A free speech organization blasted Stanford University for reporting a student who was recorded on a Snapchat post reading a copy of Hitler’s notorious biography “Mein Kampf.”

A “Protected Harm Identity Report,” the California university’s system for addressing incidents in which a student feels attacked due to their identity, was filed against the student after a screenshot of the student reading the Nazi manifesto was sent to university officials, The Stanford Daily reported this week.

“Swift action was taken by the leadership in the residential community where both the individuals who posted and the one pictured are members, and where these actions are causing the most direct damage to relationships and feelings of safety and belonging,” Stanford Rabbis Jessica Kirschner and Laurie Hahn Tapper wrote in an email to the school’s Jewish students.

Stanford University
A “Protected Harm Identity Report” was filed against the Stanford Student after a photo of him reading “Mein Kampf” circulated on campus.
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Hahn and Tapper said they were working with student affairs staff and have spoken to the individuals involved, whom they said are “actively engaged in a process of reckoning and sincere repair,” according to the email. The incident has broken trust on campus, they added, which can cause “damage beyond whatever the original intent might have been.”

A PHI report is “not a judicial or investigative process,” and participation in a resolution process is optional and voluntary, the university states. If the matter rises to the level of a hate crime, it may be referred to law enforcement.

It’s not clear if the student involved was doing anything other than simply reading the book, Hitler’s anti-semitic manifesto that he wrote in prison in 1925 which would become the founding ideology of the future Nazi Party.

It’s also unclear if the student was reading the book for a class. It was assigned in a Humanities course last spring, according to The Stanford Review

In response, The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE, penned a letter to Stanford decrying reporting the student for reading a book as an “unacceptably punitive and chills expressive activity.”

The critical edition of 'Mein Kampf' book by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggles”) while in prison in 1925.
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FIRE has been around for over two decades, and advocates for fundamental rights on college campuses throughout the country.

“Being ‘invited’ by administrators with institutional disciplinary authority to engage in a formal reconciliation process to atone for reading a book—one that has been previously assigned as required reading for a Stanford class and is available to check out at Stanford’s library is not conducive to the campus free speech culture Stanford deems central to the university’s functions,” wrote FIRE’s Haley Gluhanich, adding that it also is inconsistent with California’s Lenoard Law, which defends free speech on the state’s college campuses.

The school’s response “suggests a student’s actions were problematic, and they may accordingly self-censor,” the letter continued.

“Of course, student expression is not shielded from every consequence—including criticism by students, faculty, the broader community, or the university itself. Criticism is a form of ‘more speech,’ the preferred remedy to offensive expression. But Stanford may not wield institutional authority to force compliance with any particular view or sensitivity,” Gluhanich wrote.

FIRE has asked the University to respond to its letter by Feb. 1.


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