As a recent alum, I have become worried about the tenor of conversations that are currently occurring on and off campus regarding Woodrow Wilson and the George Floyd killing. I have been on several email and social-media threads where current students and alums seem more concerned with using snark and personal attacks to make their opinions heard instead of critically debating ideas. I’m also concerned with the University’s stance on free expression, as it appears to run counter to principles made clear to us students a few years ago.
In 2016, President Eisgruber defended the University’s commitment to free speech, even going so far as to declare that Princeton “would tolerate” an event held to commemorate Osama bin Laden. He further went on to say that Princeton “would not discipline somebody for making statements of that nature” and that the remedy to speech that people find offensive was “more speech rather than ... disciplinary action.” As painful as the above sounds to many, on principle President Eisgruber made it clear that free expression was a core tenet of Princeton’s mission. Unfortunately, I don’t see that same dedication to critical inquiry today, when certain faculty members and students are being pressured into silence for holding “controversial” views. If the free-speech principle applies to bin Laden, then surely fellow students, alums, and professors deserve to be held to the same standard.