At Princeton, a Racial Reckoning and a Free Speech Battle

Julia A. Seymour and Nathan Harden

Excerpt: In 2015, Princeton University became the second higher-education institution to sign the University of Chicago Statement supporting campus free speech. Yet, five years later, Princeton professor Keith E. Whittington wrote that the university stood “on the front lines” of the battle over speech. Those battle lines were drawn this summer by students and faculty demanding the adoption of “anti-racist” policies, which some on campus say run counter to free speech and open inquiry. Princeton ranked just 29th in the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings, an ambitious survey of nearly 20,000 students at 55 schools conducted by RealClearEducation, research firm College Pulse, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). When Princeton’s conservative students ranked the school, it dropped to 42nd. It ranked 47th on ideological diversity and earned a “red” designation from FIRE, indicating a restrictive speech code. The survey showed that many Princeton students censor themselves in classrooms and social settings. Rebekah Adams, a senior and president of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC), a student group committed to defending free speech and civil dialogue, told RealClearEducation that many students fear speaking freely will bring academic repercussions such as lower grades and “social ostracization.”