In Response to: Free Speech at Princeton

President Eisgruber ’83 is clearly a proponent of the traditional role of free speech (President’s Page, June 7). I’m reminded of the movie The American President, when Andrew Shepherd stands up and defends free speech: “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” I’ve always admired this sentiment. However, I’ve increasingly realized that it is antiquated, and frankly dangerous. It exists in a world where people are swayed by logical argument, and two sides with equal intellect can persuade people just by the force of argumentation. We don’t live in that world.

Free speech has also never been an absolute. There are limits to it. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. You can’t encourage someone to kill themselves via text. Hate speech is not protected as free speech. There are limits, and a college like Princeton can and should have a discussion on where those limits should be. Odious speakers may not be legally persecuted for their views, but it doesn’t follow that Princeton should give them a platform.

Marie Basile McDaniel ’01
New Haven, Conn.