Letter to Vice President Calhoun

April 26, 2024 2 min read

Below is a copy of the letter our team sent to Vice President Calhoun in response to her statement to the student body yesterday about the encampment protest happening today. This Daily Princetonian Article showcases what is taking place on campus.


April 25, 2024
Dear Vice President Calhoun:
We, the officers of Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS), are writing to you on behalf of PFS in support of your email of April 24, in which you reminded Princeton students of the University's rules regarding free speech and protests on campus. Earlier today President Eisgruber put out a statement consistent with your email, and we support his statement as well.
PFS is a Princeton alumni group created to promote free speech and academic freedom at Princeton. We therefore strongly support the rights of members of the Princeton community to express their views, no matter what those views may be, and to do so in a robust manner. While the First Amendment does not directly legally apply to private universities such as Princeton, we believe its principles should be followed by Princeton and that those principles are best applied by the adoption of the Chicago Principles, which Princeton has done.
However, both the First Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, and the Chicago Principles include the ability to have appropriate and narrowly drawn time, place, and manner regulation for speech. Princeton's rules, as you point out in your email, include such regulation. 
During the recent protests at Columbia, NYU, and other universities, some protestors have argued that their disruptive protests are protected free speech. They are clearly confusing free speech with civil disobedience. The actions of at least some of these protestors violate legitimate university rules designed to protect students against harassment and to enable universities to carry out their educational missions. Here is a link to the excellent article, Protest and Civil Disobedience are Two Different Things by Princeton Professor Keith Whittington, published on April 23 in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Apparently some planning a protest at Princeton are claiming your email is a prior restraint on speech. Under this false reasoning, any rule on free speech would be a prior restraint. We believe it was entirely appropriate for you to advise students of Princeton's existing rules and to state that they will be enforced. 
We urge Princeton to enforce its rules as you have laid out in your email. Equivocating on enforcement only leads to greater problems, as the situation at Columbia clearly shows.
Stuart Taylor, Jr. '70, PFS President
Edward Yingling '70, PFS Secretary
Todd Rulon-Miller '73, PFS Treasurer
Leslie Spencer '79, PFS Vice Chair

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