Keeping Princeton Open

Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in Princeton, N. J., November 20, 2015 (Dominick Reuter/Reuters)

The Princeton Open Campus Coalition has written an excellent letter in defense of academic freedom at the university. The students are pushing back against demands for required courses in left-wing thought and mandatory “diversity training” for faculty and staff. An excerpt:

The demand for “anti-racist training” is nothing more than the institution of a wrongthink correctional program, and we strenuously oppose any attempt to require “cultural competency” or “unconscious bias” training for any member of the University community. This training would undoubtedly coerce members of the community to accept the premises and conclusions that proponents of these reeducation camps advance. There would be no room for any act of dissent or good-faith debate on whether a particular instance of speech or action indeed amounts to racism. Potential dissenters would be intimidated in an atmosphere of fear and potential retribution. We have no doubt that every member of the Princeton community, ourselves certainly included, would strongly and unequivocally identify with the cause of “anti-racism” . . . . But “anti-racism” is a vague and radically unhelpful term that will be filled in with question-begging conclusions by those who subscribe to the reigning orthodoxy on matters of race. Affirmative action, for example, has long been a matter of contention, not only in American political and legal discourse, but also in academic circles. Are we prepared to say, as the University of California system appears to have done, that opposition to affirmative action is “racist” and constitutes an impermissible “microaggression?” Other examples of controversial matters touching on race include, but are certainly not limited to, the historical accuracy of the New York Times ’s recently launched “1619 Project,” the relationship between police officers and their communities, illegal immigration and immigration enforcement, urban crime, the so-called “War on Drugs,” issues of family structure and father-absence in poor communities of every description, and welfare policy. These, and other, matters lie at the core of significant legal, political, and academic discourse. Proper engagement with the various sides of these debates is premised on the robust protection of the freedom to make reasoned arguments and freely and publicly explore different points of view on these contentious issues with no regard for whether these free pursuits of truth “trigger” others.

Princeton Alumni for Academic Freedom is asking alums to sign a letter supporting the students.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.