Commentary: A Student Movement for Academic Freedom

Akhil Rajasekar and Rebekah Adams

Excerpt: Among the many disturbing events of 2020 has been the rising threat to academic freedom at colleges and universities, both in the United States and abroad. This threat has been particularly marked at elite institutions. Just this summer, our school, Princeton University, succumbed to a pressure campaign that called on the administration to scrub Woodrow Wilson's name from campus. This campaign also demanded mandatory "anti-racist" training and the introduction of ideology-driven curricular changes. Not to be outdone, faculty members quickly released their own demands, which included weighing professors' academic contributions differently on account of their race and the institution of a faculty board to "investigat[e] racist...research and publication." When a prominent professor wrote in dissent from the letter's most chilling demands, he was denounced by his department and condemned by an administration that said it would be "looking into the matter further." These troublesome trends are not a Princetonian anomaly. In response to the threats to academic freedom at Princeton this summer, we revived a campus group called the Princeton Open Campus Coalition. The "woke" mobs seem strong, but they do not speak for everyone. If university administrators only ever feel their pressure and hear their demands, they may succumb to an illusion of unanimity.