Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

April 5, 2021
By Princeton Alumni Weekly staff
Princeton Alumni Weekly

Excerpt : Princeton faculty are among the organizers and leaders of the new Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA), a national group of more than 200 professors that says it wants to uphold freedom of thought and speech and will provide legal support to members who need it.  Keith Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics and author of the 2018 book Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, will chair the AFA’s academic committee. 

Twenty-five Princeton faculty are listed as AFA members, including Cornel West *80, a Princeton emeritus professor. Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that members span the ideological spectrum, and liberals and progressives are just as concerned about academic freedom as their conservative peers. “They are absolutely terrified, and they know they can never keep up with the wokeness,” George told the Chronicle. “What’s OK today is over the line tomorrow, and nobody gave you the memo.”

March 29, 2021
By Jonathan Rauch

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.

March 22, 2021
By Tim O'Brien, recorded interview

Excerpt: Princeton professor and author Keith Whittington joins Tim O’Brien to talk about the current state of not-so-free-speech on the American college campus and Keith’s role in the new and growing Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA). Keith explains the growing fear among professors and instructors that the smallest thing they say or do could ruin their careers.

They could be canceled for using the wrong story or word to illustrate a point while teaching a class. Something they say or do could be perceived by some students as a triggering factor for some negative emotion. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find stories where educators were called out by students for perceived lack of sensitivity to certain issues. Stories like those have created a growing concern among educators that something has to be done to turn the tide.

March 22, 2021
By Matthew Wilson
The Princeton Tory

Excerpt: The 2,887 Princeton students who returned to campus this semester have faced a harsh new reality as they attempt to navigate the University’s pandemic-related restrictions and many of its seemingly absurd regulations.

Student press outlets have seen their coverage curtailed and have been prevented from producing print publications—censorship in all but name—and students of faith have had to watch in disbelief as the University shamelessly encourages non-socially-distanced sexual activity, offering contraception and sex toys to students, while simultaneously claiming that social distancing guidelines render it too dangerous to allow prayer, worship, and Mass in the Chapel. To me, this dichotomy accurately encapsulates Princeton’s response to COVID-19 thus far: hypocritical, absurd, and logic-free.

March 18, 2021
By Keith E. Whittington
National Review

Excerpt: Last week, I helped launch the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA), a nonprofit organization comprising college and university faculty members from across the ideological spectrum who are committed to defending each other’s free speech. I am a right-of-center libertarian in my own political views. Although conservative faculty are a minority on college campuses, theirs is not the only speech under threat in our current political environment. Suppression of controversial ideas runs rampant on all sides. Liberal and moderate academics are deeply affected by the erosion of tolerance for dissent on our college campuses. Many of them decline to speak out on controversial subjects precisely because of the fierce intimidation that they face from their own side — and, to be frank, that they all too often face from politicians and activists on the political right. The sense of fear in modern academia is pervasive and the threats to free speech are widespread.

March 15, 2021
By Christian Schneider
The College Fix

Excerpt: The Princeton Theological Seminary segregated participants in its mandatory racial bias training by race, according to video materials obtained by Young America’s Foundation. The training, led by Laurie Carlsson and Dr. Michelle Majors, offered three separate spaces for students and faculty to participate: A “white-only space” to “grapple with our whiteness and how we’ve been socialized, in a way that does not harm our colleagues and co-students of color,” a separate group “only open to students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color,” and a group for participants “uncomfortable with either of these scenarios.” The segregated groups are designed to “[create] safety and support while addressing the personal institutional challenges of becoming an anti-racist institution,” Majors said during the presentation. According to materials obtained by YAF, Director of Student Life Programs Yeda Walker at one point suggests that professors go easier on minorities in class.

March 12, 2021
By Princetonians for Free Speech Editorial
Princetonians For Free Speech exclusive content

Excerpt: 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.

March 11, 2021
By Marie Rose-Sheinerman
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: Classics professor Joshua Katz has filed a lawsuit alleging that the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a federation of 75 scholarly organizations, retracted his invitation to serve as one of the society’s delegates to a prominent international conference after he wrote a controversial op-ed last July. In the complaint, Katz claims that the ACLS invited him to serve as a volunteer delegate to the Union Académique Internationale (UAI), an academic conference based in Paris, and then revoked that invitation “solely because he expressed views that, although fully reasonable and protected by ordinary principles of academic freedom, offend the ideological sensibilities of some in academia.” Katz is seeking unspecified monetary compensation on the basis that the organization’s actions caused him “substantial damage, lessened his reputation, and reduced his potential for future advancement.”

March 9, 2021
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed


Excerpt: Two hundred professors launched the nonpartisan Academic Freedom Alliance this week to advocate for free speech in academe and, in some cases, legally defend professors’ academic freedom. Members include Cornel West, Robert P. George, Jeannie Suk Gersen, Jay Parini and Claire Potter. Membership is currently by invitation only, but the group plans on opening up to all academics. “The AFA will provide strength in numbers for its members,” physicist Shivaji Sondhi of Princeton University said in a statement. “As membership continues to expand, administrators will have to think twice before baselessly censuring or terminating an employee.”

March 9, 2021
By The Editorial Board
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: It’s not a sign of health in American higher education that organizations devoted to defending academic freedom are proliferating. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has expanded rapidly in recent years as threats to campus liberties multiply. In 2015 Heterodox Academy emerged to promote viewpoint diversity in the progressive-dominated social sciences. This week comes the Academic Freedom Alliance, a cross-ideological group of scholars who aim to defend faculty members’ rights to engage in unpopular speech and advocacy. The group, announced Monday, says on its website that “our members will defend faculty members’ freedom of thought and expression in their work as researchers and writers or in their lives as citizens.” The group is also advised by litigators such as liberal First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams and the prominent conservative appellate lawyer Paul Clement. “The AFA will aid in providing legal support to faculty whose academic freedom is threatened by institutions’ or officials’ violations of constitutional, statutory, contractual, or school-based rights,” its website says.