So many things concern me about the University’s use of no contact/communication orders (NCOs). As someone who has volunteered in the fields of domestic and sexual violence, I understand the value of protecting students from stalking and harassment. As an attorney, I wonder whether the process for obtaining/granting an NCO is sound and worry about the great potential for abuse.
I write specifically, however, to express my dismay at the University’s apparent failure to recognize an opportunity to educate its students. Students with passionate views who engage in public discourse in order to bring about change must recognize that they may — and in fact should want to — invite the attention of the press. It is imperative that journalists check their facts and confirm their sources, and the only way for them to do so is to contact those about whom they report. Of course, any individual has the absolute right not to talk to members of the press, and journalists should be respectful in their communications and should refrain from further contact with someone if asked. Furthermore, when the press gets it wrong, there are remedies: letters to the editor, requests for retraction or clarification, approaching other media outlets to publicize the inaccurate reporting. I, of course, cannot know the details of what happened between journalist Danielle Shapiro ’25 and Harshini Abbaraju ’22 beyond what was reported in the PAW and Wall Street Journal articles, both of which I read. I wish the PAW article had given me more information: Did Ms. Abbaraju tell Ms. Shapiro she did not want to speak to her or ask her not to contact her again, before resorting to an NCO? Did Ms. Abbaraju contact Ms. Shapiro after her article was published and express her concerns about its contents? Did Ms. Abbaraju write a letter to the editor of The Princeton Tory seeking to correct the mistruths and mischaracterizations she claims appeared in its reporting, or seek any other remedy for any inaccurate reporting? Did Ms Abbaraju contact the editorial staff at The Princeton Tory to report that its reporters were engaging in harassing behavior of pro-Palestine activists?
Based on the PAW and WSJ articles, it would appear that the University may have missed the chance to prepare Ms. Abbaraju for what may very well be future interactions with the press, given her activism, and to teach her how to navigate that important relationship. This is highly disappointing, especially considering that this article appears in the same issue that features the excerpt of President Eisgruber’s address to the Class of 2026 about free speech, and that not less than a year ago the University bestowed its highest undergraduate honor on Maria Ressa ’86, the journalist who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. The press is an ever more crucial bulwark in the desperate, worldwide fight for freedom and democracy, and all of us must do our part to ensure that the press can do its work unfettered.