Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

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.

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.