Stanford community members are petitioning in support of Emily Wilder ’20, a Stanford graduate who was fired from the Associated Press. Wilder was terminated following a targeted social media campaign led by the Stanford College Republicans criticizing her prior involvement in Stanford Students for Justice in Palestine.
The petition denounces SCR’s social media campaign, in which the group calls Wilder a “militant anti-Israel agitator” and a “Marxist agitator.” The petitioners are asking the University to take two concrete action steps: first, to affirm its commitment to upholding and enforcing Stanford’s community standards; and second, to initiate a Fundamental Standard investigation into SCR’s attacks on Wilder.
Titled “A Fundamental Double Standard,” the petition has garnered about 500 signatures since going live nearly 48 hours ago.
“This action by SCR reflects on our community,” said Tania Flores, a second-year Ph.D. student in Iberian and Latin American Cultures who originally drafted the petition. “It reflects on our campus culture. It reflects on the ability of students on campus to engage in civil discourse.”
SCR did not respond to a request for comment on the petition and its claims.
Flores said that she decided to draft the letter because discourse about SCR’s actions and their implications for Stanford’s culture was largely absent from the campus conversation surrounding Wilder’s firing.
Last week, SCR released a series of social media posts on both Twitter and Facebook in which they condemned Wilder’s leadership in SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace at Stanford. The student group drew from Wilder’s past social media posts and Daily op-eds in what they characterized as an attempt to hold “the left-wing media and individuals such as Wilder accountable.”
SCR’s social media attacks quickly gained traction with right-wing news outlets, including Fox News and The Federalist, and conservative leaders like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ben Shapiro. Two days later, Wilder learned that she had been fired from her job as an AP news associate — and SCR quickly and publicly took credit. The AP said that they dismissed Wilder for violating their social media policy. After facing backlash, including from AP employees, AP leadership expressed regret with regard to their handling of Wilder’s dismissal.
For the organizers, the petition is less about what Wilder said and more a question of culture, free speech and campus discourse — especially in the context of political disagreement.
Jason Beckman, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in East Asian Languages and Cultures who helped Flores write the petition, said that SCR’s actions are antithetical to the core identity of a university community.
“We are supposed to have political discourse and difference be a part of what we’re able to do as a community together,” Beckman said. He added that the campus discourse becomes dangerous when groups begin to “take aim at people who are thinking differently.”
Justine Modica, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in History who taught Wilder during her time at Stanford, signed the petition. She described herself as fearful “as someone who wants to go into academia and teach in the future that [her] students can’t say what they think in the university setting and feel as though they have protection.” She said that she had not heard about Wilder’s dismissal until she received an email from Flores about the petition.
“The fact that the things that Emily said and did during college were taken up by SCR as a means to smear her as a journalist and get her fired worries me about what the campus climate looks like at Stanford in the future [and] at other universities as well,” Modica said.
The petition, pointing to a history of SCR-led “smear campaigns,” calls on Stanford to conduct an investigation into SCR with respect to the Fundamental Standard: Stanford’s statement of civic and moral community that outlines student expectations. In the past, SCR has used students’ social media posts to publicly advocate for their professional dismissal, including with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Targeted students have experienced harassment and received threats, including death threats.
While the petition states that signatories believe SCR to have violated the Fundamental Standard, Flores, Beckman and Modica said that it is up to the University to ultimately make that disciplinary decision.
The University did not respond to a request for comment regarding the petition and what, if any, actions they plan to take against SCR.
Flores emphasized that the petitioners are calling on the University to investigate SCR’s actions as a violation of the Fundamental Standard not only because they believe that the group’s posts venture beyond the protections of free speech, but also because their actions are intimidating community members from speaking out on controversial issues for fear of their advocacy being mischaracterized — especially in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This is a kind of tactic of the far right to shut down discourse on this particular issue on college campuses,” Flores said. “And I think it’s really scary because Stanford students should be able to weigh in on this massively important geopolitical issue. But right now, because of what SCR did, I myself — and I think a lot of other people — are probably not feeling safe in doing so.”