Colleges must address political polarization, intolerance of opposing viewpoints


The Editors-in-Chief

Stanford law students disrupted a scheduled March lecture from visiting conservative judge Kyle Duncan to protest his stances on the transgender community, gun control and social media.

During his talk, Duncan, who has defended Louisiana’s gay-marriage ban and dismissed the concept of gender-identity and chosen pronouns, could not give his prepared speech due protesters’ repeated interruptions. When Duncan called for assistance in restoring order, Tirien Steinbach, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Stanford, said Duncan’s beliefs hurt many people in the room.

While The Campanile recognizes it was within Steinbach’s rights to speak out against Duncan, we think Steinbach overstepped her authority. Since Steinbach was in a position of power and responsible for restoring order during the lecture, she should have used her authority to encourage political discourse on both ends of the ideological spectrum.

Following the disruption, Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez criticized students’ behavior. She said humans should “replace condemnation with curiosity, invective with inquiry.”

The Campanile agrees and thinks everyone should have the right and the opportunity to share their beliefs, even if they don’t align with the majority opinion.While protesters disagreed with Duncan’s views, they were not entitled to shut his lecture down. By shouting vulgar comments and heckling him during his speech, students were not exercising their rights to free speech, but were encouraging censorship of the conservative viewpoint.

Unfortunately, it seems like some universities and colleges are incubating students in a political bubble, and college free speech controversies like this one are a reflection of the US’s trend toward increasing polarization. Political polarization refers to the divergence of opinions towards the extreme, opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

More action must be taken to confront this political polarization occurring on college campuses as the first step in addressing nationwide polarization and political intolerance.

To tackle this issue, The Campanile urges colleges to hold seminars or discussion-based classes to encourage respectful political discourse. We think students should not be put down for asking questions because fostering curiosity and understanding opinions in a conversation is necessary to address polarization.

The Campanile also urges law schools to emphasize a curriculum that is more tolerant of different perspectives.

While increasing the political diversity of professors would be difficult, encouraging the diversity of guest speakers would be more achievable and would expose students to a wider range of perspectives.

Colleges must assume responsibility and educate students so they are studying all sides of an issue and can remain impartial when needed in their future professions.