Latest News and Commentary: Princeton

March 11, 2021
By Marie Rose-Sheinerman
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: Classics professor Joshua Katz has filed a lawsuit alleging that the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a federation of 75 scholarly organizations, retracted his invitation to serve as one of the society’s delegates to a prominent international conference after he wrote a controversial op-ed last July. In the complaint, Katz claims that the ACLS invited him to serve as a volunteer delegate to the Union Académique Internationale (UAI), an academic conference based in Paris, and then revoked that invitation “solely because he expressed views that, although fully reasonable and protected by ordinary principles of academic freedom, offend the ideological sensibilities of some in academia.” Katz is seeking unspecified monetary compensation on the basis that the organization’s actions caused him “substantial damage, lessened his reputation, and reduced his potential for future advancement.”

March 9, 2021
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed


Excerpt: Two hundred professors launched the nonpartisan Academic Freedom Alliance this week to advocate for free speech in academe and, in some cases, legally defend professors’ academic freedom. Members include Cornel West, Robert P. George, Jeannie Suk Gersen, Jay Parini and Claire Potter. Membership is currently by invitation only, but the group plans on opening up to all academics. “The AFA will provide strength in numbers for its members,” physicist Shivaji Sondhi of Princeton University said in a statement. “As membership continues to expand, administrators will have to think twice before baselessly censuring or terminating an employee.”

March 9, 2021
By The Editorial Board
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: It’s not a sign of health in American higher education that organizations devoted to defending academic freedom are proliferating. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has expanded rapidly in recent years as threats to campus liberties multiply. In 2015 Heterodox Academy emerged to promote viewpoint diversity in the progressive-dominated social sciences. This week comes the Academic Freedom Alliance, a cross-ideological group of scholars who aim to defend faculty members’ rights to engage in unpopular speech and advocacy. The group, announced Monday, says on its website that “our members will defend faculty members’ freedom of thought and expression in their work as researchers and writers or in their lives as citizens.” The group is also advised by litigators such as liberal First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams and the prominent conservative appellate lawyer Paul Clement. “The AFA will aid in providing legal support to faculty whose academic freedom is threatened by institutions’ or officials’ violations of constitutional, statutory, contractual, or school-based rights,” its website says.

March 8, 2021
By Dan McLaughlin

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

March 8, 2021
By Stuart Taylor Jr.
PFS exclusive content

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?

March 8, 2021
By Wesley Yang
Chronicle of Higher Education

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. 

March 5, 2021
By Christopher Kane
The Princeton Tory

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.

March 4, 2021
By Cassandra James

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.

March 1, 2021
By Sergiu Klainerman, Princeton Professor of Mathematics
Common Sense with Bari Weiss,

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.

February 28, 2021
By Andrew Somerville
Daily Princetonian

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.”