A group of over 300 people, mostly graduate students, has submitted a petition for removal of the Statue of John Witherspoon from near the Firestone Library. Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS) believes that removal of the statue would have a deleterious effect on free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity and has filed a comment and a history of John Witherspoon with university administrators. PFS urges Princetonians who are concerned about this petition to also file comments.

Comments may be filed by using the form linked here.

It is not necessary to fill out all the boxes to file a comment, and it is sufficient to put some brief comments in the additional comments box at the end.

Comments may also be sent to Nakia Barr and [email protected].

Your comments do not need to be long, but it important that as many Princetonians as possible be on record. The comments filed by PFS and the history of John Witherspoon, which are posted on the front of the PFS website, provide background on this issue. The basic argument of the petitioners for removing the statue is that because Witherspoon owned two slaves and did not support abolition at the time, the presence of the statue is a “distraction from the university’s mission” and will make some students not “feel at home.”

Here are some points you may wish to include in your comments:

1. Witherspoon played a major role in making Princeton the leading university it is today.

2. Witherspoon, at risk to his own life, was a significant contributor to the creation of the United States as a signer of the Declaration of Independence and through the other key roles he played.

3. His involvement with slavery, while a significant blot on his reputation, should be considered in the context of his time and in the context of his entire involvement with issues of race.

4. If the statue is removed, there will be more calls for removal and renaming at a university that has such a deep involvement with U.S. history, both the good and the bad.

5. Removing important parts of Princeton’s history will send a strong signal that viewpoint diversity is not welcome at Princeton and that discussions must conform to the current campus orthodoxy.