We applaud the magazine for running David Walter’s excellent article on the essentiality of conservatism to campus academic, social, aesthetic, and cultural life. As two conservatives from Iowa and Kentucky, we came to Princeton for graduate school to explore civilizational questions alongside the brightest minds in the country. Instead, our experience on campus demonstrated a waning commitment to free inquiry and a climate that was often genuinely hostile.
Take, for instance, a forum on diversity in the School of Public and International Affairs in which several students openly stated that Princeton should not have any Republican students (“Why would we want them here?”). Others suggested that Republicans could reasonably be assumed to be closet rapists given the party’s support for then-Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. The professors in charge of this forum, perhaps characteristically of the current campus environment, offered no resistance against such charges. In another instance, following a formal at Whig Hall, some students threw food at paintings of Princeton elders, chanting “take the white men down” and laughing. Classroom discussions regularly ostracized and belittled conservatives, boiling every question down to surface-level platitudes about race, gender, and climate. Unsurprisingly, campus life was often isolating and lonely, and we regularly questioned the utility of such an experience to our intellectual and professional development.
Of course, we also met students committed to free inquiry (often members of the armed forces) and a small core of able administrators, and engaged with world-class institutions like the James Madison Program. But our experience led us to worry that freedom of thought is under threat. We give kudos to Walter for showing what would be lost. And our hope is that alumni will not be so sanguine about the rise of a rigid ideology at Princeton — nor the personal hatreds that often accompany it.