Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

August 2, 2021
By Antonin Scalia, Communications Coordinator, Princeton University’s James Madison Program, and host of its podcast, Madis

What is academic freedom for? What are the greatest threats to academic freedom today? Should Critical Race Theory be taught on college campuses? What about in K-12 classrooms? Keith Whittington, Chairman of the Academic Freedom Alliance’s Academic Committee and the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University, joins the show to answer these questions and discuss the work of the Academic Freedom Alliance.



July 28, 2021
By Brett Cooper
Virginia Star

Summary: Across the country, alumni at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities have come together to take a stand against the recent trend of blatant censorship and assaults on free speech in higher education.

At Princeton University, alumni have formed the non-profit Princetonians for Free Speech, which aims to rally behind students and faculty members who have been “isolated, outnumbered, and exposed” for their beliefs, while simultaneously promoting academic freedom on campus. Some University of Virginia alumni have taken a similar approach with their creation of The Jefferson Council. The mission of these alumni organizations is largely guided by the Chicago Principles, a declaration on free expression in academia originally developed by the University of Chicago. “This whole effort is really about freedom of expression and discourse,” said John E. Craig, Jr, a founding member of Davidson College’s alumni group, Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse. “We regard the Chicago Principles as the definitive effort.”

July 19, 2021
By Princetonians for Free Speech Editorial

Excerpt: In the July edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, known to alumni as PAW, the Chair of PAW’s Board, Marc Fisher, discusses in a letter to readers the efforts of Princeton to bring PAW under greater control of the University.  While there may be legitimate reasons for some of the changes proposed by the University, it is very disturbing that the University at this point has not agreed to guarantee the continuing editorial independence of PAW.

As we stated in a letter published in PAW’s “In Box,” we believe all alumni should support Mr. Fisher’s efforts to maintain independent editorial control.

July 13, 2021

Excerpt: Today, the Academic Freedom Alliance released the following statement in support of the rights of Air Force Academy professor Lynne Chandler Garcia, who has come under fire for teaching critical race theory and subsequently defending herself in a Washington Post op-ed. Leading members of Congress have called for Professor Garcia’s termination. This is the third case in which the AFA has intervened with a public statement, following the successful conclusion of free speech cases at the University of San Diego and the University of Rhode Island in May.

“Principles of academic freedom and free speech include the right of professors to publish op-eds on matters of public concern without the threat of sanctions by their university employer. Unfortunately, members of Congress are not respecting those basic principles, and we call upon the United States Air Force Academy to hold firm to its stated principles."

July 8, 2021
By Abigail Anthony, rising junior at Princeton University
USA Today

Excerpt: Every right I have today results from movements once deemed “offensive.”

The idea that I, a 21-year-old woman, am not solely dedicated to housework would astonish the founders of Princeton University, where I am a student. It was less than 60 years ago that Princeton began admitting female students, but now women compose 50% of its undergraduate population. Women were largely excluded from American politics until only a century ago, but today I am a student in the Department of Politics. American society has progressed so greatly since its founding that now I can marry another woman, or a woman who has undergone gender reassignment surgeries.

The gauge of “offensive” evolves so drastically and rapidly that we cannot employ it as a reliable measure for appropriate conduct. We exercise many rights today – including the right to free expression – because unorthodox ideas were eventually recognized by society as acceptable. This does not immediately warrant all offensive propositions as valid, but proves it is prudent to consider such ideas.   Yet, many of my peers – and some of my professors – desire to restrict free speech. In the spirit of considering controversial opinions, I will afford them the courtesy of entertaining their proposition, although they rarely extend such grace to conservative perspectives.

July 1, 2021
By Marc Fisher
Princeton Alumni Weekly, July 2021 Issue

Excerpt: Since 1900, the Princeton Alumni Weekly has been, as its title page states, a “magazine by alumni for alumni.” What exactly that motto means is now the subject of discussions between the University administration and the magazine’s independent board. As the board’s chair, I want you to know that the future and character of your alumni magazine are at stake, and I invite you to make your voices heard.

This spring, University administrators informed PAW’s board that Princeton intends to change its relationship with the magazine to secure PAW’s financial health, to assure that PAW operates under the same rules as other University departments, and to protect against the magazine creating legal liability for the University. Princeton proposes to take on the entire cost of producing and distributing PAW. At the same time, Princeton has not guaranteed the continued editorial independence of the magazine.

June 30, 2021
By Keith E. Whittington, Princeton Professor of Politics
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Bills aimed at directing how race is taught in public schools and colleges are sweeping through Republican statehouses across the country. The proposals seem to be getting worse, not better. A bill recently introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature goes further than many others in trying to ban so much as the discussion of any “racist or sexist concept” in public elementary schools, high schools and colleges.

Let us set aside the unhelpful debate over whether what is at issue is something called “critical race theory.” Proponents and opponents of these bills have often talked past one another by shifting the boundaries of what belongs under the label. I have no doubt that there are many pernicious ideas and modes of teaching abroad in the land. Nonetheless, bills like the one proposed in Pennsylvania are the wrong tools for the job.

June 16, 2021
By Keith Whittington, Princeton Professor of Politics
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: I have little doubt that there are many pernicious ideas and practices currently being peddled in workplaces and schools across the country under the broad rubric of diversity, equity and inclusion. Inside Higher Ed has a report just today about an example of "diversity training" at Stanford University that might well run afoul of existing civil rights laws. Organizations that subject their members to such toxic requirements deserve all the litigation and bad publicity that they have coming to them.

Unsurprisingly, when voters are annoyed by such bad behavior, someone starts to think that there ought to be a law and politicians see an opportunity. In this context, that has resulted in a lot of ham-handed legislative proposals, some of which have already found their way into law. We are not having a very well informed or intelligent debate about that now, but a debate there will be.


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

Excerpt: I am pleased to note that the Academic Freedom Alliance has launched a new podcast, The Academic Freedom Podcast. New episodes should drop every month or so and explore issues relating to academic freedom and campus free speech.

The first episode is now available, and it consists of the audio recording of the webinar panel that the AFA recently hosted on the landmark 6th circuit case on First Amendment protections for academic freedom and classroom speech by professors. The case is Meriwether v. Hartop. For that conversation, I was joined by Jeannie Suk Gersen, Steve Sanders, and Volokh Conspiracy co-blogger Jonathan Adler. I hope you will subscribe so that you will not miss future episodes that will include a mix of thematic panel discussions and guest interviews.


June 7, 2021
By John McWhorter
The Atlantic

Excerpt: The classics department at Princeton University recently decided that the idea that classics majors ought to know Latin or Greek has been a mistake. Old-fashioned, perhaps. Until now, undergrads who wanted to major in the study of classical texts needed to come into the concentration with at least an intermediate level of Latin or Greek. But those students will no longer even have to learn either language to receive a degree in classics. This is a typical example of a university rushing to make policy changes under the guise of promoting racial equity that are as likely to promote racism as to uproot it.

The department had considered the policy change before, the Princeton Alumni Weekly reported, but saw it as taking on a “new urgency” by the “events around race that occurred last summer.”