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VICTORY: Princeton amends no-contact order policy after FIRE/ADL letter

Prior policy had allowed students to weaponize no-contact orders to silence student journalism they disliked.
Students walking on the Princeton University campus

Chris Pedota / / USA TODAY NETWORK

Students walking on the Princeton University campus, where a policy once allowed any student to request a no-contact order against any other student without even alleging misconduct.

In a speedy victory for FIRE and the Anti-Defamation League, Princeton amended its no-contact order policy on Jan. 26 to conform to parameters we recommended in our joint letter sent the day before. FIRE and the ADL wrote Princeton last week to express our shared concern about its continued improper use of no-contact orders and similar “no-communication” orders in ways that lead to censorship of student journalists. 

While no-contact orders are certainly viable tools to keep students safe from discriminatory harassment and other misconduct, Princeton’s prior policy allowed any student to request a no-contact order against any other student without even alleging misconduct by the student against whom the order was sought. This led to multiple student journalists receiving these no-contact-type orders in apparent retaliation for their reporting, without any due process from Princeton. Perhaps most disappointingly, Princeton failed to heed FIRE’s warning a year ago about weaponization of these policies to silence pro-Israel journalism on campus. 

But Princeton’s updated policy — significantly shortened from a whopping 13 pages to a far more manageable two — appropriately  limits the circumstances in which no-contact orders will issue. 

Princeton University website homepage logo visible on display screen under a magnifying glass

Princeton keeps letting students weaponize no-contact orders against student journalists


FIRE and the Anti-Defamation League are calling out a Princeton policy being used to silence the student press

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The new policy allows university administrators to issue no-contact orders as part of the penalty if they find a student responsible for misconduct. It also allows administrators to issue an emergency short-term no-communication order — typically for one day — until proper review or adjudication of the matter, or during the misconduct investigation when there is concern for an individual’s safety. The revised policy thus eliminates the due process concerns FIRE and the ADL raised just last week regarding how the prior policy allowed students to weaponize no-contact orders to censor student journalists whose coverage they disliked. 

President Eisgruber recently wrote that “[f]ree speech and academic freedom are the lifeblood of any great university and any healthy democracy,” re-committing Princeton to provide students and faculty “with the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” The no-contact order policy change is a good first step to fulfilling that promise. 

FIRE will continue to monitor Princeton to ensure it puts the new policy into practice. 

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