Fighting Back, At Last: New activist groups are responding to the spread of illiberal tendencies on campus and beyond

Jonathan Rauch
Persuasion

Excerpt: Stuart Taylor Jr. was never an activist. Never founded a group. Never ran a nonprofit. But recently, the journalist became so alarmed about attacks on open expression at his alma mater that he founded Princetonians for Free Speech. Joining him was another newcomer to free-speech activism, Edward Yingling, a heavy-hitting Washington lawyer and former president of the American Bankers Association. “Professors and students are getting isolated and picked off and harassed, and no one is supporting them,” Taylor said. “There’s nobody pushing back.”

The group is not much more than a website for now, but it plans to come to the public defense of Princeton students and faculty who say something unpopular and find themselves on the wrong end of a harassment campaign or an investigation. It also plans to track free-speech trends and ensure that alumni are kept abreast of developments on campus. “We hope we’re starting something that would lend itself to replication on other campuses,” Taylor said. Other new groups and journals with similar missions include The Academic Freedom Alliance, the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, or FAIR, Counterweight,  The Free Speech Union, and American Purpose.