October 2023 Newsletter

October 30, 2023 7 min read

October 2023 Newsletter

October 30, 2023

To Princetonians for Free Speech subscribers, members and friends,

It has been a very eventful month since our September Monthly Newsletter.  Here once again you will find our most important features, events, updates, articles you don’t want to miss and more. Please let us know what you think HERE.


Princetonians for Free Speech Joins Amicus Brief asking the US Supreme Court to hear a Bias Response Team Case.

Last month Princetonians for Free Speech joined the Alumni Free Speech Alliance and eight of its members in submitting a “friend of the court” amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States. In it we argue that the court should agree to hear the caseSpeech First v. Sands. The case challenges whether Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Bias Incident Response Team violated students’ first amendment rights through its collecting and storing of records related to students’ expression protected by the First Amendment.   PFS’s interest in this case derives directly from the similar bias response system in operation on Princeton’s campus. We believe these systems, which have proliferated at colleges in recent years, serve to chill student expression and promote a climate of fear.

You can see AFSA’S  press release which includes the list of alumni groups submitting the amicus brief HERE.The full case including Judge Harvie Wilkinson's dissenting opinion in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is HERE.

These bias response systems accept complaints, often anonymous, about student speech acknowledged to be protected by the First Amendment. The database of complaints is put into students’ permanent records without notice, opportunity to respond, or due process. The “bias response team” (BRT) most often consists of administrators in university DEI offices. The targeted students may be called in by these administrators for counseling or other possible actions. In Virginia Tech’s case, the disciplinary team includes representatives from the office of student conduct, and shockingly, the Virginia Tech Police Department.

On behalf of students, Speech First sued Virginia Tech alleging that the bias response system was an infringement of their First Amendment rights and served to chill protected speech. In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Speech First lacked standing to sue Virginia Tech, with the majority ruling that the bias response team’s collection of records for non-disciplinary purposes did not give rise to a constitutional claim. The resulting split between federal circuits on the core question impels a need for the Supreme Court to adjudicate the matter, to enable a nationwide resolution on this threat to open expression at universities. 

Excerpt: “…the use of bias reporting systems has become pervasive across American college and university campuses and these systems create a climate of fear and intimidation that causes many students to self-censor and discourages constitutionally protected speech. These bias reporting systems have no place at a university whose defining purpose as a place of learning and human fulfillment can only be achieved through a steadfast commitment to free speech."

FIRE weighs in HERE.

Upcoming Event

Diversity Delusion: Academia After Affirmative Action with Heather Mac Donald 
November 15, 2023, 4:30 – 6pm
100 Arthur Lewis Auditorium, Robertson Hall

Co-sponsored by PFS and the James Madison Program’s Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry, and Expression

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow atthe Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a New York Times bestselling author. She is a recipient of the 2005 Bradley Prize. Mac Donald’s work at City Journal has covered a range of topics, including higher education, immigration, policing, homelessness and homeless advocacy, criminal-justice reform, and race relations. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York TimesLos Angeles TimesThe New Republic, and The New Criterion. Mac Donald’s newest book is When Race Trumps Merit.

The National Movement

(from left): Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU; Mary Dana Hinton, President of Hollins University; Cathy Cohen, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago; Paul Alivisatos, President of The University of Chicago, and Jonathan Haidt, professor at NYU Stern School of Business.

The Day Tomorrow Began: University of Chicago’s Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression

It’s no surprise that the University of Chicago has made by far the biggest, boldest and most serious move of any university in the country to confront the crisis of free speech and academic freedom at American universities.  Chicago ranks #1 on FIRE’s survey for a reason. 

On October 5-6, the University of Chicago launched a new permanent entity, theForum for Free Inquiry and Expression, with the mission to build on the university’s historic mission to “promote the understanding, practice and advancement of free and open discourse.” To give a sense of how important the university leadership regards this initiative, consider its signature series,The Day Tomorrow Began. It presents what the university considers its contribution to the monumental breakthroughs in human understanding in all fields – nuclear physics, cancer research, ancient civilizations, black holes.The Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression is the newest addition to this list. Can Princeton, Harvard, Yale and other leading American universities respond to the crisis in free inquiry and expression with such seriousness?

See Leslie Spencer’s article for PFS on the launch HERE.

See The Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression website HERE.

See the launch event details HERE.

Introducing the Westminster Declaration

One hundred and thirty-eight artists, public intellectuals and journalists demand governments dismantle the Censorship Industrial Complex.

MIT Free Speech Alliance 2023 Conference – A Resounding Success

This September 14 event pulled in a packed crowd for a full day of panel discussions with students, faculty and administrators, and included a keynote address by the renowned MIT graduate and Brown economics ProfessorGlenn Loury.  It included an Alumni Free Speech Alliance Roundtable of alumni representatives from Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and UNC. See the MFSA’s inaugural conference recap, photos and full program HERE. Watch Glenn Loury’s keynote address on the MIT Free Speech Alliance YouTube channel HERE.

On October 27, 2023, PFS partner theAmerican Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) presented the 18th Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education to Professor Alan Charles Kors, theHenry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of European History, University of Pennsylvania and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. See details of the ATHENA Roundtable and Philip Merrill Award Gala at the ACTA website HERE.

You Don’t Want to Miss

Is There a Left Way Back from Woke?  

What can the Left do to confront the problems that free speech is facing? Can the Left escape identitarian extremism and recapture the progressive ideals it once professed?Last month the London-basedFree Speech Union held a panel discussion from the perspective of the Left, featuring political scientist Umut Ozkirimli, author of the recently released book Cancelled: The Left Way Back from Woke. The starting point: Science, truth and the values of free speech and democracy require the left to work across partisan lines to defend these values. Here’s a taste of this excellent discussion of identitarian “woke” culture by leading left-wing intellectuals. 

“This is not real left politics. These Ideologies are the product of elite North American campuses. They are distinctively North American, and distinctively upper class.”

Identitarianism is not left -- it is reactionary. There is no difference between the left and the far right on this… what passes as the left and the far right are in fact Siamese twins, [the] “Stalinist version of progressive politics.”

Watch the entire event HERE.

The Cancelling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All – But There Is a Solution 

By Gregg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott

“The good news is that we can beat back this threat to democracy through better citizenship. The Canceling of the American Mind offers concrete steps toward reclaiming a free speech culture, with materials specifically tailored for parents, teachers, business leaders, and everyone who uses social media. We can all show intellectual humility and promote the essential American principles of individuality, resilience, and open mindedness.” 

The End of Race in Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America
by Coleman Hughes

“Through careful argument, Hughes dismantles harmful beliefs about race, proving that reverse racism will not atone for past wrongs and showing why race-based policies will lead only to the illusion of racial equity. By fixating on race, we lose sight of what it really means to be anti-racist. A racially just, colorblind society is possible. Hughes gives us the intellectual tools to make it happen.” Pre-order HERE

Black Academics Square Off on Affirmative Action

Glenn Loury vs. Randall Kennedy

This 9-minute clip in which two black scholars square off on Affirmative Action is a master class in how to debate someone with whom you disagree. EconomistGlenn Loury and legal scholarRandall Kennedy debate whether race-based affirmative action is necessary.

Quote of the Month

Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer-prize winning playwright and novelist, and president of PEN America

“How to deal with the wrongs of history and how to frame changes within a social body to address these neglected and maybe subjected populations? I just think [restricting freedom of speech] is a mistake, … there isn’t really an alternative, you just have to defend the right for people to say stuff you don’t like. It may be unfortunate, but that’s the case…. We have to figure out how we can frame and make compelling to the younger generation an argument for hearing points of view that theythink they don’t agree with. They might actually agree with more of what they don’t want to hear if they understood what they were really listening to.” 

In conversation with University of Chicago Board Chair David Rubenstein at the launch of University of Chicago’sForum for Free Inquiry and Expression, October 6, 2023

Support PFS

Thank you for your interest in our new newsletter and our website.  Please forward our newsletter and/or a link to our website to others who might be interested, or suggest that others subscribe directly HERE.

And please spread the word in your class notes! We want more Princetonians to know about PFS.

Of course, we welcome your comments and suggestions HERE.

For more national and campus news concerning free speech, academic freedom and related topics, please visit our website HERE and be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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