Conservative Stanford professor conspired to conduct 'opposition research' on student: report

Conservative Stanford professor conspired to conduct 'opposition research' on student: report
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A conservative Stanford University professor coordinated with a group of Republican student activists to conduct "opposition research" against a progressive activist and undergraduate student, according to a report by the Stanford Daily.

The report, based on leaked emails between the professor — British political commentator Niall Ferguson — and Stanford studens John Rice-Cameron and Max Minshull, shows that the three teamed up to get information on a student they viewed as a threat to an on-campus program called Cardinal Conversations. 

Cardinal Conversations, run by the right-leaning Hoover Institution, aims to bring conservative speakers to the campus. 


Ferguson resigned from his position as a faculty adviser on the program's steering committee after the emails were revealed to the university.

According to the emails, Ferguson, Minshull and Rice-Cameron — the son of former Obama White House national security adviser Susan Rice — sought to obtain opposition research on Stanford student Michael Ocon.

“Some opposition research on Mr. O might also be worthwhile,” Ferguson wrote in one email, referring to Ocon.

Ocon had previously run for a student government position in the Associated Students of Stanford University, and is an active student on campus. The Stanford Daily reports that Fergeson, Rice-Cameron and Minshull thought Ocon was too far left and could be among students who challenge speakers invited to Stanford by Cardinal Conversations.

“Slowly, we will continue to crush the Left’s will to resist, as they will crack under pressure,” Rice-Cameron wrote in one email.

The report also notes that the email correspondence was focused on shoring up support for the Cardinal Conversations steering committee.


Ferguson wrote in another note, “now we turn to the more subtle game of grinding them down on the committee,” adding that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

The email exchange appears to be largely influenced by free speech debates on college campuses, with Ferguson telling The Stanford Daily he was worried students would stop speakers.

“It seemed to me that the Cardinal Conversations student steering committee was in danger of being taken over by elements that were fundamentally hostile to free speech,” Ferguson said. “It was, however, rash of me to seek to involve the Stanford Republicans, and reckless to use such inflammatory language.” 

The debate surrounding free speech on college campuses has become an especially heated topic in recent years, with controversial speakers inviting masses of protestors around the nation.

Charles Murray, a controversial figure for his views on IQ and race, provoked an anti-racist rally on Stanford's campus in February, an event that Ferguson said made him “deeply concerned.”

Stanford Provost Persis Drell told The Daily that the email chain between Ferguson and the students was "contrary to the spirit and intent of Cardinal Conversations.”