Princeton Free Speech News & Commentary

Letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian

September 20, 2023 1 min read

Matthew Wilson and Alba Bajri
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: To the Editor:

On Sept. 17, The Daily Princetonian published an article by Aidan Gouley ’27 entitled “Princetonians must invest in the marketplace of ideas.” The author calls on students to “situat[e] free expression in a liberal context,” claiming that “the debate on free expression at Princeton has been co-opted by campus conservatives” while slandering principled and nonpartisan free speech advocacy as “toxic and polarizing.”

Gouley’s allegation that conservative students have “co-opted” the free speech debate is an oft-regurgitated and thoroughly debunked trope. Articles leveling the same meritless argument have a lengthy history of appearing in the pages of this publication — and have been amply refuted. Gouley calls on students “to create an environment of learning for all in the natural exchange of individual ideas and experiences that both includes and simultaneously transcends the political.” But absentminded complaining about the co-option of the free speech issue by conservative students — the so-called “ideologues” making “overbroad claims about the ideological slant of the University” — does not help “bridge the political divide,” nor does it promote the free exchange of ideas.

Gouley’s assertion that “Princeton hardly feels like an institution where free speech is directly under attack” betrays a painful lack of awareness of the real problems facing our University.
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Alumni Free Speech Alliance Press Release

September 19, 2023 1 min read

Alumni Free Speech Alliance

Excerpt: Washington, D.C. (September 19, 2023) – The Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) and alumni groups from nine colleges and universities [including Princetonians for Free Speech] submitted a brief amicus curiae to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday urging the court to hear a case brought by Speech First over the issue of bias reporting practices and procedures at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The brief can be found here.
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Commentary: Princetonians must invest in the marketplace of ideas

September 17, 2023 1 min read

Aidan Gouley
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: This year’s Pre-read, “How to Stand up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future,” by Maria Ressa ’86, argues that defending democracy requires no less than a transformation in how liberal societies engage in discourse — not simply specific policy prescriptions or direct action-based activism. Ressa’s call for open discourse should be resonant on a campus where free speech is considered core. Each of us must work to build such an environment. As Ressa says, effective activism can only be preserved in environments that catalyze rigorous discussion and critical thought.

Should free exchange erode, the University community does not merely risk losing the educational value of speech, but also threatens to concede a critical pillar of free society altogether. We have to reclaim the mantle of free speech from right-leaning groups and ensure that free speech isn’t harmed by either institutional overreach or communal neglect.
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Commentary: More on Controversial Books at Princeton

September 15, 2023 1 min read

Keith E. Whittington
Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: Before the start of the Fall semester, I noted that an assistant professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University was mired in a controversy over a book that she had assigned for an upcoming class.

Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer has now released his own public letter to the university "calling on them to take action in response to their universities' inclusion of antisemitic, anti-Israel, and hate-filled classroom curriculum and upcoming guest speakers," in the words of the Representative's press release. President Eisgruber has now released a public letter in response to Representative Gottheimer.
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Eisgruber defends academic freedom after congressman calls for book to be removed

September 14, 2023 1 min read

Bridget O'Neill
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 responded to criticism of the inclusion of a controversial book on a course syllabus on Wednesday after Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) sent a public letter urging the book be removed. Eisgruber defended academic freedom and made the case that it could coexist with a welcoming environment for students.

Gottheimer is the latest public figure to criticize the book, titled “The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability” which is on the syllabus for NES 301: The Healing Humanities — Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South taught by Professor Satyel Larson.
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Response to Rep. Gottheimer about Academic Freedom and Course Materials

September 13, 2023 1 min read

Christopher Eisgruber
Office of the President, Princeton University

Excerpt: Thank you for your letter of September 10 questioning whether a professor at this University may assign and teach Dr. Jasbir Puar’s controversial book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability.

Princeton’s commitments to inclusivity coexist with equally vigorous commitments to free speech and academic freedom.  Though people today sometimes seek to drive a wedge between free speech and equality, they are both fundamental to America’s constitutional tradition and they are essential to the aims of a great university.
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