After more than 25 years on Princeton’s faculty, politics professor Keith Whittington announced Oct. 16 that he will be leaving Princeton to join Yale University next fall as a professor of law and director of a new free speech and academic freedom center.
“I think in this particular moment in time, really trying to fully understand and defend academic freedom principles is terribly important, certainly to the university community, but I think to the country more generally, and I’m optimistic we can do some exciting things there,” Whittington told PAW.
Whittington has been a member of Princeton’s Department of Politics since 1997, when he joined the faculty as assistant professor. Since 2006, he has been the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics. His expertise covers “American constitutional theory and development, federalism, judicial politics, and the presidency,” according to his Princeton profile.
At Princeton, Whittington has often spoken out in support of freedom of speech and expression. His book Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech was selected as the Princeton Pre-read in 2018. In 2021, he was the founding chair of the Academic Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit that works to defend free expression, and that same year, Whittington was named to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, which reviewed proposed changes to the nation’s highest court.
Whittington received his master’s and Ph.D. in political science from Yale and told PAW there are still faculty members there with whom he worked with as a student.
Whittington wrote in The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog hosted on Reason.com to which he regularly contributes, that he will be glad to “mix things up” at the Yale Law School, which has been the subject of controversy in recent years due to a lack of ethnic and political diversity among the faculty and a large protest in 2022 during remarks by Kristen Waggoner, CEO and president of the Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom.
“I am optimistic that we can do really important things at the law school, and I’m looking forward to getting started there, but it’s always a little bittersweet,” Whittington said. “I’ve had a great time at Princeton. I leave here with nothing but … gratitude for being able to work here for the last quarter century or slightly more. But sometimes change is good, and so I’m looking forward to it.”