a committee to study academic freedom and free speech that would become one of the most important projects in modern higher education. It became known as the “Kalven Committee” after its chair, the great law scholar Harry Kalven, Jr. The report contained an eloquent and profound defense of diversity of thought and expression that seems utterly abandoned by many today. It was cited by the Stanford Law Dean in her letter to the law students and stated in part:

“From time to time instances will arise in which the society, or segments of it, threaten the very mission of the university and its values of free inquiry. In such a crisis, it becomes the obligation of the university as an institution to oppose such measures and actively to defend its interests and its values.”

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ruth uses a report heralding the “values of free inquiry” to justify censorship of conservative viewpoints. She simply declared Judge Duncan’s views to be a threat to democracy and thus inimical to the educational mission. She says that free speech advocates miss that there is “something existential is at stake” in allowing such views to be heard. Specifically, “for some — people in the LGBTQ community who wish to marry whom they love and who seek judges with the minimum of respect for their personhood — the threat of a judge like Duncan is, very obviously, existential.”

Of course, Professor Ruth will determine what views are too harmful to be heard on campus with the rest of the self-appointed speech monitors. This ease with speech controls is due in large part to her view that “the First Amendment has no bearing on academic freedom, because the First Amendment has no relation to scholarly expertise.” Thus, as academics, we will judge what views are helpful or inimical to the academic mission. That will leave Judge Duncan silent while it would presumably leave liberal judges free to speak at Stanford.



113 thoughts on ““Something Existential is at Stake”: Professor Defends Silencing of Federal Judge at Stanford Law School”

  1. It’s always the ‘Ivory Tower’ set which presumes always having a place on the viewing stand. Tthat the proverbial ‘they’ will never come for ‘them’.

  2. At this point, I am convinced all of these leftists in government, education, and the MSM are very much legitimate psychopaths, sociopaths, or so on the ASD spectrum they shouldn’t be able to tie their shoes. The recent spins from AOC, the media already making a murderer of children into a victim, snd this very post here – they have to be. There is no other explanation as to how these individuals can still look in the mirror. Our left has gone from corrupt and insane to legitimately sick. The only thing remaining is open, unabashed, undeniable evil.

    Do not tell me the modern left are not the most egregious fascists to ever walk the earth. What will it take for people to pay attention when all of this happens right before their eyes everyday and it isn’t enough? Are THAT many of us really on drugs, prescriptions/street, whatever?

    1. I too have wondered if most of these people are on the ASD spectrum. To be honest, if one day we find out that there were chips in their brains, I would say to myself, ‘well, finally! Something that makes sense!’

  3. On a related note:

    “Wayne State Professor Calls for Murder of Those Who Express Opinions He Disagrees With”

    A leftist professor at Wayne State University in Michigan has been suspended with pay after publishing a Facebook post calling for the murder of conservative campus speakers.”


    suspended with ***pay***.

    Don’t expect the FBI to contact Democrat Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer to investigate this professor’s hate speech. But parents advocating for their children at public school board meetings, BOLO for the Feds raiding your homes

    1. The WSU professor, Steven Shaviro, is said to teach “Introduction to Film” courses. The subject of JT’s column, Jennifer Ruth, is said to teach film studies. They are both living arguments for “getting back to basics”.

  4. “If you are not listening, you are not learning.”

    I am not sure who said this but it is true. I thought I had all the answers when I was young and in the peak of my youthful zeal, that is until life happened. A very learned and wise gentleman who was my mentor for some years of my early 20s used to talk about the growing concentric circle of ignorance. The more you truly know, the more you understand how little you really know about something. This is also at the heart of the scientific method. That is why there is no such thing as “settled science.” There is always room for another perspective.

    The actions of the students and their teacher (dean) prove to me that they are unwilling to hear another person’s point of view. What are they afraid of? Is the foundation of their belief so weak? The rudeness they displayed in the presence of a distinguished officer of the court also speaks volumes to their character (or lack of character).

    They should have respectfully listened to his talk, taken notes, ask questions and also sought a means to question him further. The teacher (dean) should have modeled appropriate behavior and set an example. What occurred instead was the reputation of a prestigious Institution was damaged.

    1. E.M.
      Well said.
      What you describe is something an adult would consider. I know a lot of things, more so than some, less than others. But I am always willing to learn.
      That is not what we are seeing from the leftist woke crowd. They only seek to silence any and all ideas that are not woke. Some are even considering or have conducted acts of intimidation or violence.
      As their rage continues unabated, even emboldened, they will see by any means necessary to escalate to the wide spread of violence.

    2. There is only one solution: political beliefs must be among the protected categories of defining personal characteristics such as gender, age, race, religion etc., upon which any provable discrimination would not only be unconstitutional, but also a violation of federal law.
      Let the law suits fly if there is even a suspicion of discrimination on the basis of political beliefs whether in employment, or any other facet of human interaction.

  5. The woman is emblematic of the small minded totalitarian intellectually stunted thugs who inhabit our Academy. These are of the same ilk who would have loyally served Joseph Stalin up to the minute they were taken down to the Kremlin basement and had a bullet put through their head. People like Ruth are not just despicable they are the true existential threat to freedom in America. Just go check out her views on the web.

  6. Perhaps an official censorship board is in order?

    And remember JT, our s@@tlib friends consider you a ‘nazi’ too despite your best efforts.

    I don’t want to understand, dialogue or reconcile with these people, I want a DIVORCE.


  7. The obvious point here is that when students shout down and shut down points of view they don’t like they are admitting they do not have well-thought-out, logical arguments for their own views. Because their positions are so illogical, weak and poorly thought out they simply refuse to debate. Shutting down speech = “I can’t prove you wrong”. We should be paying close attention to anyone who is being shouted down. They are probably speaking profound truth.

    1. carpslaw,
      I would argue they do not have a well-thought-out, logical arguments for their own views as their views are not based on logic or even common sense, but emotions.
      They are all Id.
      They lack the emotional maturity of the Ego, or the Superego.
      When taken in that context (i.e. Id, Ego, Superego) their behavior makes sense.
      But does not make for a better society. Quite the opposite. We are seeing an entire generation of Id based young adults entering into the work force.

      1. Good points and I don’t disagree. The question is why they are so Id based? Age alone can’t be the reason. Previous generations were not this way, at least to this extent. Certainly schools are a major factor, but I believe there is also fault in the hypersensitive, overly protective approach parents are taking in raising their kids today.

  8. I prefer not to give fools like Prof Baby Ruth a platform to spew Stupid. It’s like letting Flat Earthers talk about the waterfall at the end of the world. I know they want to talk about it and really beleive it but if live to be the age of Methuselah, I still don’t have time for it. Oh and calling that a “professor” is like calling a tabby cat a lion. Yeah there’s a vague family resemblance but only a moron would think they’re the same thing.

    1. I agree with your assertions Mark. I would offer that there is a popular mindset that some believe they can prove they are of the superior mind / high social value by expressing contrarian opinions against someone or something they recognize as prominent…as if that somehow their dissention elevates them to their opponent’s level. That is a false believe but it is strongly held by some. An extreme illustration would be someone who throws paint at a universally recognized portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in the false belief that it elevates them to the same level of notoriety as the artist. The truth of their position or the reasonableness of their actions is not material to them, it is the shock value and attention they crave that gives them legitimacy or relevance in their minds.

      What to do with this type of mindset? For others I suggest as you do and not lend them our ears and relegate them to the true irrelevance they have earned.

  9. My question is this. Being a professor in a law school how could Ms. Ruth not be aware of the history of what has happened in countries where free speech is not allowed? How can she not see the implementation of Gulags across the globe facilitated to imprison those who questioned the authority of the government? To me it’s a simply process to put two and two together to see that millions have been put to death because they cared to disagree. What is the first law of the land? Obviously Ms Ruth while working at a prestigious American law school has no respect for the freedoms brought about by the Constitution. Now hear she is exercising her right to free speech in denying the same right to others. You just can’t get anymore elite than that. You can easily picture her holding her nose in the air as she declares that the riff raff have no right to be heard.

    1. TiT,
      I would argue Ruth does not see it, as that would be admitting she is on the same level as those you mention.
      It is, “I am not the same! I am better! More enlightened! It is because I am so enlightened that those rubes cannot see how enlightened I am and how stupid they are!”
      History is rife with them.
      Interestingly enough, they are usually the ones who either commit the atrocities of humanity, or end up in a shallow grave.

    2. I believe that Professor Turley indicated that Jennifer Ruth is a professor of film studies at Portland State. It doesn’t sound like she has any legal training.

      1. RE:”It doesn’t sound like she has any legal training..” No! In fact, she’s really nothing more than a hubris ridden, self-important, self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing, pseudo-intellectual like the rest of that misguided lot who believe that they’ll be the last one’s standing at the dawn after the next ‘Night of the Long Knives’.

  10. Wow Svelaz, it didn’t take you long to jump right in on an off subject statement. This blog post is about the freedom of speech and a Professor at a law school who says that a persons speech should not be allowed. You don’t want to tell us that you completely agree with this Professor but we know that you do. Instead you sidetrack about Omar. One simple answer will suffice. Are you or are you not in favor of freedom of speech? My expectation is your silence as usual.

    1. TiT, your statement couldn’t be more ironic.

      “This blog post is about the freedom of speech and a Professor at a law school who says that a persons speech should not be allowed.”

      Turley, a professor at a law school says openly racist comments are to be deleted. The only reason for doing that is because he finds them offensive and ‘improper’ for his blog. He’s literally saying comments from persons, the ones expressing openly racist views, are going to be deleted from his blog. Turley does not believe they are worthy of being expressed on his blog despite the fact that the only reason for being deleted is because they are offensive. As a free speech absolutist, Turley should be allowing openly racist comments no matter how offensive they are. Turley is saying openly racist persons speech will not be allowed on his blog while simultaneously criticizing other professors stating what speech THEY would not allow. Tell us how Turley is not being a hypocrite by doing that.

      “You don’t want to tell us that you completely agree with this Professor but we know that you do. ”

      Can’t agree with the professor, because his position is hypocritical. I am in favor of freedom of speech. So is Turley, but with one flawed distinction. He deems free speech important only when it’s tidy and orderly while ignoring the fact that it’s much messier than that.

      1. Svalaz, your comparison is pulled from underneath your tin foil hat. The Judge was not being prohibited from speaking because he said anything racist. He was simply being shouted down because of his belief in conservative ideas. I asked you to plainly say whether you agree with Ms. Ruth and once again you refuse to state your position. Are you now saying that the judges ideas are somehow racist? Surely you must know that equating the prohibition of racist comments on this blog is not the same as shouting down a speaker who has not made a racist statement. Again, please tell us if you agree with Ms, Ruth. This is not a difficult question yet you continue to not give a straightforward answer. Please be succinct in your answer so that we can fully understand your position. There’s always a first time.

  11. The Great and Powerful Ruth bases her authority on truth on nothing other than her own claim to enlightenment. Where this lands her legitimacy is lower than the Koran-citing Ayatollah, the bible-quoting Koresh, or the Marxist-mesmerized Joseph Stalin, all of whom based their lunacy on historic works of widespread impact. She is, however, on par with Charles Manson, who based his homicidal teachings on interpreted song lyrics, and her equal in the faux great and powerful department, the Wizard of Oz.

  12. Professor Jennifer Ruth is among those who hold academic freedom as a value exclusive to teachers and not one that transcends to all of us. It is because it is a value shared by all of us that the classroom remain always a place for robust exchange of ideas from a multitude of sources and certainly not through any kind of authoritarian selection. Using “academic freedom” to thwart freedom of speech becomes just another weapon in the arsenal of the totalitarians.

  13. “… The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of faith in the growth of potentialities and the connection that a child will be right only if the adults put into him what is desirable and suppress what seems to be undesirable.”
    ― Erich Fromm
    (sorry, everyone, spring-cleaning old books for Goodwill, finding one of my old favorites from school days.)

  14. We live in a country where Ilhan Omar gets accepted and welcomed, grows to become a member of our Congress…and hates us for it. A country where the likes of an Ana Navarro can have her family escape Cuba and tyranny, get accepted into Florida, become a worker for the Republican party and then go on to make millions a year attacking Republicans and the state of Florida that welcomed her. Imagine her ancestors hearing her run down FLorida, a state they would have risked life and limb to get to.

    1. “We live in a country where Ilhan Omar gets accepted and welcomed, grows to become a member of our Congress…and hates us for it.”

      She doesn’t “hates us for it”. She recognizes the flaws inherent to the nation from the perspective of an outsider. She isn’t wrong. Most of those who have lived here all their lives without ever setting foot outside the border don’t know how flawed they look when those looking in have something to compare it with. That should be a good thing because it brings a new perspective and a new way of seeing things. Thats why the majority of innovators and new ideas come from those who have lived outside the country and embraced the culture or added their own.

      1. (1) The “majority of innovators” have been born here, except for during our “founding” days.
        (2) So why doesn’t Omar return to her own country to spread the good word and show that country how to become great like this country?

        1. Lin, why doesn’t Elon return to his own country and spread the good word and show that country how to become great like this country?

          Why does she need to return to her country? She can show it form here just like Elon, right? Or should be be demanding Elon go back to his country too?

          1. Because Elon doesn’t complain about America being bad, but that is too much analysis for your pea brain.

            Svelax says that shouting down an INVITED speaker is free speech. That is all you need to know about her.

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