Editorial Archive

Commentary: We should all be ashamed of what the Senior Survey shows

By Matthew Wilson ’24

The Daily Princetonian

April 30, 2023

Excerpt:  This year’s Senior Survey simply captures a snapshot of Princeton’s marred free speech culture. Those looking for the cause of the decay can find some answers in the many institutional failures that have taken place during my three years here: an accomplished professor’s highly politicized firing; a prominent dean’s flagrant disregard for institutional neutrality in order to preach her hyper-partisan views on a controversial jury trial; freshman orientation programming explicitly condemning real freedom of speech; and dangerous bias-reporting systems that encourage self-censorship and speech policing. Why have anti-speech attitudes taken hold here? The embarrassing behavior of our administrators makes the reason painfully clear. 

Click here for the link to the full article

Princeton’s Awkward Similarities to Communist Romania

May 5, 2023

An edited excerpt from a video interview with Princeton Professor Sergiu Klainerman

“At Princeton today you see a penetration of diversity, equity and inclusion in every department and office of the university. They are a bit like the Party functionaries. Every organization [in Romania] no matter how small, had to have someone who represented the Party. They were activists, not interested in education or research or whatever they were supposed to be doing, they were activists and of course they had power.”

What does this mean for university life?  Klainerman’s answer goes well beyond the mandatory courses at Princeton on topics such as sexual harassment that he finds both “triggering” and insulting, and has so far resisted.  His main concern is corruption.

“There is an aspect of [what is happening] which I think people don't talk enough about. Suppose you are a very bright minority kid. You come from a school which unfortunately, for whatever reasons, didn't give you a very good education. But you are very bright and you really have aspiration and enthusiasm and you are accepted at Princeton, even though in principle you don't have the credentials for Princeton. And you want to do mathematics.

“So suppose such a kid gets to Princeton and then he/she realizes that they just don't have the background. They have to compete against winners of international Olympiads from China, Taiwan, Pakistan and Iran. They compete with people who are 5 - 7 years ahead of them. What do you think is going to happened?  They're going to feel dejected. They're going to feel depressed. They feel they have no chance. And in the end, they give up. … I think it is a disservice to them, to be put in the position to have to compete in situations where they just simply don't have the background to do well. You prepare them for failure.  I'm not afraid to mention this, because I think it's true.

“The American university system, until 15 years ago, was really the marvel of the world. It was the most impressive thing that the United States has to offer. …Take Princeton in the 1990s.  It was extremely diverse in terms of real diversity based on merit, I mean, what traditionally we understood equal opportunity to mean, which was to allow the best people from throughout the world to have a chance to come to Princeton, or Harvard or Yale.  Universities in the 1990s were as close as you could come to that kind of standard. And ever since I think it has deteriorated. So now, you give a better chance to a certain group, but that means you are going to take fewer from another group. It means that, for instance, an Asian American who has perfect SAT scores and has perfect credentials will not be accepted to Princeton because somebody else will be admitted based on skin color or based on a racial group or based on any other kind of preference that the university deems to be important.

“Once you don't have a clear signal of what it means to be meritorious, then this automatically leads to corruption. That’s what happened, of course, in Romania. Communist countries became incredibly corrupt.”


PFS Editorial

Much of the debate over the possible removal of the statue of John Witherspoon from the Princeton campus is based on information about Witherspoon’s involvement with slavery and the debate over abolition contained in the University’s Princeton & Slavery Project (the Project). It is now clear that this information is both incomplete and misleading. In a March 1 open letter to President Eisgruber and the Princeton Board of Trustees, PFS called for the Project’s Witherspoon materials to be revised to reflect critical new information that had just come to light. There has been no change. Now, a new and important analysis by Bill Hewitt ’74 of the Project’s content on Witherspoon makes the case for reassessment even stronger.

Click here to read full editorial

What Can be Done? Actionable Solutions to Regaining Academic Freedom

By Leslie Spencer

April 3, 2023

Gregg Lukianoff, President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the country’s premiere free speech and academic freedom defender, appeared at Princeton on April 11 to give a talk “The Conformity Gauntlet in Higher Education.” A video of this major event will be posted soon.  

Although quick to oppose sloppy legislation, Lukianoff is hardly against government action as a way to fix the free speech crisis on America’s campuses. In fact he recommends imaginative, bold, even radical measures, as long as they can pass constitutional muster.  Although some of the following proposals are not official FIRE positions, he thinks they are all worth considering. Buckle up.

Click here to read full article

Is DEI Destroying Free Speech on Campus?

March 27, 2023

This is the title of a recently published empirical study in The Missing Data Depot on Substack.  The fact that administrative bloat has far exceeded the growth of faculty and students in numbers and power on American campuses is widely acknowledged. And as bureaucrats reshape and control campus life, anecdotal evidence abounds of the corrupting effects of their power on a university’s primary mission, the production and dissemination of knowledge. This first-of-its kind empirical study focuses exclusively on DEI bureaucracies, and concludes that they “often hurt and almost never help the speech climate on college campuses.”  The data shows that the bigger the DEI bureaucracy the more pervasive the climate of fear among students, particularly outside the classroom, on social media and in informal conversations in public settings like the quad or dining hall. This study gives evidence for what close observers have long suspected -- that the growth of DEI bureaucracies correlates closely with the demise of free speech and academic freedom on college campuses.  Graphs in this study show that Stanford, currently plagued by free speech scandals, has more DEI staff per 1,000 students than any university in the study. And among the Ivy League, Princeton holds the dubious rank of second only to Harvard.  Have a look here at this deep dive into the data.

Nadine Strossen’s Call to Action

By Ethan Hicks ‘26
March 24, 2023

On Tuesday, March 21, Professor Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, and Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, sat down to discuss the history and modern state of free speech in America in their joint talk “Civil Liberties: On Campus and Beyond.” An engaged audience of students, faculty, and community members filled Lewis Auditorium to join George and Strossen for their fireside style chat hosted by Princetonians for Free Speech and Princeton Open Campus Coalition. 

Click here to read full article.

Open Letter to President Eisgruber and Princeton's Board of Trustees

March 1, 2023

To: President Eisgruber
       Members of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University

We are writing to you on behalf of Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS) to bring to your attention important new information relating to the petition to remove the statue of John Witherspoon from its prominent place on the plaza near Firestone Library and the Chapel. PFS is a Princeton alumni organization devoted to promoting free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity at Princeton. Thousands of Princeton alumni, as well as many students, faculty, and university staff, follow PFS on our website.

PFS believes that this new information, particularly that obtained from tax records pertaining to Witherspoon’s ownership of slaves, changes the narrative of the debate on removal of the statue and challenges the basic assertions in the petition. In addition, the listening sessions took place without participants being aware of the true history of Witherspoon. Furthermore, this new information shows the history of Witherspoon on the University’s Princeton and Slavery Project website to be both incomplete and misleading.

The narrative about Witherspoon that was presented by the petitioners may be summarized as: Yes, he was important to Princeton, and he signed the Declaration of Independence and participated in other actions relating to the founding of our country; but he also owned slaves and opposed the immediate emancipation of slaves in New Jersey. Even before the new revelations, this framing of the issue was misleading. First it understates the importance of Witherspoon to Princeton. He is arguably the most important figure in Princeton’s history and may well have saved the University from failure. Second it understates Witherspoon’s role in the founding of our country. He was involved at great personal risk. If the American Revolution had failed -- and it almost did several times -- he likely would have been hung. He not only signed the Declaration of Independence (the only member of the clergy to do so), he also signed the Articles of Confederation, served actively in the Continental Congress, and was central to New Jersey’s ratifying the Constitution, which was considered a critical event at the time, when ratification was far from certain.

With respect to slavery, it had already been established that Witherspoon had baptized a runaway slave in Scotland and tutored two former slaves at Princeton. Furthermore, it was already clear from the historical record that he (like many others) believed that slavery was rapidly dying out in the United States. That proved incorrect, in large part because the cotton gin and other new technology hugely increased the yield of raw cotton and thus the demand for slave labor to pick it, with the number of slave states rising from six in 1790 to 15 in 1860. Witherspoon also believed it important that freed slaves not be put out into society without being provided with the educational and economic tools they would need to succeed. This latter point is developed more fully in a  January 26, ‘23 article containing significant new information about Witherspoon by Kevin DeYoung, an expert on his life. It is also noteworthy, as DeYoung points out, that Witherspoon was a leading figure in the Presbyterian Church organization that in 1787 issued a statement calling for “eventually, the final abolition of slavery in America.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The most important new information in this DeYoung article is newly uncovered tax information from the New Jersey State Archives. While the Archives contain gaps, what they show is that Witherspoon owned one slave in 1780 and two in 1784, 1785, and 1786. 1787 is missing. However, from 1788 until Witherspoon’s death in 1794, he is shown as owning zero slaves, and his wife the next year is shown as owning zero slaves. It therefore seems likely that, in some fashion, Witherspoon had moved to “emancipate” his slaves. This puts an entirely different light on the assertion about his slave ownership that is the basis of the petition. 

As the DeYoung article lays out, this thesis that Witherspoon in some fashion had moved to “emancipate” his slaves is supported by the fact that there is also listed in the tax records for the years 1792, 1793, and 1794 another Witherspoon, designated as a Negro, and listed as owning cattle and as a householder. Given that at the time a freed slave almost always shared the last name of the landowner, it is likely that this was one of the slaves that had been listed on the tax rolls until 1786. These tax records may well mean that Witherspoon gave his slaves a share of his estate in preparation for their full legal emancipation and therefore no longer counted them as slaves. This conclusion is supported by the philosophy on slavery in Witherspoon’s own writings and by the 1787 statement on slavery of the Presbyterian Church in which he participated.

We do not know, and may never know, exactly what happened after 1786. As the DeYoung article points out, there are uncertainties in the record, and there is language in the appraisal of his estate relating to two slaves. What is clear is that with this new discovery in the New Jersey tax records the simplistic narrative in the petition to remove the statue is now highly questionable and should not be the basis for a decision by the naming committee. It is now incumbent on the University to do further research before making any decision.

The Witherspoon statue controversy directly tests Princeton’s stated commitment to academic freedom, intellectual diversity and open debate in the pursuit of truth. Without a full airing of historical evidence and perspectives on the life and legacy of John Witherspoon, Princeton’s leadership will acquiesce to the pall of orthodoxy that currently undermines the quality and vitality of academic life at Princeton.

Stuart Taylor, Jr  ‘70 -- President, Princetonians for Free Speech
Edward L. Yingling  ’70 -- Secretary, Princetonians for Free Speech
Todd Rulon-Miller  ’73 -- Treasurer, Princetonians for Free Speech
Leslie Spencer  ’79 -- Member of the Executive Committee, Princetonians for Free Speech

Nadine Strossen:  An inspiration to college students and a true non-partisan

By Leslie Spencer

March 9, 2023

Nadine Strossen, a liberal feminist and civil liberties activist, led the American Civil Liberties Union from 1991 to 2008, the first woman to do so. She is the author of Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship, and was until 2019 a professor at New York Law School.  “I stopped teaching to devote all my time to advocating for free speech and academic freedom, it’s just so important right now,” she says.  

Most days now she can be found traveling to speaking engagements at college campuses and elsewhere throughout the country, often in her new role as senior fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).  At 72 she shows no signs of slowing down, making over 250 appearance a year.

Wherever she goes, a central thread of her message is clear:  Free speech and academic freedom are for EVERYBODY.  “I am constantly telling liberals and progressives, contrary to what they believe, free speech and academic freedom are not only or primarily to protect conservatives and libertarians, and I have to tell my conservative and libertarian allies the very same message,” she says, to drive home her non-partisan imperative.

For her taste, there is a bit too much demonization of liberals and progressives by many conservatives, who often claim it is only their views that are being suppressed. “Unfortunately, this is not true,” she says, pointing to the many instances catalogued in a FIRE database showing that of the 800 instances of documented attempted retaliation against professors for exercising constitutionally protected speech nationwide (a shocking 60 percent of which have been successful), 40 percent of these attacks have come from the right, 60 percent from the left. Most important, of these attacks, by far the most come from extremes on both sides, with the victims representing the moderates.

She articulates a principled as well as a strategic reason to make common cause across the ideological spectrum. “It is essential that the moral high ground be maintained. You forfeit this if you are uneven in your application of principles,” she says.

For the second time this academic year, Strossen will appear at Princeton. On March 21 at 7 pm in Arthur Lewis Auditorium, she will be in conversation with Princeton legal scholar and political philosopher Robert P. George on the topic Civil Liberties, On Campus and Beyond.   Strossen and George both serve on the Advisory Counsel of Heterodox Academy, whose mission is to promote viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement in higher education, and which currently boasts 5,000 members from 49 states and 65 countries. Their conversation is sure to demonstrate how two people with widely divergent beliefs and ideologies can agree and disagree on a variety of subjects and remain civil while doing so. 

Last November’s two-day mega-conference on Academic Freedom at Stanford University gave a hint of Strossen’s passion for instilling free speech values in the next generation. She appeared as moderator and a speaker on the panel “Academic Freedom: What Is It and What Is It For?   She started her segment by giving a shout-out to the students in attendance, which included Princeton’s Abigail Anthony and Myles McKnight, both graduating this spring. Particular praise however, was reserved for Mimi St. Johns, the sole undergraduate speaker, who is a junior in computer science at Stanford.  

St. Johns was one of four on a panel called “Academic Freedom in STEM.”  The other three panelists were nationally recognized, widely published scientists and scholars: Luana Majora is Chair of the Biochemistry department at Williams College, an immigrant from Brazil and author of a 2019 Atlantic Monthly article “Self-Censorship on Campus is Bad for Science.”  Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago emeritus professor of evolutionary biology, is a prominent left-of-center free speech advocate and author of the book, Why Evolution is True, which is also the name of his popular blog.  Anna Krylof, a Ukrainian-born professor of Chemistry at University of Southern California, is a multiple award-winning specialist in theoretical and computational quantum chemistry. An active promoter of gender equality in STEM and a developer of educational materials to promote scientific literacy, she is also a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance.  It would be hard to bring together a greater diversity of background, ethnicity, gender and point of view on a panel of four, not to mention pre-eminence in their respective fields -- except for St. Johns, who has still to earn her bachelor’s degree in computer science, so needs a bit more time.

Unabashed, St. Johns reflected on how being a Stanford student in STEM is “getting more and more restrictive in terms of what you can and cannot say, and also in the types of problems and subjects that students feel comfortable working on.”   She did not mince words as she described what she considers Stanford’s “obsession with identity politics” that has created a “monoculture among faculty and students” that leaves little room for heterodox views or any substantive dissent. 

“If you think that climate change is a real and vital issue, you would think a priority in the engineering school would be to devote as much time and resources as possible to it,” she speculated.  Instead, St. Johns pointed to the continual “distraction” made by the “web of political correctness” that stifles all debate and infiltrates the curriculum, as well as a “general culture of protest” against certain fields.  “If you want to do petroleum engineering or work in defense, both are fields that arguably have real problems that need to be solved, but you are going to be ostracized, there will be social pressure to avoid those industries.”

Does the infiltration of “leftist orthodoxy,” as she calls it, impact quality and outcomes?  She sees “stagnation” in academic quality at Stanford’s engineering school. “The mission of engineering and computer science is to solve concrete problems, not be bombarded with questions of social justice and critical theory.”

She described engineering as a “results oriented field” in contrast to DEI which, she observed, “surprisingly, is not.”  To illustrate this contrast, she pointed to the ever-increasing numbers of DEI bureaucrats in the engineering school, juxtaposed against the school’s diversity statistics. Their own data shows that black and latino student numbers are underrepresented in computer science, and roughly proportional in engineering overall, a reality which has not changed in over a decade.

She pointed to data showing that DEI managers have a relatively lucrative gig, earning median salaries significantly above the median earned by software engineers in Santa Clara County.  

St. Johns, who is black, endorses efforts that do the hard work of providing training to students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  But instead, Stanford spends millions of dollars on “nonsensical” DEI initiatives that “do little except destroy rational intellectual engagement on campus.”  To support her case that a decline in academic quality results, she turned to course selection: “If you look at the electives in engineering at Stanford, you find courses on the subject of how to be an engineer that explore the intersectionality of who is an engineer instead of actually doing the concrete math and programming.”

Moved by the student’s courage to report her impressions of life as a computer science major at Stanford, Strossen launched the question time from the floor with a special salute to St. Johns, and a gentle rebuke to the tenured professoriate.  “We have so many colleagues who are tenured and who do not speak up the way you do.  What advice can you give to other students?  What more can we do as professors and administrators to empower more students to speak up?”

 “I’d say don’t be afraid,” St. Johns replied. “I know students worry about career prospects, but there are a lot of kind people around you who will not turn their backs on you for saying something heterodox, people who question the general narrative of universities like Stanford. ... Try to express your opinions, pose questions if you see something that’s really wrong, and go after it.  Don’t nail yourself on a cross, but it is easier than you think to speak out.”  And she reminded students that “for every one of you who does speak up, there are 10 more behind you who think similarly to you and who are asking the same questions and are generally skeptical of all the woke nonsense.”

Her specific advice on how faculty can help students is this: Take on the administration.  “When [administrators] hire more and more DEI bureaucrats, when they want you to insert discussion of anti-racism into your courses, and identity politics into your syllabi, when they require that anti-racist rhetoric be included in your field’s safety guidelines, resist all that. … If you consistently fight back against this sort of thing, then students will become more encouraged.”

At Princeton, senior Adam Hoffman has joined Mimi St. Johns among the intrepid undergraduates who are speaking up. His March 1, 2023 essay in the New York Times, “My Liberal Campus is Pushing Freethinkers to the Right,” makes the case that the puritanical, progressive monoculture at Princeton and other elite institutions alienates and radicalizes those conservative, moderate and heterodox thinkers who, until not long ago, held a respected place on campus, and served to enrich debate. He laments the change: “All students should welcome challenges to their most cherished beliefs, but from what I’ve seen on campus, students are not invited to debate; they are expected to conform.”

Let’s hope that Hoffman and many more Princeton students attend the March 21st event, speak up, and from whatever perspective they have, make Nadine Strossen proud.

Leslie Spencer ’79, a former journalist, is a member of the Princetonians for Free Speech Executive Committee.

A Fuller Measure of Witherspoon on Slavery

Kevin DeYoung
January 26, 2023

As of the online publication of this essay, Princeton University is still deciding what to do with Witherspoon. The Council of the Princeton University Committee on Naming is forming its recommendation in response to the petition initiated in May 2022 to remove from its place of honor in Firestone Library Plaza between East Pyne Hall and the Chapel the statue of John Witherspoon (1723 – 1794), Princetons sixth president who led the (then) College of New Jersey from 1768 until his death 26 years later. This statue, commissioned by the Princeton University Board of Trustees, was dedicated in 2001. The initiators of the petition have cited as reasons for the statues removal their beliefs that Witherspoon participated actively in the enslavement of human beings, and used his scholarly gifts to defend the practice.” One opponent to the proposed removal of Witherspoons statue submitted that the petitioners have a tragic misunderstanding. . . of the full measure of Witherspoon on slavery.” In this present essay, I present new evidence on the duration and nature of Witherspoons ownership of slaves. I also briefly note Witherspoons connections to other evangelical Christians active in the abolition movement. By reviewing these facts—some of them not mentioned before in any of the secondary literature—I hope to present a fuller measure of Witherspoon on slavery.

Click here for link to full article

Commentary: Wokeness in all its self-flattering moral vanity comes for a statue at Princeton

George F. Will
January 6, 2023

Excerpt: Squalls of indignation gust across campuses so frequently that they seem merely performative — synthetic, perfunctory, uninteresting. Princeton’s current contretemps, however, fascinatingly illustrates how wokeness, which lacks limiting principles, limits opposition to itself. Since 2001, a statue of John Witherspoon (1723-1794), the Presbyterian minister recruited from Scotland to be the then-college’s president, has adorned a plaza adjacent to Firestone Library.

Now the woke, who subordinate everything to “social justice” as they imagine it, demand its removal because he owned two slaves and did not advocate immediate abolition. As Princeton’s president, this “animated son of liberty” (John Adams’s description of the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence) assured the precarious institution’s survival. His students included future congressmen, senators, Supreme Court justices and a president — James Madison stayed an extra year to study with Witherspoon. . . . Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS), an alumni organization much more devoted than the university’s administration and trustees are to viewpoint diversity, notes that “the atmosphere on campus greatly inhibits students, faculty, and others from stating their true views” on “highly politicized issues,” which nowadays most issues become.

Click here for link to full article


December 28, 2022

A group of over 300 people, mostly Princeton graduate students, has petitioned the University to remove the statue of John Witherspoon, arguing that it makes students feel not  "at home," largely because Witherspoon owned two slaves. The University is actively considering this petition under a formal process that includes "listening sessions" but also the ability to comment directly on the proposal.  PFS has submitted lengthy comments, and we urge interested Princetonians to submit comments as well.  Comments do not have to be long.  Click below for information on how to submit comments and on the key points surrounding the debate.

Click here for link to full article


Posted December 28, 2022

EDITORS NOTE: This is the submission sent by PFS to Princeton on the proposal to remove the statue of John Witherspoon currently being considered by the University.  PFS is also submitting to Princeton the biography of Witherspoon that is posted on the front of our website and is linked here:

Click here for link to full article

PFS urges alumni and other Princetonians to submit their own comments to Princeton on removal of the statue.  Below this article, under "How Princetonians can Comment on the Proposal to Remove the Witherspoon Statue," there is information on how to submit comments.

EXCERPT: PFS will make the following points: 1. The process being followed by the Committee does not, and cannot, provide a true view of what Princetonians think on the issue in question because the atmosphere on campus greatly inhibits students, faculty, and others from stating their true views, especially where highly politicized issues are involved. 2. The debate over whether to remove the statue is not an isolated one, but rather has implications for other issues, most importantly, for free speech. 3. Removal of the statute would inevitably lead to petitions and demands to remove or rename other parts of Princeton’s history in a process that may never end. 4. Looked at more broadly, this continuing process of removing and renaming is an attempt to remove Princeton’s history, with all its complexity, in order to create a new university with a monolithic view that would make nonconforming views unwelcome.

John Witherspoon: President and Patriot

By Kevin DeYoung
December 27, 2022

EDITORS NOTE: Princeton is currently actively considering, and taking comments on, a petition to remove the statue of John Witherspoon from the Firestone Plaza. PFS is providing this condensed biography of Witherspoon by a noted expert on his life as original PFS content in order that Princetonians, including those in the Princeton administration making the decision about the statue, may have an accurate picture of his life, which was so important to Princeton and to the founding of our country.

Excerpt: In completing my PhD on John Witherspoon at the University of Leicester in 2019, I studied historical evidence that tells a more balanced, and often more positive, story than what one hears from Witherspoon’s detractors. It can fairly be stated that Witherspoon owned two slaves and did not advocate immediate emancipation. But as I explain below, drawing in part on new historical work and my own archival research, these bare facts do not tell the whole story—not the whole story about Witherspoon the president and patriot, nor the whole story about how Witherspoon related to slaves and free Blacks, what he believed about slavery, and what he hoped America, as it related to slavery, would be like in the future.

Click here for link to full article


PFS Co-founder Edward Yingling Participates in Second Annual Campus Free Speech Roundtable

Excerpt: On December 5, leaders of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA), including AFSA president and PFS co-founder Edward Yingling, participated in an important congressional roundtable on free speech on college campuses. AFSA participants also including John Craig, AFSA Treasurer; students from W&L and UVA who are very involved with AFSA members there; and Raj Kannappan of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and a member of AFSA’s Cornell alumni group member.  Other participants were from the Foundation on Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

Click here for link to full article

A Page of History

From the March 7, 2018 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly

The Hickel Heckle

The Hickel Heckle
President Robert F. Goheen ’40 *48, seated, was angered by antiwar protesters who noisily interrupted Interior Secretary Walter Hickel in 1970.Princeton University Archives

That Was Then: March 1970

While some guest speakers raise eyebrows on campus, Walter Hickel, President Richard Nixon’s first secretary of the interior, raised a ruckus. Indeed, the repercussions of his visit were felt for weeks — not because of anything he said but because of the way he was received March 5, 1970. Hickel headlined a conference on “Ecology and Politics in America’s Environmental Crisis,” but his speech, . . . was overwhelmed by student anger at the Vietnam War. While most of his listeners in Jadwin Gymnasium kept their views to themselves, a group of 75 hecklers unleashed a barrage of jibes, chants, and cries.

Click here for link to full article

Harry Kalven, Institutional Neutrality, and the “Charisma” of the First Amendment

By Leslie Spencer
November 18, 2022

As concern mounts about the status of those principles that preserve and honor freedom of expression in American higher education, Princeton’s James Madison Program recently launched the Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry and Expression.  It held its first day-long conference, entitled Institutional Neutrality and the Mission of the University, on November 11 in Aaron Burr Hall on Princeton’s campus.

The event hosted an all-star line-up of nationally recognized luminaries and authorities on academic freedom and its aims are ambitious. The panelists took a deep look at the principle of institutional neutrality as articulated in the Kalven Report, a 1967 University of Chicago statement prepared by a committee charged with creating “a statement on the university’s role in political and social action.” The committee was chaired by the late Harry Kalven, who was among Chicago’s most legendary professors of law.

Click here to read full article

The Culture of the Canceled

Joshua T. Katz
October 15, 2022

On Monday, May 23, 2022, I went to bed around 11 p.m. and slept more soundly than I had in nearly two years. My easy rest may seem surprising. That day, Princeton University had fired me. . . . Visibly ruining the life of one person pretty much guarantees that hundreds more will be reluctant to stick their head above the parapet. . . . What is the greatest gift of cancellation? . . . The canceled are blessed with the knowledge of who their friends are.

Click here to read full article

Harry Kalven, Institutional Neutrality, and the “Charisma” of the First Amendment

By Leslie Spencer
October 11, 2022

As concern mounts about the status of those principles that preserve and honor freedom of expression in American higher education, Princeton’s James Madison’s Program recently launched the Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry and Expression.  It will hold Its first day-long conference, entitled Institutional Neutrality and the Mission of the University, on November 11 in Aaron Burr Hall on Princeton’s campus.

The event will host an all-star line-up of nationally recognized luminaries and authorities on academic freedom and its aims are ambitious. The panelists will start by taking a deep look at the principle of institutional neutrality as articulated in the Kalven Report, a 1967 University of Chicago statement prepared by a committee charged with creating “a statement on the university’s role in political and social action.” The committee was chaired by the late Harry Kalven, who was among Chicago’s most legendary professors of law.

Click here for link to full article

Princeton ranks low in latest FIRE Free Speech Ranking

October 1, 2022

Princeton showed great progress in its positive presentation on free speech during this year's orientation, but much work remains to be done, as shown in the just released annual free speech rankings from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).  Princeton was a poor 169 out of 203 colleges and universities ranked.  These rankings are largely based on students perceptions, and therefore do not directly address Princeton issues such as the attack on Professor Katz for an article he wrote by the University itself over the last year. Hopefully this year's orientation will lead to further positive actions, and Princeton's FIRE ranking will improve next year.

Click here to see FIRE Rankings

Princeton University Marks Constitution Day With Event Deeming Founding Document ‘A Form of Geopolitical Gaslighting’

Alexandra Orbuch
September 29, 2022

Princeton University celebrated Constitution Day in mid-September with an event featuring a panel of academics who spent 90 minutes deriding the country’s founding document as "a tool of geopolitical gaslighting" that "furthers a racial crisis and a democratic crisis."

The event, titled "Citizenship and Its Discontents in Our Evolving Democratic Republic," was billed as "a public occasion to consider the Constitution and its lived implications throughout United States history"—almost all of which, according to the panelists assembled, have been negative. 

Click here to read full article

Freshman Orientation: A Welcome Change on Free Speech

By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Edward Yingling
PFS exclusive content
September 6, 2022

We have been quite critical of Princeton's orientation a year ago, which contained not one word about Princeton's robust free speech rule and in fact contained a section on racism at Princeton that suggested free speech is a tool for racists. We will not revisit those criticisms here.

Instead, now we celebrate the dramatic turn toward championing free speech in general and Princeton’s free speech rule in particular that took place during freshman orientation at McCarter Theater on September 1, and especially in the eloquent speech to the freshman class by Myles McKnight, President of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition. Nearly 2,000 enthusiastic students packed the auditorium. The text of McKnight’s speech, which was live-streamed to other freshmen in locations around the campus, is posted below and within.

“[T]hat the fight for free speech has become partisan is a true shame,” McKnight told the assembled students. “Free speech is neither a conservative nor a progressive value. It is a truth-seeking value. In the university context, it is an academic value––as deeply rooted in the identity of the University as anything could be. Just as you couldn’t have a university without scholarship, you couldn’t have a healthy scholarly culture without the opposition, open dissent, and vigorous argument that free speech protects.”

He added: “Formal protections for free speech are important, but the informal culture bearing on the expression of diverse points of view can be even more critical when the truth-seeking ideal is what’s at stake. Therefore, we should all celebrate our University’s formal adoption of the Chicago Free Speech Principles, which provide robust protections for expressive freedom and protect your rights as new members of this community to speak and write openly.”

We also welcome the support for free speech voiced in talks by President Eisgruber and Hannah Kapoor, Vice President of Undergraduate Student Government. Mr. Eisgruber said that even – indeed, “especially” -- when a listener feels offended by a speaker’s assertion, there is value in allowing it to be said.

"I want to start by calling your attention to the University’s statement on free expression,” Mr. Eisgruber said. “I hope that you will take the time to read it if you have not done so already.  Like the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it provides broad freedom for students, faculty, and staff to state their opinions.

"Here, in part, is what the statement says: 'Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.. . . . that is a bold and powerful commitment.' "

McKnight and another senior, Abigail Anthony, were instrumental in encouraging the administration to have this positive free speech program. We are pleased to say that these students are currently serving in the two slots reserved for students on the PFS Board of Directors.

We have repeatedly assailed President Eisgruber’s past assertions that the free speech rule protects the supposed rights of his subordinates to use the University’s website and orientation to smear as racists professors with whom they disagree on racial issues. We very much hope that this year's orientation on free speech represents a turn for the better.

Indeed, the presentations on free speech and the reception that they received appear to be the most hopeful signs in recent memory that free speech is still alive at Princeton. We fervently hope that Princeton will make celebration of free speech a permanent part of freshman orientation and other campus events.

I Committed Journalism, and Princeton Told Me Not to Communicate

By Danielle Shapiro
Sept. 23, 2022

In March, my college’s director of student life, Momo Wolapaye, told me by phone that another student felt “distressed” by me and had “requested a no-communication order.” In a letter that served as official notice of the NCO, he declared that “neither you nor Harshini Abbaraju ’22 may have any communication with each other in person or through another party, by telephone, letter, e-mail, or other electronic media, or by any other means, including via social media.”

Click here for full article

Princeton faculty, students, and alumni join together to support free speech

September 9, 2022

For the first time on a college campus, faculty, students, and alumni have created an organization to promote and defend free speech and academic freedom on their campus.  The creation of the Princeton Free Speech Union was announced in a full page advertisement in the Princeton Daily this week,  The Princeton Free Speech Union is a coordinating body consisting of an informal coalition of faculty, a student free speech group (the Princeton Open Campus Coalition), and Princetonians for Free Speech.

The mission statement of the Union is here.

The Union's website is princetonfreespeechunion.com

Why Students Must Stand for Speech

September 1, 2022
By Myles McKnight '23

This story originally appeared in Public Discourse, the journal of the Witherspoon Institute, and is reprinted with permission.
Note from the Editors: The following is an address delivered by Princeton University senior Myles McKnight on September 1 to members of Princeton’s incoming freshman class during their orientation.  In his remarks, Mr. McKnight explained why freedom of expression is fully integrated with the truth-seeking mission of the university, and admonished students to help build a common culture that fosters and enhances participation in the truth-seeking project. The speech has been lightly edited for clarity.
Good afternoon!

My name is Myles McKnight. I’m a senior in the Politics Department, and I’m currently the President of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, a group of students working to promote the values of free speech, intellectual freedom, and robust discourse on campus.

I’m delighted to speak to you today at what is—in my view—the most important session of your freshman orientation. I say this, not to self-aggrandize, but because the values and commitments we’re discussing this evening are absolutely essential to the fulfillment of our university’s truth-seeking mission. (And, by the way, as the unifying good of our university, that mission is the very thing that makes having and maintaining our university a worthwhile project in the first place.)

Click here for full speech

Eisgruber’s Emails

August 12, 2022

Click here to see Professors Sergiu Klainerman’s call for alumni and faculty to pressure administrators to honor the University’s commitment to protect free speech.

Eisgruber’s Claim that Free Speech Rule Protects His Subordinates’ Rights to Use Princeton’s Website and Freshman Orientation to Smear Professors as Racists

By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Edward Yingling
August 4, 2022

In short emails in July, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber spurned a distinguished professor's plea to take seriously the letter and spirit of Princeton's free speech rule. Instead Eisgruber locked himself with pigheaded finality into his indefensible contention that the rule itself empowers his subordinates to use Princeton's website and other considerable resources dishonestly to smear as racist any professor they decide to target anonymously, if they wish -- even when the specific statement targeted has been labeled as protected speech by Eisgruber himself.

In the process, Eisgruber’s dismissive emails to Professor Sergiu Klainerman, defending anonymous subordinates’ attacks on recently fired Professor Joshua Katz, also gave the back of his hand to the important faculty Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal’s unanimous finding that the subordinates had violated the free speech rule. His email did not even address specific findings in the committee’s detailed analysis, including the fact that the Katz quote had been intentionally doctored. 

Click here for full commentary

Commentary: The Biden Administration’s Illiberal Regulatory Attack on Campus Free Speech

By Stuart Taylor, Jr., Co-founder, Princetonians for Free Speech
August 1, 2022

Old-fashioned civil liberties champions who have not paid much attention since 2010 or so might be surprised to learn that the Obama Administration used Title IX sharply to curb free speech on campus (as well as due process for students accused of sexual harassment and assault); that the next Administration reversed this trend and was much friendlier to free speech (and due process); and that the current Administration is now reverting to the Obama policies, often in the face of court decisions finding them unlawful.

Somewhat better known are the facts that in handling accusations of campus sexual assault under Title IX, the Obama and Biden Administrations and most congressional Democrats and campus bureaucrats have virtually presumed the guilt of accused students (almost all male and many or most of them innocent any crime) and slashed their due process rights. This in the face of scores of court rulings for accused students.

Click here for full commentary

Is Free Speech Dying at Princeton? A Timeline

August 1, 2022

View a comprehensive timeline of how free speech is dying at Princeton.

View the timeline

Commentary: The Biden Administration’s Illiberal Regulatory Attack on Campus Free Speech

August 1, 2022
By Stuart Taylor, Jr., Co-founder, Princetonians for Free Speech

Old-fashioned civil liberties champions who have not paid much attention since 2010 or so might be surprised to learn that the Obama Administration used Title IX sharply to curb free speech on campus (as well as due process for students accused of sexual harassment and assault); that the next Administration reversed this trend and was much friendlier to free speech (and due process); and that the current Administration is now reverting to the Obama policies, often in the face of court decisions finding them unlawful.

Somewhat better known are the facts that in handling accusations of campus sexual assault under Title IX, the Obama and Biden Administrations and most congressional Democrats and campus bureaucrats have virtually presumed the guilt of accused students (almost all male and many or most of them innocent any crime) and slashed their due process rights. This in the face of scores of court rulings for accused students.

On the other hand, the Trump Administration, thanks to then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, admirably pushed for due process and fairness to accused students.

In this article, I focus on how the Biden Education Department seeks to curb free speech, in the guise of punishing sexual harassment, with the Education Department’s draft regulation on Title IX, released for public comment on June 23.

Click here for full commentary


July 22, 2022
Editorial by Edward Yingling and Stuart Taylor, Jr.

Founders of Princetonians for Free Speech
It has been a very bad year for Princeton on free speech. Its reputation on this critical issue is in tatters. Now we are approaching a new academic year. Will Princeton’s leadership try to live up to the inspiring language of its free speech rule? Or will it continue its recent dismal record? We will have a very good clue at the beginning of the academic year. Princeton may have an orientation that contains a discussion of its free speech rule and the importance of free speech, or it may have something more like last year’s orientation, in which the only presentation covering free speech attacked it.

There is not space in this commentary to cover all the problems at Princeton in recent months involving free speech issues, and therefore we will just present the lowlights in summary form.

Click here for link to full editorial

How Universities Weaponize Freshman Orientation

Instead of simply informing students about the resources on campus, orientation can amount to an ideological hazing.

July 15, 2022

I arrived at Princeton University in September 2019. I had looked at Princeton online and thought, “one day . . .” Suddenly, I was experiencing day one. My eager arrival on campus was emotionally amplified by bright smiles, copious pamphlets, and dormitory supervisors dancing in tiger suits. Orientation innocently began with introductions of names and hometowns — then descended into divisive lectures and panels. The intention of these programs was not to assimilate us into our new (and intimidating) surroundings, but rather to coerce students into accepting and affirming a resident orthodoxy.

Click here for link to full article

Where the Buck Stops: Christopher Eisgruber ’83, Leonard Milberg ’53, and how administrators and diversity bureaucrats undermined academic freedom and erased history

June 27, 2022
By Leslie Spencer ’79

Leonard Milberg ’53 collects rare things of scholarly import.  In his 30th reunion book entry, he says, “I have belatedly, but passionately discovered books, prints, and the Princeton University Rare Book Library.”  Over the years his expertise grew, as did his collections, which came to include 19th-century American prints and drawings, book collections of American poetry, Irish poetry, prose and theatre as well as two Judaica collections. Princeton is the lucky beneficiary of over 13,000 of these items, and over the decades Milberg has organized eleven exhibits at Princeton and paid for their accompanying publications. He often looked to Princeton faculty and other academics with relevant expertise to shape the content and provide context for these projects. And along the way he endowed two Princeton professorships. In short, Milberg has been for decades a devotee not only of history, literature, art and the knowledge one can derive from them, but also of Princeton. Over many decades his philanthropic endeavors have been completed without incident, and with immeasurable benefit to Princeton students and the wider community.

Click here for link to full article

Of Dissent and its Discontents:  Beloved Community, the Black Justice League, and the Curious Case of Professor Joshua Katz

June 10th, 2022

By Adam Gussow ’79 *00

Excerpt: For the past forty years I’ve given faithfully to Princeton’s Annual Giving campaign.  My contribution has been laughably modest -- $100 most years, $250 when major reunions come up—but consistent.  My rationale has been heterodox:  grounded in deep gratitude for the ten years I spent on campus between 1975 and 2000 and the two degrees in English, undergrad and grad, I obtained there, but animated by the farfetched hope that small but consistent annual gifting would grace whatever children I someday produced with an incrementally better chance of gaining admission to the university that changed my life.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to suspend my annual gift for the foreseeable future and redirect it towards Princetonians for Free Speech.

Click here for link to full article


May 25th, 2022

By Edward Yingling and Stuart Taylor, Jr.
Founders of Princetonians for Free Speech

Here is the real test: Would a professor who also had had an affair with a student and who later wrote something much, much more inflammatory than Katz did – while compiling a record as a left-leaning progressive -- have been fired?  Would he have been attacked in the student newspaper in a way that no one in the history of the paper had ever been attacked before?  Would his personal life have been subjected to a Javert-like seven-month investigation by that newspaper? Would he have been attacked by Princeton administrators in an official presentation to the entire entering class?  Would he have been subjected to double jeopardy over a personal mistake?  Absolutely not. But that is what happened to Professor Katz.

Click here for full editorial

Commentary in the Wall Street Journal by Professor Katz about his firing 

May 24th. 2022

The university claims it fired me for a long-past offense -- for which I was already punished -- but the truth should worry everyone.

Click link for full article


Video of James Madison Program Panel Discussion on “The Fight for Free Speech at Princeton and Beyond” During 2022 Princeton Reunions

May 20th, 2022

Open Video of James Madison Program Panel Discussion on “The Fight for Free Speech at Princeton and Beyond” During 2022 Princeton Reunions configuration options

Led by Professor Robert P. George, with Myles McKnight ’23, Rebekah Adams ’21, Solveig Gold ’17, and Stuart Taylor, Jr. ’70 as Panelists

Recorded in the Betts Auditorium of the Princeton University Architecture Building, May 20, 2022

Click here for link to video


April 26th, 2022

By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Edward L. Yingling -- co-founders of Princetonians for Free Speech

It is critical to understand that the controversy over Princeton University’s recklessly false, continuing, institutional reviling of Professor Joshua Katz as a racist since early 2021 is about much, much more than the fate of a single professor.

It is about a concerted effort by President Eisgruber and his subordinates, now enabled by the Board of Trustees, to carve the heart out of Princeton’s acclaimed free speech rule by denying its protection to any professors or students who are savaged and defamed for their speech by the University itself – the most powerful entity to which the rule was intended to apply.

Click link for full article

An Eminent Civil Libertarian’s letter to President Eisgruber on "the Depth of my Disappointment"

April 5, 2022

Dear President Eisgruber,

You and I have never met. Nor are we likely to meet because it has been very rare that I attend my class reunions. However, I have followed your career as President of Princeton, because I read the Princeton Alumni Weekly (which is, of course, no longer published weekly). I also read The New York Times, which covers the news from major universities, including Princeton.

Click link for full letter

PFS Podcast Recorded by Princeton Junior Billy Wade with Three Faculty Members

April 25, 2022

PFS Podcast Recorded by Princeton Junior Billy Wade with Three Faculty Members

This podcast can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music.

In this episode of the Princeton Tory Podcast, Billy Wade '23 discusses the state of free speech on Princeton's campus with three of the University's professors: Sergiu Klainerman, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics; John Benedict Londregan '88, Professor of Politics and International Affairs; and Elizabeth Bogan, Senior Lecturer in Economics. Delving into faculty experiences with the landscape of free speech at Princeton, Wade and our guests examine the role of educational institutions as havens for free expression, the impact of cancel culture on the speech of academics, and proper limitations on the ability of universities to suppress opinion.

PFS Podcast Recorded by Princeton Junior Billy Wade with Three Faculty Members

April 23rd, 2022

This podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

In this episode of the Princeton Tory Podcast, Billy Wade '23 discusses the state of free speech on Princeton's campus with three of the University's professors: Sergiu Klainerman, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics; John Benedict Londregan '88, Professor of Politics and International Affairs; and Elizabeth Bogan, Senior Lecturer in Economics. Delving into faculty experiences with the landscape of free speech at Princeton, Wade and our guests examine the role of educational institutions as havens for free expression, the impact of cancel culture on the speech of academics, and proper limitations on the ability of universities to suppress opinion.

Faculty Committee Resoundingly Upholds Complaint About University’s Attacks on Katz

April 19, 2022

According to knowledgeable sources, the Princeton Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal, comprised of 9 faculty members, issued on Tuesday a strongly worded rebuke to a high-ranking official’s summary rejection of a formal complaint seeking an investigation into attacks on the University’s official website portraying Professor Joshua Katz as a racist.

The committee’s detailed letter was in response to an appeal by Professor Sergiu Klainerman of the official rejection. Professor Klainerman's original complaint, joined by seven other Princeton faculty, was that unnamed officials had violated University regulations in using the website to discredit Professor Katz, by smearing him as a racist for a controversial 2020 article criticizing certain race-related demands by activist faculty members.

Click here for link to full article

PFS critiques of Eisgruber letter to the Academic Freedom Alliance

April 11 - Eisgruber’s Effort to Portray Princeton’s Attack on Free Speech as a Defense of It

April 7 - Exposing the Attempt to Whitewash what happened

April 6 - Princeton’s Free Speech Rule Deception

PFS Podcast with Two Princeton Juniors

April 6th, 2022

In this edition of the Princetonians for Free Speech Podcast, PFS President Stuart Taylor interviews Third Year Princeton students Abigail Anthony, President of Princeton's Chapter of the Federalist Society, and Myles McKnight, President of Princeton the Open Campus Coalition. The trio discusses the faltering state of Free Speech on Princeton's campus and the reasons behind this decline.  Click here to hear our latest podcast.

PFS Letter Calling on Trustees to Commission Investigation

March 15, 2022
By Edward Yingling, Stuart Taylor Jr., and Todd Rulon-Miller

We are writing on behalf of Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS) on a matter of utmost urgency. Princeton has now reached the point where free speech is no longer protected and where those who do try to exercise free speech can be viciously attacked with no consequences, and even attacked by the University itself. Princeton’s free speech rule (University-wide Regulation 1.1.3), after a recent official, nonpublic, and false interpretation, is a shell, basically meaningless. If Princeton’s Board of Trustees does not act immediately to investigate and reverse these actions, Princeton’s reputation will be in tatters, and deservedly so; and Princeton will no longer deserve the name “university.” 

Click here for link to full article

Is Free Speech Dying at Princeton? A Timeline

March 15, 2022

View a comprehensive timeline of how free speech is dying at Princeton.

Click here for link to Timeline

How Princeton Eviscerated Its Free Speech Rule and Covered It Up

March 5, 2022
By Edward Yingling and Stuart Taylor Jr

In July 2020, a Princeton University professor, Joshua Katz, wrote an article containing provocative language that generated controversy on campus. While voicing strong disagreement with that language, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber clearly and publicly stated a few days later that it was protected by Princeton’s university-wide rule on free speech. But since then, through other Princeton officials, the university has for over a year viciously attacked Professor Katz as a racist on its website and elsewhere for the exact same language. These attacks have clearly violated the Princeton free speech rule, as well as other Princeton rules.

When eight Princeton professors, acting as whistleblowers, filed a formal complaint about these attacks last October, high-ranking Princeton officials responded with a ruling that can only be described as a crude attempt to cover up the university’s violations; in the process, they eviscerated the free speech rule. The officials absurdly found that the widely disseminated presentation smearing Katz was not an “official University document” despite overwhelming public evidence that it is. They also issued a false interpretation of the free speech rule, stating dishonestly that it did not apply to Professor Katz’s language. Furthermore, under their deliberate misinterpretation, the free speech rule will no longer protect the vast majority of other statements by students and faculty that are clearly protected by its language and intent.

Click here for link to full article


Letter from Princeton Open Campus Coalition to Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber


November 24, 2021
By Myles McKnight '23, President, Abigail Anthony, ’23, and 60 other members of the POCC, whose names were redacted as a condition for the public release of this letter

Dear President Eisgruber:

We, the undersigned students, write on behalf of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC), a group of undergraduates committed to the philosophy that a university cannot fulfill its mission without protecting and honoring free speech, robust discourse, and viewpoint diversity. These ideals––which provide more than merely administrative directives––form the foundation of an intellectual culture in which the pursuit of truth can be fully actualized. We write to express our concern regarding violations of the institutional neutrality required for these ideals to flourish. We focus on one recent and particularly egregious violation––namely, a statement by Dean Amaney Jamal released to the student body of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) in response to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. . . .

Unfortunately, recent events at our University suggest that the neutrality principle has been dangerously dishonored. In the case of Dean Jamal’s November 20th statement regarding the Rittenhouse verdict, the significant factual errors (while embarrassing) are not the cause of our protest [footnote omitted]. What motivates our letter is a concern about the implications of a University administrator, speaking in her official capacity, promulgating to an entire community of students her moral evaluation of the outcome of a highly publicized and controversial trial.

click here for link to full article

Alumni United for Freedom of Speech 

Editor's note: Below is an excerpt of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, followed by an excerpt of a press release announcing the launching of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance.

October 18, 2021
By Stuart Taylor, Jr. and Edward Yingling
The Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: Readers of these pages are well aware that free speech, academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are in big trouble at U.S. universities. But many of those worried over the state of campuses are almost resigned to the idea that the forces of illiberal intolerance have won. The fight is far from over. On Oct. 18, five alumni groups are announcing the creation of an organization to stand up for open inquiry: the Alumni Free Speech Alliance.

AFSA’s founders are groups of graduates of Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University (our alma mater), the University of Virginia, and Washington and Lee University. Our allied organizations are the Cornell Free Speech Alliance, Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse, Princetonians for Free Speech, the Jefferson Council (composed of UVA alumni) and the Generals Redoubt (W&L alumni).

AFSA’s member groups are nonpartisan and will protect the rights of faculty and students across the ideological spectrum. Our goal is to ally with scores of as-yet-unformed alumni groups around the country. Why alumni? Because with rare exceptions, everyone else may feel too exposed to attacks to take a stand against campus culture.

Click here for link to full op-ed


September 23, 2021

Two recent developments show free speech is in serious trouble at Princeton. This week, the “2021 College Free Speech Ranking,” published by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), placed Princeton dead last in the Ivy League on free speech and a dismal 134 out of 159 colleges and universities ranked. The FIRE press release and link to the ranking can be accessed here. This follows the controversial Princeton orientation for the class of 2025, which contained an official presentation that denigrated free speech.

The FIRE ranking was based on surveys of students, plus an analysis of schools’ written policies on speech on which Princeton received a negative “red light” rating. The survey results show that the great majority of the schools rated have serious problems on free speech, and yet Princeton is near the bottom of this barrel of rotting apples. For example, in the survey, only 34 percent of the students from all schools thought it was never acceptable to shout down a speaker on campus. So, 66 percent thought it at least sometimes right to shout down speakers. Over 80 percent of the students said they self-censor in the classroom, on campus, and online. The answers to other questions show most students at almost all schools have a total lack of understanding of what free speech means.

The specific results for Princeton show students often feel reluctant to state their views. One member of the class of 2022 is quoted as saying: “Cancel culture is very strong at Princeton so uploading unpopular opinions to social media is very dangerous.” For a PFS article on the FIRE ranking for Princeton, click here.

Click link for full editorial


September 23, 2021

A ranking, based on a survey of students, released today by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), put Princeton dead last in the Ivy League and a dismal 134 out of 159 colleges and universities surveyed. Princeton has also fallen in the ranking, as last year it was fourth in the Ivy League. A FIRE press release with a link to the report, “2021 College Free Speech Ranking,” can be accessed here.

This is the second annual free speech ranking released by FIRE, a highly respected non-profit that is “committed to free speech and open inquiry in colleges and universities in the United States.” FIRE is non-partisan and defends speech by professors and students regardless of their political orientation.

The ranking is compiled largely from of a survey of 37,000 college students at 159 colleges and universities by College Plus, which specializes in surveys of such students. The Princeton sample had 250 students. One of the seven factors used in compiling the ranking is FIRE’s own analysis of the schools’ written policies on speech, in which Princeton received a negative “red light” rating. Survey results are used to determine the scores for the other six factors -- for example, tolerance for controversial speakers, comfort in expressing ideas, and the perception of students that the school protects free speech.

Click link for full editorial

PFS Podcast: John Rose on free speech in his college classroom

September 21, 2021

John Rose, associate director of the Arete Initiative at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, joined us on our latest podcast to discuss his recent Wall Street Journal column about how he nurtures true civil discourse in his classroom and what he has learned from the experience. While helping to coordinate Arete’s programming, Rose teaches courses in happiness and human flourishing, Christian ethics, conservatism, and political polarization. He was interviewed by Lawrence Haas, a board member of Princetonians for Free Speech.

Rose revealed that he learned – from speaking with students privately in one-on-one settings – that many of them wanted to engage in honest debate, to explore all sides of complicated issues, but were afraid to do so. When he surveyed 110 students anonymously this spring, 68 percent of them revealed that they censor themselves on certain political topics, even with good friends. Nevertheless, Rose found a way to nurture honest debate in his classroom. After establishing rules that, among other things, allowed for the airing of differing opinions and assumed good will on all sides, he watched his students “flourish,” as he put it. They discussed such hot-button issues as critical race theory and abortion. But, as he acknowledges, whether other teachers, at Duke and on other campuses, try to follow his lead remains very much an open question.

Link to Podcast

Princeton’s Shocking Orientation for New Students

September 4, 2021

The Princeton orientation for the class of 2025 has become very controversial. See for example, this article by Rod Dreher. And the controversy is likely to grow. We have talked to a number of alumni, current faculty and students who are deeply troubled by the orientation, and for good reason. An article by two Princeton professors lays out how arriving new students received “a mandatory injection not of a vaccine against COVID, but of indoctrination,” including “an utterly one-sided and negative picture of Princeton’s history.”

 A significant part of the orientation was devoted to an extensive “Gallery” entitled: "To Be KNOWN and heard Systemic Racism and Princeton University,” with four “chapters” including one headed “Race and Free Speech,” and a 52-minute Orientation Video presented by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, of professors commenting on the gallery. The gallery depicts -- through drawings, photos, and text -- a history of racism at Princeton from the slave holdings of some of its founders to more recent times. It is dramatic and disturbing and presents many facts that should be known and discussed on campus. It also presents a very negative portrayal of free speech, on which more below.

 Are these presentations the first things that incoming students, right out of high school, should see about Princeton? And do they present anything close to a balanced view of Princeton or provide any context, such as the innumerable ways in which Princeton has benefitted people of color, who still flock to the University from all over the world? The answer to both questions is no.

Click link for full editorial

PFS Podcast: Jonathan Rauch on his acclaimed new book

September 3, 2021

Below is a link to our first podcast, a 52-minute interview of Jonathan Rauch, a Brookings scholar and journalist who is one of America’s sharpest and most original thinkers, by Stuart Taylor Jr., president of Princetonians for Free Speech. The subject is Jonathan’s highly acclaimed new book, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth. It is a deep dive into how Western thinkers have used evidence and logic since the enlightenment to determine what is true and what is false, making possible enormous progress in science, medicine, philosophy, politics, law, and other human affairs.

Most important for today’s world, Rauch explains the threats to all this progress, to the health of what he calls the reality-based community, and even to our way of life, from the Trumpist “firehose of falsehoods” on the far right and the totalitarian cancel culture that is coming to dominate academia, the news media, and other educated elites on the  left. The book includes a muscular defense of free speech, which is vital to the constitution of knowledge.

The many glowing reviews include those of columnist George Will, who calls Rauch “a James Madison for this era,” and former American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen, who says: “Starting from first principles and applying them to headlines as recent as the storming of the U.S. Capitol in 2021, The Constitution of Knowledge provides the map we've been waiting for.”

Link to Podcast

The Academic Freedom Podcast with Jonathan Rauch

August 24, 2021

Excerpt: The Academic Freedom Alliance recently released the third episode of The Academic Freedom Podcast. In that episode, I spoke with Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch. Rauch has a new book, The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth, which defends and elaborates on liberal principles of knowledge creation.

In the podcast, we discuss some of the ideas in the book, but also talk more generally about the state of intellectual diversity in academia and the problems confronting free speech on college campuses.

Link to Podcast

An Important Day for Free Speech and Academic Freedom

March 12, 2021

Monday, March 8, was an important day for free speech and academic freedom on campuses across the United States.  On that day, the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) was officially launched, with over 200 professors and emeritus professors from a number of universities as initial members. The purpose of the AFA is to support free speech in academia, including through legal support for those who have their free speech and academic freedom challenged.  The AFA has a Legal Advisory Committee made up of noted lawyers with experience on First Amendment issues to support its efforts.

PFS strongly supports this very important initiative. As a group of Princeton alumni, we are particularly proud that the AFA was started by Princeton professors, including Keith E. Whittington and Robert P. George. We highly recommend you read the interview of Professor Keith Whittington, by PFS President Stuart Taylor, Jr, which appeared on our website the day the AFA was announced.

Click here for link to full editorial

A New Attack on Free Speech Is Insipid as Well as Vicious

February 17, 2021

The Daily Princetonian launched another lengthy McCarthyist attack on a Princeton professor on February 11, exactly one week after its original attack article on him, by publishing prominently an insipid, as well as cruel, personal attack framed as an opinion piece by Princeton senior Braden Flax, under a grossly misleading headline. Meanwhile, the newspaper has not even acknowledged a February 7 letter to the editor from a former long-term Princeton senior lecturer that criticized the February 4 article as “attempted character assassination.”

Click here for link to full editorial

Letter to the Editor of Daily Princetonian Referred to in above Editorial

Professor Elizabeth Bogan, a much-admired senior lecturer who retired last year after teaching economics from 1992 to 2020, submitted the following letter to the editor to the Daily Princetonian on February 7. She told PFS on February 13 that it had not been published or even acknowledged. Meanwhile, the paper has continued to attack Professor Katz.

Excerpt: As a member of Princeton's Faculty for almost 30 years, I have long admired the Daily Princetonian and cherished the many staff members who took my economics courses.
But Thursday the paper reached a low point of journalism I never expected at Princeton. Your attack of Professor Joshua Katz is nothing but an unprecedented hit job. The strongest accusation is about an alleged relationship with a woman who would neither give her name nor say anything critical about Professor Katz. The best you could find of a first-hand complaint is that Professor Katz took a student to dinner once. You owe Professor Katz and all independent thinkers an apology.

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McCarthyism at the Daily Princetonian

February 7, 2021

This is a special update reporting a Princetonians for Free Speech editorial sharply criticizing a major front-page article in the Daily Princetonian that is a dire threat to free speech at Princeton. The campus newspaper’s article describes a massive, unprecedented, seven-month investigation into the personal life of Princeton Professor Joshua Katz. It clearly was an effort to punish him for his July 8, 2020 article criticizing a letter from a large number of faculty making anti-racism demands on the Princeton administration. We urge you to read the editorial, just posted on our website, entitled "McCarthyism at the Daily Princetonian."

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