Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Princeton University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Princeton University: Refusal to Recognize Religious Group

    April 19, 2005

    Princeton Faith and Action, a student organization at Princeton University, was given recognition after being arbitrarily denied such. PFA is associated with the Christian Union, an off-campus ministry serving Ivy League universities whose own request to apply to have a full-time chaplain on campus was rejected by Dean of Religious Life Thomas Breidenthal. After being blocked from reserving spaces on campus through an existing recognized Christian student group, students organized PFA in order to hold activities independently. When they approached the student government to apply for official recognition, however, student government officials explained that because their group was religious in […]

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Red Light Policies

  • Rights, Rules, Responsibilities: University-Wide Regulations- 1.2.1 Respect for Others

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    Actions which make the atmosphere intimidating, threatening, or hostile to individuals are therefore regarded as serious offenses. Abusive or harassing behavior, verbal or physical, which demeans, intimidates, threatens, or injures another because of personal characteristics or beliefs or their expression, is subject to University disciplinary sanctions as described above. Examples of personal characteristics or beliefs include but are not limited to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and disability.

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  • Rights, Rules, Responsibilities: University-Wide Regulations- 1.3 Sex Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    The following behaviors constitute sexual misconduct and are prohibited under this policy.

    Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome verbal or physical behavior which is directed at a person based on sex, gender identity or gender expression, when these behaviors are sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s educational experience, working conditions, or living conditions by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Examples of conduct that can constitute sexual harassment if based on an individual’s sex, gender identity or gender expression include but are not limited to:

    • Unwelcome jokes or comments (e.g., sexist jokes);
    • Disparaging remarks about sex, gender identity, or gender expression (e.g., negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person’s self-presentation)
    • Displaying negative or offensive posters or pictures about sex, gender, or gender expression;
    • Electronic communications, such as e-mail, text messaging, and Internet use, that violate this policy.

    Sexual Harassment is deemed especially serious when submission to or rejection of such conduct is made implicitly or explicitly a term or condition of instruction, employment, or participation in any University activity or benefit; or submission to or rejection of these behaviors by an individual is used as a basis for evaluation in making academic or personnel decisions.

    Inappropriate Conduct Related to Sex, Gender Identity, or Gender Expression: Unwelcome conduct that may not fall under sexual harassment or sexual exploitation, but that is sexual in nature. Examples may include: obscene or sexually offensive gestures and comments; or lewdness.

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  • Guidelines for Compliance with the Acceptable Use Policy

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    University IT and digital resources may not be used to transmit malicious, harassing or defamatory content.

    You must be sensitive to the public nature of shared facilities, and take care not to display on workstations in such locations inappropriate images, sounds or messages which could create an atmosphere of menace or harassment for others.

    You also must refrain from transmitting to others in any location inappropriate images, sounds or messages that are clearly threatening, hostile, or harassing in contradiction to the code of civility defined in RRR.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behavior which is directed at a person based on a protected characteristic, when these behaviors are sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s educational experience, working conditions or living conditions by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Examples of conduct that can constitute harassment if based on an individual’s protected characteristic include but are not limited to:
    • Unwelcome jokes or comments about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., racial or ethnic jokes);
    • Disparaging remarks to a person about a legally protected characteristic (e.g., negative or offensive remarks or jokes about a person’s religion or religious garments);
    • Displaying negative or offensive posters or pictures about a legally protected characteristic;
    • Electronic communications, such as e-mail, text messaging and internet use, that violate this Policy.

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  • Rights, Rules, Responsibilities: University-Wide Regulations- 1.2.4 Distribution of Written Materials by Members of the University Community

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    Free inquiry, free expression, and civility within this academic community are indispensable to the University’s objectives. Inclusion of the name, telephone number, and/or e-mail address of the University sponsoring organization or individual member of the University community on material resembling petitions, posters, leaflets distributed on campus, including materials disseminated using campus information technology resources or University Internet access is encouraged, since such attribution promotes and facilitates civility as well as vigorous debate in the academic community. Anonymous public postings without sponsorship of a registered University organization shall be removed or deleted if a complaint by a member of the University is lodged with the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students or the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.

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  • Rights, Rules, Responsibilities: University-Wide Regulations- 1.2.3 Peaceful Dissent, Protests, and Demonstrations

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: January 31, 2017

    Free speech and peaceable assembly are basic requirements of the University as a center for free inquiry and the search for knowledge and insight. These rights involve a concurrent obligation on the part of all members of the University, guests, and visitors to maintain on the campus an atmosphere conducive to scholarly pursuits and to respect the rights of all individuals.

    In view of Princeton’s obligation to promote the free expression of all views, the campus is open to any speaker whom students or members of the faculty have invited and for whom official arrangements to speak have been made with the University. The right of free speech in a university also includes the right to acts of peaceful dissent, protests in peaceable assembly, and orderly demonstrations which include picketing and the distribution of leaflets. These are permitted on the Princeton campus, subject to approval as to schedule and location, unless, or until, they disrupt regular and essential operations of the University or significantly infringe on the rights of others, particularly the right to listen to a speech or lecture.

    All individuals and groups planning to engage in activities of the sort described in the previous paragraph should seek approval from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students. Locations generally approved for these activities include the following:

    • the area adjacent to Chancellor Green Center (on the Firestone Library side);
    • the area in front of Frist Campus Center on the north side, by the Frist “gateway”;
    • the areas to the west and south of Alexander Hall, and to the east of Alexander Hall, between Stanhope Hall and West College;
    • the area in the vicinity of the east entrance to the University Store;
    • the area between Whig and Clio halls;
    • the cobblestone area between Firestone Library and Washington Road;
    • the area in the vicinity of the arch near the entrance to McCosh Hall, Room 50;
    • Scudder Plaza at Robertson Hall;
    • the area adjacent to Shapiro Walk between the Department of Computer Science and Mudd Manuscript Library;
    • the walkway in front of Nassau Hall;
    • the area in the vicinity of the north entrance to Jadwin Gymnasium.

    In asking groups and individuals to seek prior approval for schedule and location, the University’s goal is not to restrict free speech or peaceable assembly. Rather, it is to give the University the opportunity to provide space that accommodates the reasonable needs of both the University community and those engaged in acts of speech or protest. The University reserves the right to determine the time, place, and manner of all such activities.

    Whenever appropriate, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, with assistance from and in consultation with the Department of Public Safety, will designate clearly marked areas for protests and demonstrations from among the list that appears above. In addition to those on this list, other locations may be designated because of particular circumstances associated with a protest or demonstration (for example, to schedule a protest in the vicinity of a campus public lecture held in a location not near those on the list). To the extent practicable, the marked areas will be within reasonable sight and sound of the speaker’s and the audience’s ingress to and egress from the location of the event. The University reserves the right to refuse permission to use a particular area for protests or demonstrations, including those on the designated area list. When such a decision is reached, the University will provide reasons when asked.

    It is a violation of these policies whenever any individual prevents, or willfully attempts to prevent, the orderly conduct of a University function or activity, such as lectures, meetings, interviews, ceremonies, and public events; or blocks, or willfully attempts to block, the legitimate activities of any person on the campus or in any University building or facility.

    Whenever a member of the University community, that is a member of the faculty, staff, or student body, violates these policies, that individual will be subject to University discipline and/or arrest. Whenever a nonmember of the University community violates these policies, that individual will be subject to arrest. Decisions to invoke University disciplinary action or arrest in the course of a protest or demonstration will be made after due warning and, wherever possible, such decisions will be made by officers of the University (see the Bylaws of the Board of Trustees).

    All members of the press and media, both those affiliated with the University and those with no affiliation to the University, are fully subject to these provisions unless special arrangements for press coverage have been authorized by the University’s Office of Communications. Ordinarily, arrangements of some kind to permit press coverage will be made when circumstances allow, and will be administered by the Office of Communications.

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Green Light Policies
  • Princeton Refuses to Say What Was ‘Vulgar and Offensive’ in Emails that Got Team Suspended

    December 16, 2016

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix The nation’s elite universities continue to punish athletes for their private speech, with Princeton joining Harvard and Columbia yesterday… Read more here.

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  • Oh My God: Is Calling Someone By The Wrong Pronoun A Title IX Violation At WVU?

    August 23, 2016

    By Matt Vespa at Townhall Princeton University is banning the word “man” from their vocabulary on campus. At West Virginia University, is calling someone by the wrong pronoun a Title IX violation worthy of an investigation? Campus Reform noted that while the website makes it appear that the consequences would be as such; the administration said it’s all a mischaracterization. If so, they better clarify that on their website before the social justice warriors start ratting out students who might have called someone a person, or something (via Emily Larsen):… Read more here.

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  • Where Should the Burden of Proof Lie in Campus Rape Cases?

    June 17, 2016

    By Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic A college student is accused of rape or sexual harassment by a classmate and denies the allegation. A campus investigation follows. At the end of the process, the presiding administrator must judge whether the charges against the accused have merit… Read more here.  

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  • Uninviting Rap

    April 1, 2016

    By Josh Logue at Inside Higher Ed A rare but not unheard of cousin of the commencement season speaker controversy is the spring concert performer controversy. Students have objected in the past to bands’ names, insufficient ethnic diversity and, perhaps most often, objectionable lyrics… Read more here.

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  • Colleges Still Privileging Identity Politics Over Free Speech

    March 9, 2016

    By Allan C. Brownfeld at Communities Digital News WASHINGTON, March 9, 2016 — American colleges and universities are eager to embrace differences in race, ethnic background, religion, and sexual orientation, as they should. But for them, that’s where diversity ends. When it comes to the free expression of ideas, they think diversity is a dirty word. Read more here.

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  • Freedom of Speech Restrictions an Issue at Universities

    March 3, 2016

    By Erick Payne at Kansas City InfoZine Freedom of speech is a constitutional right for all Americans, but students are finding it increasingly difficult to express their opinions on some campuses that actively work to discourage or impede free speech. Read more here.

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  • The Phony Debate About Political Correctness

    January 14, 2016

    By Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum at Think Progress In 1991, New York Magazine published an influential cover story, titled “Are You Politically Correct?” The headline was splashed across the glossy’s front page in bold red and white letters, followed by a list of supposed “politically correct” questions: … Read more here.

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  • Speech Crimes on Campus

    December 9, 2015

    By Staff at The Wall Street Journal The student censors at Yale claimed a scalp—pardon the micro-aggression—this week when lecturer Erika Christakis resigned her teaching position on childhood education. She had been pilloried for asking in an email if students weren’t too sensitive if they are offended by politically incorrect Halloween costumes. Yale’s powers-that-be ducked and covered in response, but the news on campus isn’t all bad, according to a forthcoming report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (Fire). The foundation’s annual survey of 440 colleges—comprising 336 four-year public and 104 private institutions—finds that the share of schools maintaining […]

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  • Progressive and Racist. Woodrow Wilson Wasn’t Alone.

    December 8, 2015

    By Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg View Until recently, Princeton University’s devotion to Woodrow Wilson was so pervasive and worshipful that visitors to campus might easily have mistaken the modernist parthenon housing the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for a literal temple. If nothing else, the black students demanding that my alma mater strip the segregationist president’s name from its public-policy school and Wilson College residential complex have accomplished one amazing thing. They’ve forced Princeton to acknowledge that its 13th president, and the nation’s 28th, was not the most nearly perfect human ever to inhabit New Jersey. As the […]

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  • To Learn or Not to Learn

    November 27, 2015

    By Dave Trecker at Naples News Some thoughtful people are asking a thoughtful question, one perhaps long overdue: What is the real purpose of higher education? Is it to learn the basics of math, writing, literature, science, history? To learn to think and reason? To prepare for employment? Or is it to try to change the world — whether you can spell or not? Is it to force changes on universities terrified of offending liberal students who may or may not be able to write a coherent paragraph or balance their checkbooks? Or is it to do both, if you […]

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  • Be Thankful for the Vigorous, Uncomfortable, Invaluable Clash of Ideas this Thanksgiving

    November 26, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a great column in The New York Times on Sunday explaining the practical benefits of thankfulness in action. In that spirit, here are a few people I’m thankful for in the zany college world: The brave students at Princeton who not only spoke up against the rise of “intimidation and abuse” against people with certain viewpoints, but practically guaranteed they will suffer intimidation and abuse by signing their names to it. Their letter to President Christopher Eisgruber: Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. […]

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  • How to Rescue Free Speech in American Academia

    November 25, 2015

    By Nat Hentoff at In last week’s column, I described how the national anti-free speech movement poses an imminent threat to freedom of expression in American academia. Those advocating for the anti-free speech movement attempt to interpret the “language of free speech” to their advantage so that it applies only to them, but not to others. Their analysis often cites Title IX’s antidiscrimination provisions and accuses free speech advocates of using “weaponized words” to silence anti-racism protestors, but invariably ignores the long history of court decisions that have repeatedly applied First Amendment protections to offensive speech at public universities. […]

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  • Chicago School of Free Speech

    November 23, 2015

    By L. Gordon Crovitz at The Wall Street Journal “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” read the headline of an essay for the liberal website Vox earlier this year. The author, who was frightened enough to write under a pseudonym, admitted that he “cut out anything I could see upsetting a coddled undergrad,” including books by Mark Twain. The American Association of University Professors last year warned: “The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual.” The liberals who run U.S. universities can’t be surprised by […]

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  • Ivy League Schools Stomp On Freedom Of Speech

    November 20, 2015

    By Kathryn Watson at The Daily Caller  Five of the nation’s eight Ivy League schools impose huge restrictions on the First Amendment speech rights of their students, according to ratings from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). As allegations of racial discrimination fuel campus protests and spark free-speech challenges across the country, Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University and Princeton University all receive “red light” ratings — the worst in FIRE’s red, yellow and green light rating system — for having policies that significantly restrict free expression. Yale University and Dartmouth College both receive “yellow light” ratings for […]

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  • Yale Vs. Princeton: The Battle For Free Speech On Campus

    November 13, 2015

    By Karin Agness at Forbes Yale and Princeton will square off on the gridiron on Saturday. While the schools are tied in the Ivy League football standings, it is becoming clear that the Tigers are winning when it comes to free speech on campus. Yale is in the national spotlight this week as campus protests and confrontations there heat up highlighting a national trend of students stifling free speech and the free exchange of ideas on campus. At issue in New Haven is an email sent out by The Intercultural Affairs Committee on Halloween costume guidelines to discourage students from […]

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  • Free Speech on Campus at Risk

    November 3, 2015

    By Staff at The Virginia Gazette  Open debate or ideological conformity? This question is among the free speech issues facing institutions of higher learning nationwide, including William & Mary. To address this topic, the Society for the College, an independent non-profit alumni organization and the SFTC Student Association has engaged speaker Catherine Sevcenko, noted authority on legal issues affecting student rights, to discuss how W&M students can defend the first amendment and academic freedom on campus. Sevcenko, associate director of litigation at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, will also present some wide legal challenges affecting free speech and academic […]

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  • ‘Chicago Statement’ is a Policy U.S. Universities Should Heed

    October 29, 2015

    By The Oklahoman Editorial Board at The Oklahoman THERE are many reasons for the unlikely ascension of Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the GOP presidential polls, but one of the reasons surely is this: their willingness to speak out against political correctness. A Rasmussen survey conducted in late August found that 71 percent of Americans think political correctness is a problem in our country, while only 18 percent say it’s not. Perhaps nowhere is the problem more acute than in the realm of higher education, with its freedom-restricting “speech codes” and its various “trigger warnings” designed to protect […]

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  • Purdue Takes A Stand For Free Speech, No Matter How Offensive Or Unwise

    May 15, 2015

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post Purdue University has become the first public institution of higher education to adopt a free speech policy called the “Chicago principles,” condemning the suppression of views no matter how “offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed” they may be. The board of trustees passed a measure endorsing those principles on Friday. Purdue President Mitch Daniels plans to address some of the same points in his remarks at the Indiana university’s commencement ceremony this weekend. The Chicago principles were crafted and approved at the University of Chicago in January and has since been adopted by the […]

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  • Political Correctness at Princeton: When it Comes to Free Speech, They’re No Tigers

    April 14, 2015

    By Paul Mulshine at I guess getting bored to tears beats getting tear-gassed. But the way in which Princeton University handles student protests still leaves a lot to be desired. That would be an intelligent discussion of the issue at hand with both sides making their best cases for their propositions. That’s what I hoped to see when I visited the Princeton campus Sunday afternoon for an event called by University President Christopher Eisgruber to discuss a couple of campus controversies. One of the controversies involved a perceived offense to black people and the other involved a perceived offense […]

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  • Feds Punish Princeton For Liking Due Process Too Much

    November 7, 2014

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education wrapped up its investigation of Princeton University’s sexual harassment and assault policies. The findings were unsurprising, though still striking: the government essentially accused the university of violating federal anti-discrimination law by extending too much due process to accused students. Princeton had been one of the last hold-outs on the standard of proof in college rape trials. The university required adjudicators to obtain “clear and convincing” proof that a student was guilty of sexual assault before convicting him. That’s too tough, said DOE. As part of its settlement, […]

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  • With Princeton Title IX Agreement, Higher standard of Proof in Sexual Assault Cases On Last Legs

    November 6, 2014

    By Jake New at Inside Higher Ed Princeton University reached an agreement with the Department of Education Wednesday to end a civil rights investigation into how the university handles cases of sexual assault on campus. Princeton was found to be in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the department said, for “failing to promptly and equitably” respond to complaints of sexual violence and for using a higher standard of proof than what is permitted by the department. Princeton was the last Ivy League institution — and a rare prominent institution — to still use the “clear […]

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  • Presumed Guilty at Princeton

    September 17, 2014

    At The Wall Street Journal Princeton University looks set to become the latest campus to curtail the due-process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct, including rape and other violent assaults. On Monday the faculty voted to approve new disciplinary policies under which allegations of sexual offenses—but only sexual offenses—would no longer require “clear and persuasive evidence” to be considered proven. “Preponderance of the evidence,” the standard used in civil lawsuits, would suffice. The new policy now goes to the Council of the Princeton University Community, which is expected to approve it Sept. 29. The new policies would also deprive accused […]

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  • The hidden scandal of Princeton’s speech code

    September 11, 2008

    by Michael Davidson The Daily Princetonian Over the past three years at Princeton, every time I saw another student publication at my door, a demonstration in front of Frist, or heard of our administration’s continued support for the academic freedom of Peter Singer, I became more confident that our marketplace of ideas was alive and well. I was also impressed by the appropriately restrained reaction on the part of the administration during both of the major free speech controversies that have occurred while I have been a student. First, The Daily Princetonian’s 2007 op-ed parodying then-Yale freshman Jian Li resulted […]

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  • Students fight for rights

    June 22, 2006

    There may be an end in sight to the long reign of one-sided intellectual discourse on the nation’s colleges and universities. New, on-campus movements by students as well as interest from state and federal lawmakers are beginning to make headway in guaranteeing intellectual freedom for all students. According to Sara Dothan, campus director for Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), students at more than 150 campuses across the country have started SAF chapters to fight for the passage of an academic bill of rights. The organization is growing rapidly and having an impact on campuses, Dothan said. “One of the biggest […]

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  • Campus Conscience Police?

    December 21, 2005

    “Over one’s inner mind, and self, no one has coercive power.” So write attorneys Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate, authors of the just-published Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. Political correctness is the belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by […]

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  • University reverses policy on faith groups

    May 13, 2005

    Nassau Hall has reversed its policy on the recognition of religious student groups after being contacted by an outside civil liberties organization that protested the treatment of one such group as an “ongoing injustice.” Under the new policy, religious student groups with ties to faith organizations without established “campus ministries” will be considered for official student group status using the same criteria as other groups. Previously, such student groups were denied recognition. The policy change allowed Princeton Faith and Action (PFA), a new evangelical group, to seek official student group status — which it was recently granted. PFA is affiliated […]

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  • Princeton recognizes Christian group initially denied campus sanction

    May 11, 2005

    PRINCETON, N.J. — After being initially rebuffed by a Princeton University official, a group of evangelical Christian students who wanted access to facilities and the chance to apply for funds has won a victory. After the university’s dean of religious life refused recognition for Princeton Faith and Action, the group appealed to a campus rights group that successfully lobbied the university to change its procedures. “We found Princeton’s quick and fair response very encouraging. We’ve found other colleges who haven’t been particularly fair to religious groups, sometimes in an unconstitutional way,” said Greg Lukianoff, an official with the Philadelphia-based Foundation […]

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  • In defense of freedom in academia

    April 17, 2003

    Alan Kors, from the Adam Smith tie around his neck to the “Liberty” flag on his wall, makes no bones about his libertarianism. His files, refusing to conform to anyone’s concept of order but their own, apparently share it. “Can you believe the kid won?” Kors asks, holding up an old envelope covered in scribbled names, numbers and reminders that, along with the mountains of scrap paper, xeroxes and formal reports from which it came, once played its part in Kors’ struggle against Penn’s prosecution of Eden Jacobowitz. “This is what his defense looked like,” Kors says, spreading the piles […]

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  • Princeton’s president reiterates support for free expression, peaceful protest

    June 21, 2017

    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 […]

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  • Princeton Open Campus Coalition Seeks to Revive ‘Interpersonal and Intellectual Health’ at Old Nassau

    October 26, 2016

    I have written on numerous occasions over the years about the state of free speech at my alma mater, Princeton University. During my own years at Princeton (I graduated in 1999, which suddenly sounds a lot longer ago than it used to!), I found the climate for free speech to be generally supportive. Over those four years, I learned and grew a great deal from the many in-depth, no-holds-barred conversations I had with my diverse group of friends at the university. It was an experience that helped instill in me the belief that unfettered free speech is critical to the […]

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  • Harvard Law’s Randall Kennedy Praises Chicago Statement in Princeton Commencement Address

    June 1, 2016

    Addressing Princeton University’s Class of 2016 on Sunday, Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy singled out Princeton’s adoption of the University of Chicago’s statement on campus free expression as one of the reasons Princeton students are especially well-suited to become “ambassadors of higher education” when they graduate. Kennedy said, “Being an ambassador for higher education means embracing opportunities to advance the best versions of collegiate and university life.” He asked students to be mindful of the important role of higher education in society and reminded them that colleges and universities need the help of former students. He told the new […]

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  • Free Speech at Princeton: A Report From the Front Lines

    December 17, 2015

    Yesterday afternoon, I visited Princeton University (my alma mater) to participate in a panel entitled “Free Speech, Media and Social Justice.” The panel, sponsored by the student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, began typically enough, with each of my co-panelists and I giving a brief introduction to our perspective. I spoke about FIRE’s support for (and extensive work on behalf of) students’ right to protest, but also expressed concern that too many protesters’ demands would, if met, themselves infringe on students’ right to free speech. Soon after our introductory remarks, however, things became heated. Before I get into a discussion of […]

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  • First to Adopt Chicago Statement, Princeton’s Free Speech Promises More Than Just Talk

    September 29, 2015

    Earlier this year, Princeton University became the first university to follow the University of Chicago’s lead by adopting Chicago’s statement on free expression, promising broad protection for speech on campus. The principles, adopted at Princeton in April by way of a faculty resolution, came after some professors grew increasingly concerned about creeping campus censorship. Sergiu Klainerman, for one, was scared. Klainerman, a mathematics professor, brought the proposal before the faculty as a means of reaffirming a commitment to academic freedom in the face of an increased demand for “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” “I come from a communist country,” said […]

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  • ‘NY Daily News’ to NY Colleges: Adopt U. of Chicago Statement on Free Speech

    August 24, 2015

    Back in January, FIRE proudly endorsed the excellent free speech policy statement issued by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. In the months since, we’ve been pleased to see Purdue University and Princeton University follow suit by adopting the statement as institutional policy—and this fall, FIRE will mount a national campaign calling on colleges and universities nationwide to do the same. Happily, when it comes to New York State, the New York Daily News beat us to it. In an editorial today, the Daily News asks the Empire State’s institutions of higher learning to adopt […]

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  • Fighting for Free Speech at Private Universities

    July 27, 2015

    It’s your first day as a student on the campus of your private university. You’re excited to discover what college has to offer. And you’re already about to make a big mistake. During orientation, a number of topics are discussed: choosing the right courses, joining student organizations, and complying with community standards. At some point, you’re handed a copy of your school’s Code of Conduct. You may choose to read it, perhaps even thoroughly. But, if you’re like most students, you’ll glance through it, skim the intricate details of your school’s policies, and unceremoniously toss it aside. It’s important to […]

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  • Princeton Students Debate Limits of Free Expression

    April 16, 2015

    In the week and a half since the Princeton faculty approved a new statement on free expression, students have been vigorously debating the statement and the question of free speech on campus more generally. While some remarks have reflected the regrettable “I have the right not to be offended” attitude too prevalent among college students today, the debate overall has reflected a thoughtful consideration of the issues. Last Monday, the Princeton faculty voted to approve a statement on free expression to be published in the university’s “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” document, which governs student conduct on campus. Math professor Sergiu Klainerman, […]

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  • Student Journalists Commit to Rigorous Reporting

    February 4, 2015

    Torch readers know that FIRE has been less than impressed with reckless or one-sided reporting, particularly on the issue of campus sexual assault. As I wrote yesterday, biased media coverage often serves as a catalyst for policy changes and legislation that threaten to deprive accused students of a fair hearing. It’s refreshing, therefore, to see student journalists acknowledge that media outlets too often fail to remain objective in their reporting, and strive to do better. Two recent articles by journalists at Columbia University and Princeton University do just that. Last night, Daniel Garisto penned a column for Columbia’s student newspaper, […]

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  • Amherst College Settles with Student Who Sued Over Withheld Diploma

    January 26, 2015

    Amherst College has settled a lawsuit brought last June by a student identified only as John Doe. Doe filed the lawsuit after the college withheld his diploma because of a sexual assault allegation from 2009 that had long since been resolved—or so he thought. After the allegations arose initially, Doe was placed on medical leave for a year and required to see a psychiatrist before petitioning for readmission. After successfully completing the college’s requirements, Doe was readmitted and continued his studies without incident. Just before graduation, however, in the midst of intense scrutiny by the public and the U.S. Department […]

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  • Princeton Adopts ‘Preponderance’ Standard, Reaches Agreement with Department of Education

    November 10, 2014

    The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced last week that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Princeton University after finding that the institution was in violation of Title IX. OCR’s demands include the use of the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof in adjudicating sexual misconduct cases—meaning that students accused of sexual assault or harassment must be found guilty if the fact-finders determine it is more likely than not that he or she committed the violation. As FIRE has noted on The Torch before, until recently, Princeton was one of just a small number […]

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  • Reversing Course, Princeton’s Proposed Sexual Assault Policy Chips Away at Due Process

    September 23, 2014

    Next week, the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) will decide whether to adopt a proposed sexual assault policy already approved by Princeton faculty members that would, among other things, change the standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases, weakening due process protections for accused students. Currently, a student charged with sexual misconduct at Princeton will be found responsible only if there is “clear and persuasive evidence” of his or her guilt. However, the new policy would require only that it be more likely than not that the accused student is guilty of sexual misconduct. An overwhelming majority of […]

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  • Princeton Admins Force Censorship of Interactive Art Installation

    April 22, 2014

    From April 13 through May 3, a group of students at Princeton University are asking, “What will you bring to The Surface?”

    “The Surface” is an interactive art installation consisting of approximately 224 square feet of white wooden boards set up on the lawn on which anyone can draw or paint—or even censor— the work of visitors before them. Veterans of free speech walls would not be surprised by what the students have brought to the installation thus far: a range of thought-provoking questions, angry rants, cute drawings, some profanity—and the inevitable penis drawing. But the last of these was apparently a step too far for Princeton administrators. A panel containing such an illustration was removed, and was returned to the project’s creators only when the offending material was painted over.

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  • Princeton Students Form Much-Needed Free Speech Advocacy Group

    December 10, 2012

    Students at Princeton University have formed a new group “to encourage campus-wide conversation and protect student speech,” The Daily Princetonian reported yesterday. The group, called Princetonians for Individual Rights in Education (PIRE for short; no affiliation with FIRE, although we are flattered that we were reportedly part of the inspiration for the group), was started by Vivienne Chen and Elan Kugelmass, two members of Princeton’s class of 2014. Such a group is sorely needed at Princeton, which makes lofty commitments to free speech but then places serious restrictions on students’ expressive rights (such as prohibiting speech or expression that “demeans” […]

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  • AP: Sexual Assault Claims on Campus a ‘Legal Minefield’

    April 23, 2012

    This weekend, Justin Pope of the Associated Press came out with a pair of thorough and insightful articles about the “legal minefield” in which universities currently find themselves when it comes to addressing claims of sexual assault on campus. As Pope explains, Typically, colleges enjoy wide leeway in responding to student misconduct, whether that means using a disciplinary board to enforce their own rules or simply punting the matter to law enforcement. But as Title IX is now interpreted — and would be reinforced under a new version of the Violence Against Women Act awaiting a Senate vote — colleges […]

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  • Harvey Silverglate and Samantha Harris on Free Speech in ‘Princeton Alumni Weekly’

    October 26, 2011

    Check out FIRE Chairman Harvey Silverglate and Director of Speech Code Research Samantha Harris’ essay on free speech at their mutual alma mater in this week’s Princeton Alumni Weekly. Harvey and Samantha point out to Princeton alumni how their college’s policies leave today’s Princeton students subject to punishment for speaking their minds on controversial issues, or even for sending emails that administrators could deem “hostile.” In the article, Harvey and Samantha, who as alumni of Princeton are particularly concerned with free speech at the college they attended (FIRE Co-Founder Alan Charles Kors happens to be another notable alumnus), discuss what led to their writing this […]

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  • More Unsavory Disinvitations: This Time, Nonie Darwish at Princeton and Columbia

    December 10, 2009

    More points were scored recently for the angry “heckler’s veto” when protesters (including at least one Princeton administrator) successfully pressured Nonie Darwish’s student hosts to cancel her speaking events at Princeton and Columbia universities. Darwish is Founder and Director of Former Muslims United. Darwish’s November 18, 2009, speech at Princeton was canceled the evening before she was scheduled to speak, according to The Daily Princetonian, because of her previously expressed views. Both student groups that were sponsoring the event, Tigers for Israel and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society (Whig-Clio), withdrew. Each group gave a different, strange reason for withdrawing. For Tigers […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Princeton University

    June 22, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester and into the early summer, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). We have now come to our final two universities: Princeton and Harvard. Today we review policies at my alma mater, Princeton University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining policies that prohibit protected speech on campus. Although Princeton is private, its policies contain robust protections for free speech. The Rights, Rules, Responsibilities handbook states that The central purposes of a University are the pursuit […]

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  • Upon Return to Princeton, FIRE Intern Advocates for Reform

    September 11, 2008

    2008 FIRE summer intern Michael Davidson alerts us this morning to his op-ed in today’s edition of The Daily Princetonian, Princeton University‘s student newspaper. Mike’s opinion piece, entitled “The hidden scandal of Princeton’s speech code,” alerts the Princeton community to its designation by FIRE as a red-light school. (To earn a red-light rating, a school must have at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.) In Princeton’s case, FIRE has taken issue with the school’s overbroad harassment policy. As Mike explains, “A student can be subject to University disciplinary sanctions if their ‘abusive’ behavior ‘demeans’ […]

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  • Freshman Orientation: Education? Or Indoctrination?

    September 19, 2007

    Harvey Silverglate, FIRE co-founder and board chairman, discusses freshman orientation programs on The Phoenix’s “Free for All” blog. Spurred by an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal written by a Princeton graduate about the sex education portion of the school’s orientation, Harvey reflects on these programs. He writes: Instead, these administrators [involved with the orientation programs] disguise their social engineering as education, and that’s where civilized and rational people have to draw the line and respond with “surely you jest that this is education.”

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  • FIRE’s Samantha Harris Profiled in the ‘Daily Princetonian’

    February 20, 2007

    Yesterday’s Daily Princetonian, Princeton University’s student newspaper, carried an article well worth reading—a profile of FIRE’s own Samantha Harris, Director of Legal and Public Advocacy. Sam well deserves the honor with the outstanding work she does for FIRE. Click on the link above to read more about the person Professor Robert George calls “one of the finest students I’ve encountered in more than 20 years of teaching at Princeton.”  

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  • At Princeton, a (Mostly) Satisfactory Resolution to the Satire Controversy

    January 24, 2007

    In a refreshing development, The Daily Princetonian joke op-ed controversy will resolve itself through campus discussion, not through administrative intervention. Even though the op-ed garnered a good amount of media attention—enough to be featured in The New York Times—administrators at Princeton have limited their involvement to a strongly worded letter to the editor. While Janet Smith Dickerson, Vice President for Campus Life, and Kathleen Deignan, Dean of Undergraduate Students, do make some statements with which I disagree (like the implication that offensive satire and parody are not “productive ways to engage an academic community,” a statement disproved by this incident), […]

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  • Here We Go Again: A Satire Uproar at Princeton

    January 19, 2007

    A mock op-ed published in the joke issue of The Daily Princetonian has ignited one of the first major free speech controversies of the new semester. The column, written by the paper’s managing board, “ran with the byline ‘Lian Ji,’ referring to Yale freshman Jian Li, who filed a bias complaint against the university last year, alleging that the Admissions Office discriminates against Asian applicants,” according to an article in the Princetonian. Written in broken English, the managing board packed the column with almost every Asian stereotype. The controversy, only a few days old, has been discussed on blogs outside of Princeton, […]

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  • FIRE Letter to the Editor in ‘The Daily Princetonian’

    October 4, 2006

    In response to boos from the audience during a portion of Princeton’s “Sex on a Saturday Night” play when two males kissed, Andy Brown, the play’s co-director, wrote an editorial in The Daily Princetonian condemning those who jeered. He wrote that:  The LGBT Center notes [Princeton’s] definition [of sexual harassment] to the realm of sexual orientation on their website: “Harassment based on sexual orientation is unwanted verbal or physical conduct based on a person’s perceived sexual orientation.” Booing the portrayed scene was harassment based on sexual orientation. This means that the booing was completely unacceptable by University standards.  This policy […]

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  • Are Pictures of Abortion ‘Hate Speech?’

    May 11, 2006

    Last week, Phi Beta Cons noted a story in the Bellingham (Wash.) Herald describing yet another instance of vandalism of a pro-life display. According to the Herald, Western Washington University student David Janus Zhang was so enraged by a “display showing pictures of aborted fetuses next to images of genocide” that he jumped over a fence and tried to destroy it. Zhang inflicted $2,700 worth of damage in the course of what a university police officer called “a rampage.” He was arrested and jailed; he now faces charges of malicious mischief and disorderly conduct charges.   Now, in response to […]

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  • Wendy McElroy Lauds FIRE

    December 21, 2005

    Friend of FIRE Wendy McElroy has an excellent article on about FIRE’s new Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus. McElroy writes: The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. McElroy makes the case that political correctness, which she describes as the “belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by punishing those who advance them,” has overtaken college campuses, […]

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  • Christian Student Group at Princeton Wins Religious Freedom Victory

    May 17, 2005

    Princeton University has decided it will no longer deny official recognition to an evangelical Christian student group. The school’s Dean of Religious Life, Thomas Breidenthal, had withheld recognized status from Princeton Faith and Action, but the university administration reversed course after an advocacy group intervened. Princeton Faith and Action (PFA) is associated with the Christian Union, an off-campus ministry that had its own request to apply to have a full-time chaplain on campus rejected by Dean Breidenthal last year. In March 2005, after being blocked from reserving campus space through an existing recognized Christian student group, students organized PFA in […]

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  • Princeton Changes Policy on Religious Groups

    May 16, 2005

    Following the victory FIRE announced last week, the Daily Princetonian reported on Friday that Princeton has moved quickly to fulfill its promise to FIRE that it would make any changes necessary for its student organization recognition procedures to be consistent with student’s freedom of expression and legal equality. The article reports: Under the new policy, religious student groups with ties to faith organizations without established “campus ministries” will be considered for official student group status using the same criteria as other groups. Previously, such student groups were denied recognition. As David and Greg have highlighted in previous posts, Princeton’s swift […]

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  • Princeton Victory Covered by AP

    May 12, 2005

    Check out the short and sweet article by Associated Press writer Chris Newmarker about the Princeton religious liberty victory we announced yesterday. I was quoted: “We found Princeton’s quick and fair response very encouraging. We’ve found other colleges who haven’t been particularly fair to religious groups, sometimes in an unconstitutional way,” which captures what I find refreshing about this case. Princeton joins schools like LSU in working in good faith to treat religious students fairly after FIRE raised concerns. This is in stark contrast to schools like UNC-Chapel Hill which would rather duke it out in court than allow their […]

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  • Princeton Does the Right Thing

    May 11, 2005

    If there is one constant in modern academic censorship it is that conservative or orthodox religious groups consistently face high hurdles to recognition and campus existence. Whether administrative objections are rooted in concerns about “homophobia” or “religious discrimination” or simple distaste for “controversy”, Christian and now Muslim student organizations are facing an epidemic of attacks on basic free association rights. For a time, it looked as if Princeton University was going to join Tufts University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rutgers University and many others in the religious liberty “hall of shame.” Princeton had denied recognition to […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Association and Religious Liberty at Princeton University

    May 11, 2005

    PRINCETON, N.J., May 11, 2005—In an important victory for religious liberty and freedom of association, Princeton University has decided to recognize a Christian student group that had been arbitrarily denied official recognition. After the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to Princeton on behalf of the Princeton Faith and Action (PFA) student group to remind the school of its stated commitments to freedom of religion and association, the university quickly moved to restore PFA’s rights and to recognize the group on an equal basis with other student organizations. Princeton also pledged to re-examine a policy that unfairly singles […]

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  • For the Sake of Student and Faculty ‘Diversity’

    April 20, 2005

    The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article today (account required to access) that discusses the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. While I personally agree that such diversity, along with other forms of diversity, is important and plays a significant role in shaping the educational experience of all members of the academic community, I am troubled by the emphasis on minority ethnic and racial status as the only factors for what becomes a superficial diversification of student and faculty bodies. The article reports: [Princeton University President] Tilghman warned that colleges would suffer if they did not […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman, April 19, 2005

    April 19, 2005

    April 19, 2005 President Shirley M. Tilghman Office of the President 1 Nassau Hall Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey 08544 URGENT   Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (609-258-1615) Dear President Tilghman: As you can see from our Directors (including FIRE co-founders and Princeton University alumni Alan Charles Kors and Harvey Silverglate) and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality and—in the matter of the Princeton Faith and Action student group—voluntary association, freedom of speech, and religious […]

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  • The Un-Freedom of Association

    April 13, 2005

    A reader just wrote in to inform us of a recent student government proposal at Princeton University to add a “nondiscrimination” statement to its constitution that may infringe on students’ rights to freedom of association. The Daily Princetonian reports: The amendment as it stands would add a non-discrimination clause to the [University Student Government] constitution that would prohibit the USG from funding or recognizing any group that discriminates in its membership on the basis of several factors. Those factors encompass the criteria listed in “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities,” and extend also to gender identity and expression, marital status, national origin, parental […]

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