After the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs published a list of demands for “anti-racist” policies, the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, a bipartisan student group dedicated to the “robust protection of important values such as free speech, free thought, and bold and fearless truth-seeking” issued a rebuttal letter.
The School of Public and International Affairs’ demands included purging the university of any references to President Woodrow Wilson, hiring more black faculty, requiring antiracist training once per semester for all faculty, staff, preceptors, and administrators, and divesting from the “prison-industrial complex.”
Princeton University has already capitulated to one of the demands, purging Wilson’s name from its public policy school, saying it was “an inappropriate name sake.”
In a Fox News interview with Akhil Rajasekar, a member of the Open Campus Coalition, Rajasekar expressed deep concern for the name removal, explaining that Wilson transformed Princeton into a world-class university. He suggested that the university honor Wilson’s good deeds. He explained that in 2016, Princeton trustees voted to keep Wilson’s name on the school, but in 2020, Princeton has “buckled under the pressure.”
The Open Campus Coalition letter to Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber states: “[T]he vast majority of claims and demands made by these students amounts to a concerted siege of free thought at Princeton, which they seek to effect by hijacking the University bureaucracy to create a monopoly for their beliefs on deeply controversial and contentious issues.”
The letter goes on to say that the group members “strongly oppose” a politicized curriculum that reflects only one ideology. The students maintained that they welcome added course selections and a racially diverse staff, but that the university should also welcome and encourage an ideologically diverse staff. A required core curriculum from one school of thought, they argue, would be “antithetical to the fundamental mission of a university and a liberal arts education.”
Regarding the demand for biannual “anti-racist training,” the Open Campus Coalition says it is tantamount to the “institution of a wrongthink correctional program.” The coalition believes the training would undoubtedly “coerce members of the community to accept the premises and conclusions that proponents of these reeducation camps advance,” leaving no room for dissent or debate on whether a particular instance of speech or action is racist. Consequently, dissenters in the training would be “intimidated in an atmosphere of fear and potential retribution.”
Branding certain perspectives on hot-button issues as “racist,” “offensive,” or “harmful” would “weaponize the administrative apparatus of the University against those who would doubt, question, or challenge the reigning orthodoxy of the day and age.”
The letter said Princeton has already affirmed principles of academic freedom by adopting the University of Chicago’s Principles of free speech and expression. Therefore, Princeton University should not entertain any idea to “rig the curriculum in favor of particular ideologies” and implement programs designed to “‘reeducate’ those who dissent from the orthodoxy.”
In its letter, the Open Campus Coalition explains that the “siege against academic freedom” is not about race, but ideology and power. History has shown that those in power will want to keep their power “by establishing an orthodoxy of acceptable thought and punishing those who would dare dissent or deviate from that prescription of correct-think.”
The Open Campus Coalition letter concludes by appealing to the university’s history and traditions, saying:
Princeton University has been a bastion of trailblazing thought and discourse since before the birth of the American republic. … As students at Princeton, we could not be prouder of the tradition of fearless academic exploration and truth-seeking in which this university has led the academic world for centuries. We ask now that this great tradition be preserved, protected, and vigorously defended in a world that has never been more direly in need of it.