Excerpt: Talking about cancel culture is one thing; doing something about it is another. In the long term, conservatives and other non-leftists need to build more of our own institutions resistant to woke pressures, and we also need to liberate young people from the clutches of indoctrination by woke thought-programmers. But in the meantime, how can we fight back in the institutional structures where pressure campaigns find both sympathy among those in power and fear of standing up to the new censors? What can be done in universities that won’t stand for academic freedom on principle, [that] dictate the inclusion of propaganda in course syllabi, and [that] muzzle dissenting faculty? [As] Robert P. George of Princeton tells Wesley Yang at the Chronicle of Higher Education, it was past time for academics concerned about freedom of speech and thought in the academy — by no means only conservatives, but libertarians, moderates, and old-style liberals as well — to join forces to provide material support to those targeted by the mob
Latest News and Commentary: Princeton
Excerpt: In connection with the creation of the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA), reported nearby and in this press release, Keith Whittington, who chairs the AFA’s Academic Committee, a nine-member body which sets policy for the organization. agreed to answer some questions posed by Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS). He is Princeton’s William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics. The exchange follows.
Q. You are the author of Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, a 2018 book that won the PROSE Award for best book in education and the Heterodox Academy Award for Exceptional Scholarship. Can you state generally your views on how freedom of thought and expression are faring at Princeton and other universities around the country?
Excerpt: When I spoke to the Princeton University legal scholar and political philosopher Robert P. George in August, he offered a vivid zoological metaphor to describe what happens when outrage mobs attack academics. When hunted by lions, herds of zebras “fly off in a million directions, and the targeted member is easily taken down and destroyed and eaten.” A herd of elephants, by contrast, will “circle around the vulnerable elephant.” “Academics behave like zebras,” George said. “And so people get isolated, they get targeted, they get destroyed, they get forgotten. Why don’t we act like elephants? Why don’t we circle around the victim?” George was then recruiting the founding members of an organization designed to fix the collective-action problem that causes academics to scatter like zebras. What had begun as a group of 20 Princeton professors organized to defend academic freedom at one college was rapidly scaling up its ambitions and capacity: It would become a nationwide organization. George had already hired an executive director and secured millions in funding. In the summer, George emphasized that the organization must be a cross-ideological coalition of conservatives, liberals, and progressives who would be willing to exert themselves on behalf of controversial speakers no matter which constituency they had offended.
Excerpt: The American Whig-Cliosophic Society, or Whig-Clio as it is better known, has faced recurring accusations of anti-conservative bias in recent years. More recently, Tory Publisher and former Cliosophic Party Chair Adam Hoffman ’23 accused Whig-Clio of deliberately stifling conservative voices by preventing figures, such as former university trustee George Will ’68 GS or D.C. Court of Appeals judge Neomi Rao, from speaking. The society bestows the prestigious James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service (JMA). In recent years, this award has been given to several national figures, including President Bill Clinton and Texas Senator Ted Cruz ’92 (R-Texas). Following Cruz’s objections to the certification of election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania before the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, [a]petition requested a meeting to revoke Cruz’s award. [At] an assembly on Thursday, March 4, 37 members voted to rescind, 32 voted not to rescind, and five abstained. Whig-Clio’s Board of Trustees will make the final decision.
On February 21, 2021, the Board of Trustees of The Princeton Tory ratified the results of the Tory’s election, selecting former Editor-in-Chief Adam Hoffman ’23 as Publisher of the 37th Managing Board. “The times are tough,” Hoffman acknowledges, “and we are tasked to record and comment on them. In our pages, I plan to at once shepherd debate on the direction of American conservatism and also bring thoughtful critiques of the Left’s intolerance and excesses.” Hoffman succeeds Akhil Rajasekar ’21. Hoffman hopes to not only continue the Tory’s legacy of uplifting conservative voices, but also to expand its reach in new, exciting directions. “While the line between news and opinion has blurred—or has outright disappeared—for so many journalists,” he explains, “I plan to double-down on objective news. I plan to expand our news team and recommit to deliver the whole truth.
Excerpt: In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover. I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school. This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses. Unlike the traditional totalitarianism practiced by former communist countries, like the Romania I grew up in, this version is soft.
Excerpt: Eddie R. Cole, Associate Professor of Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA, discussed the history of affirmative action and institutional racism at a virtual event hosted by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. The focus of the event was his most recent book, “The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom.” The overall issue was brought up during the discussion to demonstrate how freedom of speech is inherently tied to institutional racism at the University. “A lot of Black history doesn’t necessarily frame free speech as a racial issue,” said Cole, “but it is very much a racial issue.”
Excerpt: How do you eradicate a heritage? Princeton’s Classics Department is working hard at it, with The New York Times celebrating its efforts. It is hardly the first attempt at “canceling” the cradle of Western Civilization. The war on classics has a medieval pedigree; it is a sad irony that elite academics have joined forces.
Palimpsests reveal tangible evidence of how “deplatforming” was done in the Middle Ages. These are manuscripts, typically parchment, from which the original text has been sufficiently scraped, so the parchment could be recycled. In the Dark Ages, that meant erasing the pagan decadence of Greece and Rome to privilege Holy Writ and the writings of church fathers.
Below is a welcome message sent about two weeks ago by Professor Robert P. George to students in the large undergraduate course on Civil Liberties (Politics 316) that he is teaching this semester. It is preceded by an explanation provided by Professor George, at the request of PFS, of how this message differs from those provided by professors to students in decades past.
First, the explanation:
For most of my three-and-a-half decades of teaching at Princeton, I and my academic colleagues felt no need to say anything about free speech (or self-censorship) in our courses. . . . It was only five or six years ago that I began to perceive an intolerance—even a spirit of authoritarianism. I also began to suspect that students who dissented from dominant views among their peers (and the faculty) were beginning to censor themselves in class discussions and in the broader conversation on campus. They were clearly afraid to express dissent. Colleagues of mine, such as Professor Keith Whittington, Professor John Londregan, Professor Brandice Canes-Wrone, and Professor Sergiu Klainerman were picking up the same signals. . . .
Next, the welcome message . . . .
Regarding the University’s land acknowledgement (On the Campus, February issue), when I lived in Princeton for several years around 2010, I was consistently struck by the University’s high-handed approach to the local community, to the point that it provoked a property tax lawsuit from low-income homeowners. The University’s ostentatious self-flagellation over its presumed treatment of the community 265 years ago would be more convincing if its treatment of the community were better today. How about acknowledging that it owns land far out of proportion to the taxes it pays — and that it can afford to remedy this circumstance any time it wants to?