Law Schools

Stanford Law's Black Law Students Association pulls out of recruiting activities after Federalist Society event

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Stanford Law School in November 2012. Photo by King of Hearts, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Updated: Stanford Law School’s Black Law Students Association will not participate in formal recruiting events, following the school’s apology to Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans.

That includes official admit events for the law schools class of 2026, according to a letter posted on the group’s Instagram account. A PDF of the letter can be viewed here.

Duncan has done work as a lawyer and a judge that some see as harmful to the LGBTQ community. In a video recording that went viral, Duncan is shown being heckled at a campus event with the Federalist Society in which he was the guest speaker.

Tirien Steinbach, the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the law school, was at the event. Besides asking the audience to give Duncan space to speak, she said his work lands “as absolute disenfranchisement” of the rights of people in the Stanford Law community.

Following the incident, Steinbach was placed on leave from the law school, according to a March 22 letter from Jenny Martinez, the law school dean. She and the university have apologized to Duncan, and her letter described some of the audience’s actions at the Federalist Society event as disruptive.

The Black Law Students Association’s letter claimed that Stanford administration was “scapegoating” Steinbach. It also mentions Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of the university.

Steinbach started the associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion position in 2021, following a student campaign demanding “sincere” diversity efforts, according to the Black Law Students Association’s letter. Called “Racism Lives Here Too,” the 2018 campaign was followed by another in 2021, “White Supremacy Lives Here Too,” which highlighted the administration failing to meet the 2018 demands, according to the letter.

“We cannot, in good faith, participate in recruiting Black students into a community more concerned with palliating wealthy, white conservative donors than the ‘student-focused and community-inspired’ legal education SLS promotes,” said the Black Law Students Association’s letter, which was sent by the group’s executive board.

Additionally, the letter said the Black Law Students Association has been “consistently disregarded” in admissions and recruitment planning matters.

“At present, SLS’s admissions practices exclude society’s most vulnerable communities, limiting the voices represented in the SLS community. These admission practices reproduce and reify White supremacy, classism, and colorism, hindering the advancement of the Stanford Law community and the legal profession more broadly,” the letter said.

It also claimed that the university failed to focus on their safety over the past month.

“Internet harassment, doxxing of fellow students and the new culture of locked doors are just a few examples of the toxicity on our campus. With this in mind, we must be open with prospective students as they determine their future learning environment,” the letter said.

The campus chapter of OutLaw, an LGBTQ group, also wrote a letter supporting Steinbach, according to Trident DMG, an outside public relations agency working with her. That letter, which can be viewed here, claimed that 19 anti-LGBTQ bills were passed last year, and this year 24 have been signed into law.

“Today, nearly one in six trans people and one of every two Black trans people have been to prison. These numbers are driven by acts rooted in survival, often born of poverty in an unforgiving and intolerant world. People like Judge Duncan enable and perpetuate this violence through their work,” that letter said.

In an email to the ABA Journal, Martinez wrote that the school is saddened that the Black Law Students Association decided to not participate in admitted students events.

“We look forward to working together with BLSA leaders to address their concerns. However, we stand by our commitment to academic freedom and free speech as articulated in the March 22 memo,” according to the email.

See also: “Stanford Law’s free speech teachable moments” “Stanford apologizes after conservative federal appeals judge is heckled during Federalist Society talk” “After ‘disruptive heckling,’ Stanford Law requires free speech session, notes associate dean’s leave”

Updated March 20 at 8:43 a.m. to clarify Tirien Steinbach’s employment position start date and to add the email comment from Jenny Martinez.

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