Who is Nick Wallace? Stanford law student's degree on hold over flyer about fake Federalist Society event
Nick Wallace's future was starting to look dark after he tested the limits of free speech on campus. Wallace's Stanford Law diploma had been put on hold, meaning he might not be able to take the bar exam as planned this summer. The reason? The third-year student at Stanford Law School sent a satirical email to a student listserv reserved for debate and political commentary, in it was a flyer mocking the Federalist Society, a conservative organization.
The limits of free speech have become an increasingly important challenge for both conservatives and liberals. Over the memorial day weekend, a prank by journalist Ken Klippenstein led to his firing from The Intercept. In other cases, several people have tried to pass off hate speech as free speech. In October 2020, a Tennessee preacher sued his school district after his daughter was kicked out of class for an anti-homosexuality t-shirt.
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The biggest gripe many have is with social media itself. Conservatives constantly lament that social media limits free speech. A good example being Don Jr. over his father's social media ban. Yet, somewhat ironically, it is a conservative organization that has called for the investigation into Wallace, saying his flyer "defames" the society.
Who is Nick Wallace?
A profile on Stanford's website lists Nicholas N Wallace as a masters student in environment and resources and JD. He is studying under the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program, the profile says. According to reports, the third year law student was hoping to take the Michigan bar exam this summer, but will not not be able to do so since the bar requires students to send in their degrees. Stanford also lists Wallace as a 'Class of 2021 Public Interest Fellows'.
That program is meant to recognize students who are planning to puruse careers in public service. According to that webpage, Wallace was born and raised in Ann Arbour, Michigan. In 2010, he graduated from the University of Washington with a BSc degree. While studying at the university, Wallace also served as an economics and accounting tutor at the school's academic support centre. Post graduation, Wallace first worked as a paralegal at a Seattle law firm, before stints in journalism. He then came to Stanford to pursue the joint MS-JD degree.
At Stanford, Wallace reportedly served as the editor of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal and also volunteered with the Housing Pro Bono Project. He has also interned with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a law firm that specializes in Tribal clients nationwide. "After graduating, he hopes to go into government or non-profit work in the environmental field," the bio says. We also found a LinkedIn profile corrobrating those facts.
Wallace's prank backfires
Instead of studying for the finals, and preparing for the bar, Wallace found himself battling for his future over a digital flyer that he claims was simply meant to mock the FedSoc. “My concern now’s that different college students are going to see what’s occurring to me and hesitate to voice their opinions on controversial political matters,” he said in a press conference. “So I’m going to maintain preventing this with the hope that Stanford will repair their course of in order that no pupil is subjected to this sort of remedy once more.”
The issue arose from a flyer he published on January 25. The flyer titled 'the originalist case for inciting insurrection' was meant to mock the FedSoc for not condemning the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. The flyer said the event was being organized by Stanford's FedSoc and that Sen Joshua Hawley and Texas AG Ken Paxton would be attending. That led to a complaint being filed by an unnamed student, who said "Nowhere in his electronic mail, nor on his flyer, did Wallace clarify that these representations of identification have been false." The complaint added that the flyer “defamed” the Stanford Federalist Society, causing “harm” to the student group and to the “individual reputations” of the officers.
Directors responded by opening an investigation into the case, initially put Wallace's graduation on hold. On May 27, he received a formal complaint for "a possible violation of the Fundamental Standard," the school’s code of conduct. That's the same process students suspended for plagiarism must undergo. Then, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) got involved, sending a letter to the school. "No reasonable person familiar with the email’s context would understand it to be sincere," FIRE wrote and noted that the investigation violates California’s Leonard Law. Nonetheless, the investigation continues, with Wallace's future now looking quite dark if he doesn't win the case.
Ironically, the FedSoc has often been at the forefront of the push for greater free speech, but it seems not at their cost. "It has been a pretty awful way to close out my career at Stanford," Wallace told Slate. "Instead of studying for finals, I’m trying to figure this out. I just sent an email to my family trying to reassure them that I haven’t blown it in my last few days."
Degree conferral hold lifted
In good news for Wallace, a Stanford spokesperson spoke to Mark Joseph Stern from The Slate and informed him that the school will NOT move forward with the investigation into Wallace for making fun of the Federalist Society because he engaged in protected speech. The hold on his diploma has allegedly been lifted. He further supplemented his claim with an image of the communication from EJ Miranda, Senior Director of Media Relations and Communications at Stanford University.
:rotating_light:A Stanford spokesperson tells me the school will NOT move forward with the investigation into Nicholas Wallace for making fun of the Federalist Society because he engaged in protected speech. The hold on his diploma has allegedly been lifted. Background: https://t.co/gtrIlUfFOd pic.twitter.com/aG5epczMm2— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) June 3, 2021
In an email after the announcement was made about the degree conferral hold being lifted, Wallace thanked the SLS for the support and said " I hope this is not the end of the conversation that we have been having over the past six months (and long before that). Whether we are demanding accountability from the people who supported the insurrection, challenging the ongoing deluge of voter suppression laws in state legislatures, reminding SLS administration that White Supremacy Lives Here Too, or brainstorming ways to decarbonize our society, it is vital that we keep the dialogue going." In a parting shot, he signed off the email: "PS this email is not satire."
Nicholas Wallace just sent this around to the Stanford law-talk listserv: pic.twitter.com/QaGMHugD7E— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) June 3, 2021