Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

September 8, 2021
By Edward Yingling and Stuart Taylor, Jr.

Excerpt: Like alumni of universities across the country, many Princeton graduates have become deeply concerned about the attacks on free speech and academic freedom at our alma mater. It is not just the public attacks that are of concern. Multiple national and college-specific polls have shown that faculty and students are afraid to say what they think. Princeton is no different. One student told us he was afraid to speak up not just because he would be attacked, but because others with whom he was working on a project might also be attacked for associating with him.

It was certain that instances of indoctrinating, intimidating, and shaming students would pick up once in-person classes began again this semester. Little did we know that the indoctrination at Princeton would start during first-year orientation, before the start of classes, or that the orientation would conflict directly with the university’s own free speech rules.

As two Princeton professors stated in an op-ed: During orientation, the entering class 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.” This indoctrination was in materials prepared by Princeton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the actions of which are ultimately the responsibility of Christopher Eisgruber, the university’s president.

September 8, 2021
By Keith E. Whittington
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: It is now a familiar pattern. A professor says something controversial, most likely in public on social media. Someone notices and tries to attract attention by attacking the professor—perhaps in good faith disagreement, perhaps not. Petitions are started. Social media posts start trending. Calls are made to university officials. Maybe things get serious and someone important like a donor, trustee, or politician declares that the professor should be terminated.

University presidents have a responsibility in such a situation. It should go without saying, but unfortunately it does not, that they have a responsibility to actually live up to their constitutional and contractual responsibilities and refrain from sanctioning the faculty member for saying something that someone finds controversial. University presidents have a greater responsibility than just that, however, and they even more often fail to meet that greater responsibility. They have a responsibility to push back against the mob.


September 1, 2021
By John Londregan and Sergiu Klainerman (both Princeton Professors)
New York Post

Excerpt: The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office of Princeton University has a message for incoming students: It wants them to participate in “tearing down” the very institution they have worked so hard to attend. And to drive this message home, the office is more than happy to tear down those who dissent from its official orthodoxy.

As members of the class of 2025 arrive on campus, they receive a mandatory injection not of a vaccine against COVID, but of indoctrination. An official video freshmen are required to watch presents an utterly one-sided and negative picture of Princeton’s history. The video/site includes a two-minute discourse in which classics professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta characterizes free speech as a “privilege,” rather than a right, and in which he disparages the speech of others with whom he disagrees as “masculine-ized bravado.” Padilla Peralta goes on to extol “free speech and intellectual discourse that is [sic] flexed to one specific aim, and that aim is the promotion of social justice, and an anti-racist social justice at that.” 

While he is certainly entitled to his opinions, the absence of other perspectives on free speech suggests a jaundiced version of our fundamental commitment to free speech, codified in Princeton’s “Rights, Rules and Responsibilities” document.

August 31, 2021
By Rod Dreher
The American Conservative

Editors’ Note: During the orientation for the Princeton class of 2025, the entire entering class was presented with a “gallery" and was shown a 50-minute video of professors commenting on the gallery. These materials are generating controversy as demonstrated in the article by Rod Dreher in The American Conservative that is excerpted below. PFS has also heard from Princeton faculty and students who are concerned about the lack of balance in these materials in their presentation of the history of Princeton and their discussion of free speech.  For ease of reference, we provide links to the gallery and to the video. (In order to move to the next chapter in the gallery you much click on the arrow at the end of the chapter.)

Excerpt: The auto-destruction of America’s great institutions continues. In July 2020, I wrote about how a woke mob of academics and students at Princeton University were assaulting Joshua Katz, a tenured professor of Classics, over his public dissent from their racial hysterics.

Well, they’ve been dragging out Prof. Katz’s immiseration for over a year now. Incredibly, the university uses him as an example of racism on an official Princeton website dedicated to educating incoming students about the history of racism at Princeton. I repeat: this is an official university website. This is jaw-dropping stuff. Princeton University is in effect accusing a sitting professor of being an anti-black racist. The university directs incoming freshmen to read that website, in which Prof. Katz is introduced to them as one of the most evil people on campus, while the revolting race-baiter Eddie Glaude is held up as an aggrieved victim of Katz. I hope Katz has contacted a lawyer about this.

Moreover, as part of the same freshman orientation program, Princeton has produced this video, in which woke professors talk about — what else? — racism. At the 38:38 mark, Prof. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, who, as a Classics student, was mentored by Joshua Katz, but who has now turned on him, says that he’s in favor of free speech, but only to advance “social justice” and “antiracist social justice.” He says faculty help students with this, not to help them “assimilate,” and think well of Princeton, but “to provide them with the tools to tear down this place and make it a better one.”

Click here for link to full article

August 31, 2021
By Anne Applebaum
The Atlantic

Excerpt: Sometimes investigations take place because someone in the community feels that you haven’t paid a high enough price for whatever it is you have done or said. Last year Joshua Katz, a popular Princeton classics professor, wrote an article critical of a letter published by a group of Princeton faculty on race. In response The Daily Princetonian, a student newspaper, spent seven months investigating his past relationships with students, eventually convincing university officials to relitigate incidents from years earlier that had already been adjudicated—a classic breach of James Madison’s belief that no one should be punished for the same thing twice. The Daily Princetonian investigation looks more like an attempt to ostracize a professor guilty of wrong-think than an attempt to bring resolution to a case of alleged misbehavior. . . .

During China’s Cultural Revolution, Mao empowered students to create revolutionary committees to attack and swiftly remove professors. In both instances, people used these unregulated forms of “justice” to pursue personal grudges or gain professional advantage. The sociologist Andrew Walder has revealed how the Cultural Revolution in Beijing was shaped by power competitions between rival student leaders.

August 28, 2021
By Howard Muncy and Lucas Morel

Excerpt: As Director of Operations for the Academic Freedom Alliance, I wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Professor Lucas Morel about his views on academic freedom as well as his early experiences with the Academic Freedom Alliance. Professor Morel is the John K. Boardman, Jr. Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University. He specializes in the study of American Government, Black American politics, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Ralph Ellison. Professor Morel also serves as one of the nine Academic Committee members for the AFA.

August 24, 2021
By Keith Whittington, Princeton Professor of Politics
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason

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.

August 19, 2021
By Stuart Taylor, Jr., President, Princetonians for Free Speech

Excerpt: Timothy Keiderling’s decision to enroll in the Princeton Theological Seminary reflected his commitment “to give my life to work for justice and to live out the values of the Kingdom of God.” In a letter to the seminary’s president, Craig Barnes, he wrote that he “would sacrifice anything to make sure that my brothers and sisters see relief from their oppression."

But the seminary’s concept of justice clashed with Keiderling’s conscience when PTS required him to attend “anti-racism” training sessions that he considered a form of indoctrination. He refused to participate. And then – early this year, with the potent support of the newly founded Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) – he convinced the seminary to exempt him from the training.

It was “a real victory which can advance the academic freedom cause substantially,” says Princeton Professor Robert George, a leader of the AFA who acted as an adviser to Keiderling. “Instead of a victim, we have a victor — one who stuck to his guns and persuaded his institution not only to respect his right of conscience, but to acknowledge the difference between education and indoctrination.”

August 11, 2021
By Keith E. Whittington, Princeton Professor of Politics
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: The University of Iowa has declared itself to be a largely mask-free campus for the Fall of 2021. The state legislature banned mask mandates by cities, counties and public schools, but not state universities. Nonetheless, the board of regents for the state university system adopted a policy that masks can be required only in very limited circumstances. In the face of faculty protests, the University of Iowa provost has followed that up with more detail, including some very interesting language about what faculty are allowed to say about the mask mandate.

Although the regents said that masks are "strongly encouraged" but not "required," the provost’s guideline indicates that professors may not even "ask" students to wear masks, or about their vaccination status. These policies could run against the guiding principles that emphasize the importance of fostering a culture of robust debate on campus. Avoiding any speech that might make the unvaccinated uncomfortable is certainly in some tension with those principles.

August 3, 2021
By Emma Treadway
The Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: The Daily Princetonian’s coverage hasn't always thrilled every University constituent. From our February investigation of allegations against a professor to the many opinions on divestment, our coverage is often critical. That's part of our role. We cover events and people as they are, and we hold institutions of power to account. We’ve both criticized and praised as we seek to make our campus — and the world it impacts — a more equal and inclusive place. First and foremost, we are accountable to our readers and to the truth they deserve.

We can do this because we are financially independent from the University. Our financial independence grants us editorial independence, and it is through that freedom that we can pursue critical stories. The Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), while not financially independent from the University, has operated with editorial independence for over a century. Now, it is in danger of losing that freedom.