Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

September 22, 2021
By Zachary Shevin and AG McGee
The Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: Princeton’s orientation programming is packed. First-years are sorted into various small group programs, participate in dozens of events, and attend several trainings designed to help them get their bearings as college students. This year featured a new addition to the traditional programming. First-years watched a recording of a virtual “roundtable” discussion which examined a gallery entitled “To Be Known and Be Heard: Systemic Racism and Princeton University.” In the recording, professors examined documents concerning racist moments in Princeton’s history.

In response, University professors John Londregan and Sergiu Klainerman penned an article in the New York Post criticizing the mandatory event, dubbing it “one-sided.” As small group orientation leaders, we watched the video ourselves. After reading Londregan and Klainerman’s article, we are confused as to whether they watched the same recording. Perhaps the larger issue is that Londregan and Klainerman construe truth-seeking differently than the rest of us.

 

September 21, 2021
By Princetonians for Free Speech

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.

September 20, 2021
By Dan McLaughlin
National Review

Excerpt: Sean Wilentz is a proud liberal and sometimes a hard-edged Democratic partisan. But he is also a distinguished Princeton University historian whose academic work is broadly respected across the political spectrum. That has not stopped some progressives from attacking his work for reasons more of politics than scholarship. He has recently found himself in their crosshairs for his vocal criticism — along with that of other leading liberal historians — of aspects of the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project.

In a thoughtful but unsparing essay titled “The 1619 Project and Living in Truth” in the Czech historical journal Opera Historica, Wilentz has fired another salvo against the 1619 Project, its editor and lead essayist Nikole Hannah-Jones, Times Magazine editor in chief Jake Silverstein, and more broadly, the intellectual climate of “anti-racist” politics that produce warped history while intimidating serious scholars into silence. Wilentz is scathing on Hannah-Jones’s preposterous and unsupported claim, in the lead essay, that “one of the primary reasons” for the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence was American colonial fear that the British would restrict or abolish slavery.

September 20, 2021
By Kristal Grant
Daily Princetonian

Content Warning: This article contains mention of homophobic and misogynistic language.

It seems that at least once a semester, Princeton’s campus is plagued by the same conservative Christian group that has links to the Key of David Christian Center. Following last Thursday’s “demonstration,” the Pride Alliance, Princeton’s only queer advocacy student group on campus, held a reflection space. Several students (many of whom were first-years) expressed the fear, loneliness, and grief they experienced after witnessing this hate group spout homophobic and misogynistic language, including slurs and insults. 

Several students, specifically queer and femme students, were referred to as “homos,” “whores,” and “sinners.” We at the Pride Alliance are frustrated by the University's emphasis on “free expression” in responding to this demonstration, as highlighted by their explanation that “free expression facilitators” were present. This emphasis runs parallel to President Eisgruber’s notion of free speech, which he has used as an excuse not to take meaningful action in past instances of racist and bigoted speech by community members. We have learned from Eisgruber’s justifications that this “freedom of speech” which the University often champions simply functions as a disguise for the protection of hate speech.

September 20, 2021
By Dillion Gallagher
The Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: In the wake of our return to campus this semester, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Princetonian Emma Treadway directed each of us to rethink our campus culture. In light of this directive, cancel culture seems the ideal tradition to tear down. We have to recognize cancel culture for how corrosive it is and understand the constructive principles that can replace it. Then, we can commit ourselves to pursuing them, despite how difficult it might be. Those on the political left have to listen up: Stop thinking that cancelling people holds them accountable.

Cancel culture is not a substitute for accountability, mainly because it doesn’t carry any weight for those supposedly being held accountable. The reputations we build with and among our peers, friends, and colleagues are our first real contribution to Princeton. If someone’s cancellation is successful, it rids them of that contribution and, therefore, any real stake in our community.

 

September 17, 2021
By Jeremy Lott
The College Fix

Excerpt: Princeton University required all incoming freshmen to watch an hour-long video that likened personal denials of racism to segregation, urged the students and university to do more for “undocumented immigrants,” and warned that those who protested the 2020 presidential election bear some resemblance to Confederates.

The purpose of the video was to grapple with “systemic racism and Princeton University,” according to the video’s subtitle. It was organized as a commentary on a “virtual gallery” detailing racism at the Ivy League university with chapters on “Activism and Intersectionality”; “Race and Free Speech”; “Anti-Racism Resources and Actions”; and “Visions for a More Just World.”

The reactions at Princeton to the mandatory orientation video have been mixed. Edward Yingling, secretary-treasurer of Princetonians for Free Speech, and Stuart Taylor Jr., president of Princetonians for Free Speech, wrote in RealClearPolitics that the orientation taught new students “that protecting free speech is bad because it allows what partisans call ‘hate speech.’The gallery and video must have left impressionable new students thinking that Princeton is a hateful and evil place.”

September 15, 2021
By Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

Excerpt: On August 31, I wrote about the propaganda Princeton University is putting out to slander and demean Joshua Katz, a tenured Classics professor who publicly dissented from the racialist ideology the university’s leadership has adopted. In the propaganda I cited, the university holds up Katz to incoming freshmen as an example of a racist on campus.

Well, here’s an update. A writer named Greg Piper examined the case, and caught something that had eluded critics: . . .

As Piper explained (see below excerpt), Princeton institutional propagandists deliberately doctored a quote to make Katz look even worse. And it kept out other information that would have complicated the charge. This wasn’t a student activist groups doing this. This involved offices of Princeton University that set out to damage the reputation of a sitting professor, even if they had to doctor a quote to do it.

 

 

September 15, 2021
By Greg Piper
Just the News

Excerpt: Princeton University is allegedly teaching freshmen that a current faculty member is racist for criticizing a defunct black student organization. The "Race and Free Speech" section explores Princeton's history of grappling with "what crosses the 'line' between free speech and freedom of expression, and racist statements and actions." But it surreptitiously edited the quote that got Katz in trouble.  He had written: "The Black Justice League, which was active on campus from 2014 until 2016, was a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the many (including the many black students) who did not agree with its members' demands." Only the parenthetical is missing from Princeton's rendering.

September 14, 2021
By James Dean
Cornell Chronicle

Excerpt: Democracy and the search for truth require a willingness to challenge our most fundamental beliefs and accept criticism of them, a pair of prominent scholars argued during the fourth installment of Civil Discourse: The Peter ’69 and Marilyn ’69 Coors Conversation Series, hosted Sept. 9 by Cornell Law School.

The speakers, Cornel West and Robert P. George, said a commitment to those principles means not settling for social and media networks that reinforce our own viewpoints. It means that colleges and universities ensure faculty members who disagree on important issues engage with each other, they said, and that students hear perspectives they may find offensive. “We can only pursue truth if we do so with an open mind and with a critical and self-critical spirit,” said George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

September 14, 2021
By Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: I'm a believer in positive reinforcement, and when university leaders do the right thing they should get credit for doing so. Kent Syverud, the president of Syracuse University and a former law professor, did the right thing. Other university presidents should take notes.

An assistant professor of political science at Syracuse chose to use the anniversary of September 11th to make a point about "heteropatriarchal capitalist systems." Her tweet generated some backlash. The university responded as universities should in such cases—by defending free speech and avoiding any temptation to praise or condemn the professorial speech in question. The statement in this case echoes the language Syverud used to defend a different faculty member a few years ago who drew controversy over her remarks in response an "anti-Sharia Law" protest.