Stanford issued a statement Thursday reiterating its position that advocating genocide is not protected speech. The university stated that, according to the Fundamental Standard, such violations can result in expulsion. Furthermore, Stanford believes that First Amendment laws should determine what constitutes protected speech, according to the Leonard Law in California. This essentially means that advocating genocide could potentially lead to civil and criminal penalties, not just at private universities in California but across the United States.
The UN Convention defines genocide as the deliberate destruction of a group with the intent of causing serious harm or destruction to a part of that group. This extends beyond calling for future genocides, and also includes justifying past mass killings. Stanford’s stance on advocacy of genocide has far-reaching implications, particularly in academic and political discussions.
Discussions on past events, such as World War II or modern nuclear weapons policy, could be severely restricted under Stanford’s guidelines, leaving little room for debate. There might be a push for consensus where participants avoid controversial viewpoints, ultimately stifling genuine discourse. Some argue that Stanford’s administration may not be the best authority to dictate what is justified, especially when it comes to complex and often contentious political matters.
Others contend that the definition of genocide should include intentions to destroy part of a group, even if it’s in the service of a broader goal. This raises further questions about the applicability of the U.N. definition versus the definition under U.S. federal law.
The federal statute on genocide is somewhat ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation on what constitutes a “substantial part” of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. There is also debate about whether the statute has been preempted by the U.S.’s ratification of the U.N. Treaty. Contemporary discussions on genocidal actions are not always centered around the complete annihilation of a group but can also involve other forms of destruction, such as cultural genocide or physical injury.
Stanford’s position has implications not only for students but also for academic and political debates. However, there are significant concerns about the university’s ability to define what is justified, and how this could impact freedom of speech in various settings.