August 2023 Newsletter

September 05, 2023 8 min read

August 2023 Newsletter

August 31, 2023

To Princetonians for Free Speech Subscribers, Members and Friends,

Welcome to the third PFS Monthly Newsletter.  August may be quiet on campus, but a great deal has happened this month in the movement to restore free speech and academic freedom on Princeton’s campus and throughout the country.  Here we give you our most important updates, events and top news, articles you don’t want to miss, and more.

A Special Feature

Princeton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry

On August 9 a landmark document, signed by 15 scholars from around the country interested in free inquiry and the future of American higher education, was released by Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. Its aims are as follows: “…1) articulate the core mission of the university in relation to its special status as an educational institution dedicated to free inquiry; 2) provide standards that cultivate free and vigorous inquiry in scholarship, teaching, and campus activities beyond the classroom; and 3) offer broad guidelines for the revitalization of the university’s core mission.”  

PFS takes this opportunity to officially endorse the Princeton Principles, and we hope President Eisgruber will demonstrate leadership by endorsing them as well. You can read the Princeton Principles HERE, and you can download the PDF HERE

On-Campus Event

George F. Will *68

“I believe that the great research universities are the finest ornaments of Western civilization. . . . Their magnificent legacy can, however, be squandered in a generation, destroyed from within, not by outside forces.”

George F. Will *68 speaking event: “Consciousness as the Political Project: A 21st Century Echo of the 19th Century.”  September 13, 2023 at 4:30 pm. Location: Friend Center 101. Co-sponsored by Princetonians for Free Speech and the James Madison Program’s Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry and Expression. This event will be available for viewing soon afterwards through the PFS website.


What You Need to Know

PFS Plans for Freshman Orientation


Last September’s Freshman Orientation included a robust program about the importance of free speech and open inquiry that was required of all new students. PFS covered this event and declared it a welcome change from previous years. It turns out the university’s commitment was ephemeral – this fall’s orientation has dropped the program and replaced it with guest speaker Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, who has been criticized by some civil liberties champions for favoring free speech protections for his leftist political allies more than for everyone. Matthew Wilson ‘24 attended the Romero speech: “By characterizing free speech as valuable as a tool for the propagation of progressive social justice causes, Anthony Romero misrepresented the real importance of preserving a robust free speech culture at Princeton. Free speech is indeed an instrument — not, as Romero argued, for the enshrinement of the dogmas of social progressivism, but rather for the noble ends of truth-seeking scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake.” To fill the void, PFS is planning a three-pronged campaign directed at Princeton students including a campus-wide email, a poster campaign, and the following pledge for all pro-free speech students to make:“I pledge to respect the norm of academic freedom, which guarantees all members of our university community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn—without fear of social or academic sanction. I furthermore pledge to welcome and cherish the free expression of all viewpoints outside of the classroom, in our extracurricular and residential common life.”

Students respond to an attempt to ban a book

“Princeton students taught that ‘IDF harvests Palestinian organs’ in course…” declared The Jerusalem Post on August 7. The accusation arose from the book,The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity and Disability”by Jasbir Puar, which is assigned reading in the course “The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South.”  Calls to remove the book from the curriculum have created a stir on campus. Below are links to an array of student voices -- left, right and center -- who have weighed in. 

An Open Letter in Solidarity with Satyel Larson and in support of academic freedom by the Alliance for Jewish Progressives and signed by over 400 undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and faculty, appeared on August 18 in the Daily Princetonian, as did We Need Academic Freedom for the Pursuit of Truth by leaders of the non-partisan student free speech group Princeton Open Campus Coalition (POCC).  The Princeton Tory’s “Academic Freedom Does Not Protect the Promotion of Propaganda” argues that academic freedom “does not mean anything goes.” … “Educators should train students to sophisticate their view of the world in pursuit of the attainment of truth – not amass adherents to social causes. Yet today, ideologues have burrowed within the discipline and used its prestige to do exactly the latter. … Progressive professors routinely promote shoddy academic work to their students; rarely does it reach public attention…. Puar has used the socially acceptable language of progressivism to traffic in antisemitic rhetoric. Her legitimation by Duke University’s publication of her work as well as Princeton’s inclusion of it in a course curriculum bodes poorly for other groups that may run afoul of campus favoritism – and it threatens to overturn the already fragile norms of debate on campus.”

You Don’t Want to Miss

How to Build a Culture of Free Speech Greg Lukianoff, CEO of FIRE in conversation with Yasha Mounk on The Good Fight podcast at Persuasion. August 19, 2023. A stand-out discussion about countering threats to free expression in the courts and in the classroom. If you prefer to read the transcript of the conversation, click HERE

13 Presidents Launch Campus Free Speech Group by Josh Moody, Inside Higher Ed August 16, 2023. This new group, called Campus Call for Free Expression, includes Cornell, Duke, Rutgers and Notre Dame, but not Princeton. 

The Myth of a Free Speech Campus by Bruce Gilley, Law and Liberty August 8, 2023  

A “free speech movement” initiated by the president of a small Oregon college is killed by diversity bureaucrats.

The Three Attacks on Intellectual Freedom by George Packer, The Atlantic August 7, 2023.

The publishing industry, bowing to the altar of “identity”, cancels its own authors and books. 

What History Teaches Us about the Importance of Academic Freedom by James Huffman, Quillette July 30, 2023. A review of a 1949 bookThe Primer of Intellectual Freedom

A Racist Smear. A Tarnished Career. And the Suicide of Richard Bilkszto by Rupa Subramana and Ari Blaff, The Free Press August 3, 2023. “A beloved educator was branded as a bigot in a series of DEI sessions…” with horrendous consequences.

And from off the beaten track…

I Wasn’t Hysterical, I was Sick by Abigail Anthony ‘23 in The Free Press, August 10, 2023

On occasion we find an article of great interest and importance to our readers that is not about free speech, academic freedom and the crisis in America higher education. We highlight this one by a ’23 Princeton graduate Abigail Anthony. Her prolonged misdiagnosed illness didn’t stop Abigail from tireless and eloquent pursuit of the free speech mission during her undergraduate years, as a frequent writer for national publications and as a student PFS board member. To read a small sample of her writing, here is her commentary from last April in Compact Magazine: “How Academic Freedom Died at Princeton” and from last June in the College Fix: “’Rantings of a Demagogue’: Parents Angered by Princeton President’s Graduation Address.” 

The National Movement

Professor Glenn Loury, keynote speaker

MIT Free Speech Alliance – Inaugural Conference on Free Expression and Academic Freedom. A day-long conference on September 14, 2023 will feature a keynote speaker; famed economist, author, and social critic Glenn Loury, plus a range of presenters who will explore the topic from the perspectives of faculty, students, administrators and alumni. One panel will look beyond MIT to focus on what alumni organizations from universities around the country are doing to support free speech and will include PFS vice-chair Leslie Spencer.  For those interested in receiving an invitation to this invitation-only event, please contact Peter Bonilla, Executive Director of the MIT Free Speech Alliance at peter@mitfreespeech.org.

On August 14, on the stage where celebrated author Salman Rushdie was viciously attacked one year ago, Jacob Mchangama, author of the bookFree Speech, A History from Socrates to Social Media, CEO of the Denmark-based think tank Justitia, and FIRE Senior Fellow, delivered a speech to a packed amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution, The Free Speech Recession and How to Reverse It. To quote from his introduction, “…free Speech is not free. It is a difficult and counter-intuitive principle and it has only been won through bloody struggles. In fact, free speech is never truly won or lost, it is a continuing struggle both between and within human beings. And unless we reaffirm our commitment to this principle it will wither away under the corrosive influence of intolerance, ignorance and indifference.” Watch the speech on YouTube HERE.

New Report calls for reforms on free expression at Cornell University On August 14 the Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA), one among twenty-plus PFS partner organizations in the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA), issued a 100-page report calling on Cornell University to enact comprehensive reforms to promote free speech, free inquiry and viewpoint diversity at Cornell.  The report calls for Cornell to officially adopt the Chicago Principles as well as the University of Chicago’s principle of institutional neutrality as articulated in the Kalven Report, which PFS has covered extensively HERE. It also calls for institutionalizing free speech and academic freedom instruction for all first-year students.  PFS commends our allies at CFSA on this comprehensive report. We hope that other AFSA member groups will draw from it, as it touches on many areas of common interest. 

Many of you know that Princeton ranked a shocking 169 out of 203 in FIRE’s 2022-2023 College Free Speech Rankings. The ranking included a worst-case “Red Light” speech code rating, meaning that “at least one official policy both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.” FIRE’s 2023-2024 rankings, which include more universities than ever before, are to be released in September. Stay tuned to find out if there has been any improvement from Princeton’s last two dismal showings.

Quote of the Month

The American university is a historic achievement for many reasons, not least of which is that it provides a haven for free inquiry and the pursuit of truth. Its unique culture has made it a world leader in advancing the frontiers of practical and theoretical knowledge. . . .  To do their work well, universities need a protected sphere of operation in which free speech and academic freedom flourish. Scholarship and teaching cannot achieve their full potential when constrained – externally or internally – by political, ideological, or economic agendas that impede or displace the disinterested process of pursuing truth and advancing knowledge.

FromPrinceton Principles for a Campus Culture of Free Inquiry, a project of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions August, 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 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 if you like what we are doing, please give!

Click below to support Princetonians for Free Speech and donate today! 

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