November 2023 Newsletter

November 28, 2023 7 min read

November 2023 Newsletter

November 28, 2023

To Princetonians for Free Speech subscribers, members and friends,

What a month. The shocking fallout on America’s campuses as a result of the October 7 massacre in Israel has made the mission of PFS more critical than ever.  We have attempted to convey the gathering storm around free speech and academic freedom in this, our sixth Monthly Newsletter.  We truly welcome your thoughts and feedback HERE.

You may have seen the just-released PFS inauguralAnnual Report, recording highlights of an incredible year for PFS, and announcing our priorities going forward.IT’S GIVING TUESDAY! Have a look at the Annual Report HERE and tell us what you think. And consider PFS for your year-end giving HERE.  We are extremely grateful for your support and we need you now more than ever!

A Special Feature

Has antisemitism taken over US college campuses?

An Open Letter to Princeton Regarding Anti-Semitism

“I’m one of 1,700 alumni (and counting) to have signed a letter that was sent to President Christopher Eisgruber and other university officials yesterday.”

Ilya Shapiro ’99

Shapiro’s Gavel on Substack, November 21, 2023

Dear President Eisgruber, Provost Rexford, and Members of the Board of Trustees:

Following Hamas’s October 7th terrorist attack, global antisemitism has skyrocketed. Jews in the United States are experiencing a crisis of physical safety and societal belonging. As current and former Princetonians, we are horrified to see this hate infiltrating our campus, and we are disturbed by the University’s silence – especially in light of its timely condemnations of other forms of racism and hatred. 

A Free Speech Fix for Our Divided Campuses

Clashes over the Israel-Hamas war show that, for the sake of American democracy, college students need to be taught how to disagree without fear or hatred.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America

The Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2023

Excerpt:Grappling with the current crisis on campus demands more than open letters to alumni or action plans to combat antisemitism or Islamophobia. It requires a comprehensive rethinking of how American universities can fulfill their role as a free market of ideas and a factory of pluralism, teaching students the values and skills they need to resist polarization and ensure the survival of our teetering democracy.

FAIR Webinar: Antisemitism on Campus: Balancing Student Safety and Civil liberties

On November 16 this thought-provoking webinar was presented by theFoundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR). With New York Law School professor emerita and past national president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen, CUNY law professor and Director of S.A.F.E. on Campus Jeffrey Lax, and Yale University sophomore Sahar Tartak.Moderated by FAIR Advisor Jonathan Kay. Watch the webinar on FAIR’s YouTube channel HERE.

The Juvenile Viciousness of Campus Anti-Semitism: Some of America’s students are embracing an ancient evil

Tom Nichols

The Atlantic, November 13, 2023

The emergence of so much racist, bullying trollery shows how deeply the thrill of self-actualization has tempted young people into a decadent waltz with an ancient and hideous hatred. This behavior is all the more appalling because it comes disproportionately from a privileged class of young men and women who are rationalizing their moral destitution for the sake of a transitory sense of self-satisfaction.  … In the short term, I am concerned for the safety of students. (And I mean all students, because there have also been Islamophobic assaults on campuses; these are intolerable racist attacks, even if fewer in number and less organized.) Some students will claim that their behavior is protected by freedom of speech. I agree: I would object to any agency of the United States government stopping these students from speaking their minds, and I defend the right of any American to speak without being subjected to threats of violence from bullies and brutes. But speech, and how we express ourselves, carries deep social (and, one day, professional) consequences. In the long term, I am concerned that students who think they are merely engaging in an energizing campus protest do not realize the damage they are doing to their community—and the moral tumor they are implanting into their developing character. … Anti-Semitism is not a cause that can be dismissed as a youthful indiscretion. It is not some innocent blemish that can be backspaced out of a résumé. Chanting “From the river to the sea” after a terrorist onslaught isn’t something that can be rinsed away later merely by adding “But I meant it in the good way.”

Recent On-Campus Events

“The Transgender Movement and Its Assault on Biology” panel discussion (left), and Heather Mac Donald at a post-talk signing of her bookWhen Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty and Threatens Lives.

November was a good month for free speech at Princeton

Three events were held on campus during November, each one on highly controversial topics that had drawn protests and even shout-downs at other universities. In contrast, at Princeton there was only one minor and appropriately carried out protest. The first, on November 13, featuredRiley Gaines, a former All-American college swimmer and now a well-known speaker against transgender athletes in women’s sports. The second, co-sponsored by PFS and the James Madison Program was on November 15 and featured the author and commentatorHeather Mac Donald, a frequent speaker on college campuses. She has written several books including her most recent,When Race Trumps Merit:How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty and Threatens Lives. The third event, a panel entitled“The Transgender Movement and Its Assault on Biology” was sponsored by the Princeton chapter of the Federalist Society. PFS provides support for Federalist Society events on campus. For more detail about these successful events, link to our editorial on the PFS website HERE.

Can the Coming Crisis Revitalize our Republic? 

Thoughts on “Struggles of an Optimist,” a talk by Mitch Daniels ‘71

Princetonians for Free Speech, November 27, 2023

Khoa Sands ’26, a PFS Writing Fellow, comments on a talk given by Mitch Daniels at Whig Clio on October 26, 2023. 

You Don’t Want to Miss

The MIT Free Speech Alliance outdid itself with the debate “Resolved: that STEM is Systemically Racist.” In support of the resolution were Dr. Chad Womack, Vice President of National STEM Programs at the United Negro College Fund, and Dr. Jaret Riddick, Senior Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University. Arguing against the resolution were Dr. Luana Maroja, Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Program at Williams College, and Dr. Erec Smith, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania and President and Co-founder of Free Black Thought. The moderator was Nadine Strossen, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, professor emerita at New York Law School, and past president of the American Civil Liberties Union. Watch the debate HERE.

HxA President John Tomasi speaks with Pano Kanelos, Founding President of the University of Austin (UATX).

Heterodox Out Loud Podcast: Building a University

Heterodox Academy, November 14, 2023

Pano Kanelos is a leading advocate for free speech and open inquiry in higher education. He believes that the recently founded University of Austin (UATX) can offer a better alternative to the current system, which is often characterized by censorship and groupthink.

Kanelos:What are we teaching students through the process of preparing them for application to universities?  We are teaching them that success is predicated upon conformity and submission.  And they get to universities and they carry that lesson with them. Take the elite universities in the U.S., which have the ability to attract the best and brightest students who come with so much innate potential to be independent, creative thinkers.  And yet what they learn is that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is accessible only if you conform, if you submit to what the institution is compelling you to do. That is why in the classroom, students are so risk averse when it comes to conversation. What they have learned is that the purpose of seeking an education is not about taking risk, it is about mitigating risk. You are not going to get into your top choice university by taking risks, you will get in by shaping yourself in a such way that enhances your percentage chance to get over the threshold.

Quote of the Month

David Brooks, New York Times columnist, PBS commentator and author

Universities are supposed to be centers of inquiry and curiosity — places where people are tolerant of difference and learn about other points of view. Instead, too many have become brutalizing ideological war zones, so today the most hostile place to be an American Jew is not at some formerly restricted country club but on a college campus. … How on earth did this happen? I’ve been teaching on college campuses off and on for 25 years. It’s become increasingly evident to me that American adolescence and young adulthood — especially for those who wind up at elite schools — now happen within a specific kind of ideological atmosphere. It centers on a hard-edged ideological framework that has been spreading in high school and college, on social media, in diversity training seminars and in popular culture. …. Students have gotten the message that they are not on campus to learn; they are there to express their certainties and to advance a rigid ideological formula. …Over the past decades, the crude ideology that’s been marching across American society has taken advantage of the fact that some people like to see the world through Manichaean us/them categories. Now is the time for donors, faculty members, students, parents and everybody else involved in higher education to support the pluralistic counterweight, which actually practices inclusion, celebrates complexity, fosters cooperation and leads to social justice.

David Brooks “Universities are Failing at Inclusion”, New York Times, November 16, 2023

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Did Reunions 2024 include protests that crossed the line into civil disobedience? Yes. Princeton Alumni Weekly reported that pro-Palestinian protestors delayed the start of the P-rade, disrupted President Eisgruber’s presentation in Alexander Hall, painted graffiti on Roberston Hall and dyed the fountain red. But the many thousands of alums did not let these intrusions by a few protesters put a damper on their fun. 

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We are eager to hear what you think of this newsletter and our other communications, so if you have a minute please fill out our subscriber survey if you have not yet done so.  

And consider joining our Inner Circle for insider-only events with students, guest speakers, and our founders.

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