Editor’s Note: The Princeton Open Campus Coalition is a student group at Princeton University formed to push back against the recent wave of politically correct suppression of open academic discourse on campus. The following letter was originally published at the Coalition’s Facebook page.
Dear President Eisgruber,
Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. We simply wish to present our own reasoned arguments and engage you and other senior administrators in dialogue. We will not occupy your office, and, though we respectfully request a minimum of an hour of your time, we will only stay for as long as you wish. We will conduct ourselves in the civil manner that is our hope to maintain and reinforce as the norm at Princeton.
This dialogue is necessary because many students have shared with us that they are afraid to state publicly their opinions on recent events for fear of being vilified, slandered, and subjected to hatred, either by fellow students or faculty. Many who questioned the protest were labeled racist, and black students who expressed disagreement with the protesters were called “white sympathizers” and were told they were “not black.” We, the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, refuse to let our peers be intimidated or bullied into silence on these — or any — important matters.
Second, we welcome a fair debate about the specific demands that have been made.
We oppose efforts to purge (and literally paint over) recognitions of President Woodrow Wilson’s achievements, including Wilson College, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and his mural in Wilcox Dining Hall. As you have noted, Wilson, like all other historical figures, has a mixed legacy. It is not for his contemptible racism, but for his contributions as president of both Princeton and the United States that we honor Wilson. Moreover, if we cease honoring flawed individuals, there will be no names adorning our buildings, no statues decorating our courtyards, and no biographies capable of inspiring future generations.
Similarly, we believe that requiring cultural competency training for faculty threatens to impose orthodoxies on issues about which people of good faith often disagree. As Professor Sergiu Klainerman has observed, it reeks of the reeducation programs to which people in his native Romania were subjected under Communist rule.
We denounce the notion that our basic interactions with each other should be defined by demographic traits.
We firmly believe that there should be no space at a university in which any member of the community, student or faculty, is “safe” from having his or her most cherished and even identity-forming values challenged. It is the very mission of the university to seek truth by subjecting all beliefs to critical, rational scrutiny. While students with a shared interest in studying certain cultures are certainly welcome to live together, we reject university-sponsored separatism in housing. We are all members of the Princeton community. We denounce the notion that our basic interactions with each other should be defined by demographic traits.We hope that you will agree to meet with us. We will be happy to make ourselves available to meet in your office at your earliest convenience. We are also requesting a meeting with the Board of Trustees. For reasons you have articulated in your recent message to the community, there is no time to waste in having these discussions. Unlike their counterparts at other universities, Princeton undergraduates opposed to the curtailment of academic freedom refuse to remain silent out of fear of being slandered.
We will not stop fighting for what we believe in.
Thank you very much for your consideration. We look forward to your reply.
The Legislative Committee of Princeton Open Campus Coalition
Allie Burton ’17
Evan Draim ’16
Josh Freeman ’18
Sofia Gallo ’17
Solveig Gold ’17
Andy Loo ’16
Sebastian Marotta ’16
Devon Naftzger ’16
Beni Snow ’19
Josh Zuckerman ’16