It was the final day of classes at Stanford Law School, May 27, when Nicholas Wallace said he was blindsided by a message from one of the deans informing him that his graduation was in jeopardy for potential misconduct.
His offense: sending an email flyer to fellow law students in January that he pretended was from the Federalist Society, a prominent conservative and libertarian group with a chapter at the law school.
The satirical flyer promoted a discussion about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, featuring Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton. The title of the mock event: “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection.”
The chapter’s leaders were not amused. They filed a complaint on March 27 with the university, which said in a message to Wallace that it wasn’t until May 22 that the complainants had asked the administration to pursue the matter.
“I was astounded,” Wallace, 32, said in an interview Wednesday. “I couldn’t believe that without any more than this letter of concern they placed my graduation and everything I’ve worked for for the last three years, they’ve placed that under threat.”
Wallace’s predicament drew national attention from both free speech groups and conservatives. It served as another example of the intense debate over political speech on college campuses in America.
In response to questions on Wednesday, a spokesman for Stanford University said in an email that Wallace would be allowed to graduate after all, after administrators consulted with the university’s legal counsel, who concluded the matter involved issues of protected speech.
“In cases where the complaint is filed in proximity to graduation, our normal procedure includes placing a graduation diploma hold on the respondent,” said the spokesman, E.J. Miranda. “The complaint was resolved as expeditiously as possible, and the respondent and complainant have been informed that case law supports that the email is protected speech.”