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Princeton's president reiterates support for free expression, peaceful protest

The June 7 issue of Princeton Alumni Weekly included an article from the president of Princeton University, Christopher L. Eisgruber, titled “Free Speech at Princeton.” The article articulates and reiterates Princeton’s commitment to the values of free speech and free inquiry, a commitment that led the institution to adopt the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression.”

President Eisgruber’s article rightly emphasizes the importance of peaceful protest and more speech as a response to speech that offends, while condemning the “heckler’s veto”:

When a controversial speaker comes to campus, members of the community have several acceptable choices about how to respond: they may attend the event and try to question the speaker; they may simply stay away from the event; they may criticize the decision to invite the speaker; or they may protest the speech without disrupting it. So long as the speaker is allowed to proceed and be heard, all of these options are consistent with the requirements of free speech: a peaceful protest is an exercise of free speech, not a renunciation of it.

FIRE commends President Eisgruber’s lucid statement, which comes at a time when attitudes towards free speech on campus have chilled. We hope that Princeton will codify this commitment to free expression on campus by improving the speech codes that have earned the university FIRE’s lowest, “red light” rating.

To learn more about your school’s speech codes, visit FIRE’s Spotlight database.

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