November 20, 2023 2 min read


A PFS Editorial

Last week was a good week for free speech at Princeton. Three separate events were held covering controversial topics that had drawn protests and even shout-downs at other universities, and there was only one minor and appropriately carried out protest. Furthermore, university administrators addressed all concerns of the event sponsors, supplied on-site security, and in one case, reminded a small group of protestors of the rules on protesting before the event.

Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS) co-sponsored one of the events and provided financial and other support to the student groups that put on the other two. PFS also ran a full-page ad in the Daily Princetonian a few days before the first event in which we provided the key phrases from Princeton’s rules on free speech and protests, as well as quotes about the importance of free speech from President Eisgruber. The ad was put up as a poster around campus and made available to event sponsors to use as a handout at events.

The first event was held on November 13 and featured Riley Gaines, the former All-American college swimmer who has become probably the most well-known speaker against transgender athletes participating in women’s sports. It was sponsored by the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, a student group that advocates for free speech on campus. The POCC is an outstanding group, and PFS is privileged to work with its student members on an on-going basis.

This event went on without any protest, even though Riley Gaines has drawn strong protests on other campuses. In one widely covered situation last April, she had to have a police escort to leave an event at San Francisco State that was disrupted.

The second event, held on November 15, was co-sponsored by PFS and the James Madison Program. It also drew no protest. The speaker was Heather Mac Donald, who often speaks on college campuses. She is the author of several books, including her most recent one, When Race Trumps Merit, and The War on Cops. Her speeches on campuses have often generated protests, including speeches at Harvard, Penn, and Colgate. Her speech at Claremont McKenna College in 2017 was disrupted, resulting in the suspension of several students there.

The third event, a panel, was sponsored by the Princeton chapter of the Federalist Society. PFS provides support for Federalist Society events on campus. It was entitled “The Transgender Movement and Its Assault on Biology.”

There was a protest by a few students, but a Princeton administrator was there to remind protestors of Princeton’s rules, and the protestors complied with those rules. They held signs, but in no way tried to disrupt the discussion.

Particularly given the protests that are currently going at universities around the country, alumni should be heartened that these three programs went forward with no attempt to disrupt them. The rules were followed, and university administrators were actively engaged with the sponsors of the events to address any potential issues. It was a good week, indeed, for free speech at Princeton.

2 Responses

Robert Beebe
Robert Beebe

November 22, 2023

So heartening to get this kind of report out of my alma mater. I might even decide to start contributing to Annual Giving again!

Robert Faggen
Robert Faggen

November 22, 2023

One wishes for a better speaker than Heather MacDonald. As a faculty member, I heard her talk at Claremont McKenna College.

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