Princeton Editors Demand Free-Speech Overhaul to Allow Maximum Debate

April 14, 2015

By Greg Piper at The College Fix

The Daily Princetonian will take the administration’s bet, and raise it another.

In an editorial on the university’s new statement guaranteeing “the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn,” the editors says that’s not enough:

We suggest the University go one step further and wholly replace the existing free speech code in the guidebook with the new statement.

The current code bears a “red light” designation from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, due to policies that “both clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech.” The present language allows for University sanctions against an individual whose verbal behavior “demeans” or “intimidates” another.

The board notes troubling examples of punishing speech from other schools: Stanford initially denied funding to a “conference on traditional sexual values” and then stuck the organizers with a $5,600 “security fee”; California State Polytechnic University punished a student for handing out flyers outside the free-speech zone. (He’s suing.)

If you disagree, say so:

Controversial debates, whether about police brutality, same-sex marriage or other topics, enliven our campus. It is unreasonable and intellectually dishonest to presuppose a consensus on these issues or to expect that no one’s sensitivities will be offended in the course of discussion. Reasonable, good-willed people can and often do disagree. Rather than illiberally empowering University authorities to define which subjects are open for discussion, thinkers of absolutely any opinion should be given the latitude required to make reasoned arguments with due civility. …

In protecting the unhindered operation of the marketplace of ideas, the University need not fear that it will cater to hateful or outrageous speech. Such expression will quickly be rebuffed by clear and respectful argumentation from those who see it for what it is …  At the same time, Princeton students must accept that not all campus discourse will be comfortable to hear.

Bravo, editors!