Civil Rights Organizations Call on Stanford University To Drop Discriminatory and Groundless Charges Against Students

May 21, 2024 News

Media Contacts:
Asian Law Caucus, [email protected]

Civil Rights Organizations Call on Stanford University To Drop Discriminatory and Groundless Charges Against Students

Groups call for Stanford to uphold students’ rights to free speech and protest

SAN FRANCISCO – The Asian Law Caucus, CAIR - San Francisco Bay Area, National Lawyers Guild SF, and more than 35 legal, civil rights, and community organizations sent a letter to Stanford University urging President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez to drop disciplinary charges against students who have voiced support for Palestinian human rights. The letter emphasizes how Stanford’s actions can stifle students’ free speech and undermine a campus community where students are encouraged to advocate for justice, peace, and belonging.

“We are troubled that these investigations appear unsupported by any specific allegations of student wrongdoing,” says the letter. “[Stanford] has not provided adequate notice of the specific factual allegation against these students…Furthermore, the fear of disciplinary investigation, with all its associated harms, chills students’ free speech and discourages them from civic engagement on campus.”

On April 24, Stanford students organized People’s University for Palestine at the campus’ White Memorial Plaza. The following week, 13 students – including some who were not present at the event or involved in its organization – received letters initiating disciplinary proceedings, which could lead to academic probation or suspension if they are not dismissed. Among the targeted students, six of the 13 identify as Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and/or Muslim.

“For generations, students at Stanford have led powerful protests for an end to violence in the U.S. and around the world,” said Caroline Marks, a national security & civil rights attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “The People’s University for Palestine builds on this important legacy and commitment to justice. Yet, the recent disciplinary charges appear to be unsupported by any evidence of wrongdoing and expose a troubling pattern of discriminatory targeting based on students’ race, ethnicity, religion, or past activism. We call on Stanford to uphold all students’ free speech rights and end their baseless threats and charges.”

“At this moment, Stanford has the opportunity to uphold students’ rights and abandon tactics that only serve to silence young leaders and advocates for Palestine,” said Zoha Khalili, a staff attorney with Palestine Legal. “Our universities should protect students’ rights, not engage in unjustified retaliation.”

Free Speech and Protest Rights at California Institutions

Since 1992, California’s Leonard Law requires all private universities and colleges to protect their students’ right to free speech. Under this law, students who attend private and public institutions in the state have the same First Amendment rights. Find guidance on students’ rights to free speech and protest at California universities.