Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

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.

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.