Stanford supports legal challenge to Trump order on diversity training

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Stanford joined an amicus brief supporting a legal challenge to a Trump executive order on diversity training on Tuesday. 

The brief, which was submitted by Stanford in conjunction with seven other colleges and universities, contends that the order is an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment rights. The order threatens to revoke federal grant funding from federal contractors who offer diversity training on “divisive concepts” about racial and gender biases.

This brief comes less than two weeks after the University released and withdrew a controversial memo detailing modifications that departments should make to diversity training programs to comply with the order. Even if the challenges to the order fail in court, experts say that it is probable that the Biden administration will rescind the order once in office. 

A University spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on if and how the University plans to comply with the order, which went into effect on Nov. 21.

An amicus curiae brief is a document submitted by groups who are affected by but not involved in the content of a case in order to influence the court’s decision. The universities submitted the brief for consideration in two California district court cases, where groups are calling for a nationwide preliminary injunction on the executive order. The San Francisco/Oakland and San Jose divisions of the Northern California Federal District Court will hear the case on Dec. 10.

In the brief, Stanford, along with peer institutions Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown University, state that the order “unfairly—and indeed unlawfully—forces amici to choose between preserving critical trainings and safeguarding their academic freedoms on the one hand, and forgoing needed federal funding for cutting-edge research on the other.”

The brief also contends that the order “attempts to insert the government’s political views” on highly contested topics and that, in so doing, the order violates the First Amendment rights of universities by “chilling them from engaging in protected speech.”

Since the order was issued on Sept. 22, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the order alleging similar constitutional violations. The NAACP case is currently pending in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. 

Contact Tammer Bagdasarian at tbag ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Tammer Bagdasarian '24 is a Staff Writer for The Daily planning to major in Communication. In his free time he likes to go for long walks and imagine what freshman year on campus would have been like.