Recently, a member of the Stanford faculty has been the target of a paid advertising campaign on social media for expressing views that are related to his academic work. We condemn such targeting and support our faculty member’s right to academic freedom.

Universities pursue the search for truth, which entails the exploration of the broadest possible array of viewpoints. Because of our commitment to supporting diverse views, the university refrains from passing judgment on the views of individual scholars. We also strongly condemn efforts to silence individuals or to shut down discourse, as they run counter to the contributions universities seek to make to robust and informed social debate.

Criticism of one’s arguments is part of the give and take of academic discourse, and of public discourse. It is something that scholars expect. But we deplore social media mechanisms that have the intent or effect of intimidating or silencing scholars – such as doxing, “watch lists” and paid campaigns targeting individuals by name and image. These actions not only negatively affect the welfare of individual faculty, but also can inhibit them from pursuing their research and contributing to public debate.

At Stanford we strongly affirm the right of all our scholars to pursue their academic work and safely express their views. And, if any member of our community is subjected to threats to their personal safety, as has occurred in some instances in the past, we will pursue all measures with the involvement of law enforcement to safeguard their wellbeing.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Debra Satz
Vernon R. & Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences