From Princeton, Something To Be Thankful For: The Princeton Open Campus Coalition


If the  plague of students ordering administrators to protect them from the stress of contrary views and unwelcome thoughts on campuses is not to reduce the U.S. academic environment to an apartheid, indoctrinating disgrace, it is obviously going to have to be the rational side of the student populations that staves off disaster. Fortunately, the Princeton Ethics Heroes Allie Burton, Evan Draim, Josh Freeman, Sofia Gallo,  Solveig Gold, Andy Loo, Sebastian Marotta,  Devon Naftzger, Beni Snow, Josh Zuckerman and their colleagues at Princeton Open Campus Coalition are equal to the task.

The students covered their institution in glory by delivering this civil and well-reasoned rebuke to the outrageous demands of the Black Justice League, which occupied Princeton administration building earlier this week. Here is their letter:

Dear President Eisgruber,

We write on behalf of the Princeton Open Campus Coalition to request a meeting with you so that we may present our perspectives on the events of recent weeks. We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse.

Thanks to recent polls, surveys, and petitions, we have reason to believe that our concerns are shared by a majority of our fellow Princeton undergraduates. Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. We simply wish to present our own reasoned arguments and engage you and other senior administrators in dialogue. We will not occupy your office, and, though we respectfully request a minimum of an hour of your time, we will only stay for as long as you wish. We will conduct ourselves in the civil manner that is our hope to maintain and reinforce as the norm at Princeton.

This dialogue is necessary because many students have shared with us that they are afraid to state publicly their opinions on recent events for fear of being vilified, slandered, and subjected to hatred, either by fellow students or faculty. Many who questioned the protest were labeled racist, and black students who expressed disagreement with the protesters were called “white sympathizers” and were told they were “not black.”

We, the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, refuse to let our peers be intimidated or bullied into silence on these — or any — important matters. First, we wish to discuss with you the methods employed by protesters. Across the ideological spectrum on campus, many people found the invasion of your office and refusal to leave to be troubling. Admittedly, civil disobedience (and even law-breaking) can sometimes be justified. However, they cannot be justified when channels of advocacy, through fair procedures of decision-making, are fully open, as they are at our university.

To adopt these tactics while such procedures for debate and reform are in place is to come dangerously close to the line dividing demonstration from intimidation. It is also a way of seeking an unfair advantage over people with different viewpoints who refuse to resort to such tactics for fear of damaging this institution that they love. Second, we welcome a fair debate about the specific demands that have been made. We oppose efforts to purge (and literally paint over) recognitions of President Woodrow Wilson’s achievements, including Wilson College, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and his mural in Wilcox Dining Hall. As you have noted, Wilson, like all other historical figures, has a mixed legacy. It is not for his contemptible racism, but for his contributions as president of both Princeton and the United States that we honor Wilson. Moreover, if we cease honoring flawed individuals, there will be no names adorning our buildings, no statues decorating our courtyards, and no biographies capable of inspiring future generations.

We worry that the proposed distribution requirement will contribute to the politicization of the university and facilitate groupthink. However, we, too, are concerned about diversity in the classroom and offer our own solution to this problem. While we do not wish to impose additional distribution requirements on students for fear of stifling academic exploration, we believe that all students should be encouraged to take courses taught by professors who will challenge their preconceived mindsets.

To this end, the university should make every effort to attract outstanding faculty representing a wider range of viewpoints — even controversial viewpoints — across all departments. Princeton needs more Peter Singers, more Cornel Wests, and more Robert Georges. Similarly, we believe that requiring cultural competency training for faculty threatens to impose orthodoxies on issues about which people of good faith often disagree. As Professor Sergiu Klainerman has observed, it reeks of the reeducation programs to which people in his native Romania were subjected under Communist rule.

We firmly believe that there should be no space at a university in which any member of the community, student or faculty, is “safe” from having his or her most cherished and even identity-forming values challenged. It is the very mission of the university to seek truth by subjecting all beliefs to critical, rational scrutiny. While students with a shared interest in studying certain cultures are certainly welcome to live together, we reject university-sponsored separatism in housing. We are all members of the Princeton community. We denounce the notion that our basic interactions with each other should be defined by demographic traits.

We hope that you will agree to meet with us. We will be happy to make ourselves available to meet in your office at your earliest convenience. We are also requesting a meeting with the Board of Trustees. For reasons you have articulated in your recent message to the community, there is no time to waste in having these discussions. Unlike their counterparts at other universities, Princeton undergraduates opposed to the curtailment of academic freedom refuse to remain silent out of fear of being slandered. We will not stop fighting for what we believe in. Thank you very much for your consideration. We look forward to your reply.


The Legislative Committee of Princeton Open Campus Coalition

Allie Burton ’17, Evan Draim ’16, Josh Freeman ’18, Sofia Gallo ’17, Solveig Gold ’17, Andy Loo ’16, Sebastian Marotta ’16, Devon Naftzger ’16, Beni Snow ’19, Josh Zuckerman ’16


22 thoughts on “From Princeton, Something To Be Thankful For: The Princeton Open Campus Coalition

  1. Racist! Homophopics! Sexist!

    Imagine actually sponsoring the idea of open dialogue without intimidation and labeling. Geez…suspend the lot of them!

  2. Hooray! A break in the imperfect storm. Here’s hoping President Eisgruber is a calm, rational, intelligent, steadfast person who will respond to reason rather than coercion … and that the POCC quickly gains adherents exponentially among both students and faculty across the country. And that Open Campus Coalitions start up on every infected campus like the flowers that bloom in Chernobyl.

      • I don’t, my experience with college activism is that the vast majority of activists are failed or failing students. You rarely see people who are succeeding on their merits bitch about how they’re victims. And lets be honest, most people actually go to school to learn.

        Would it be racist to suggest that the reason these groups have recently tended to punch above their weight class in black representation might be a factor of affirmative action? Being that affirmative action per se pushes people into programs and courses they might not be qualified for on their merits?

      • I HAVE to believe that what HT says is true. The alternative is despair. I’ve found pockets of the type of anti-groupthink displayed in this letter in the most unexpected places on campus, and that gives me a lot of hope. Thinking people don’t like to be corralled.

        • This article, in The Atlantic of all places, covered this topic really well over three years ago.

          The under-qualified kids are being used by administrators to get their diversity merit badge. I think these minority kids who can’t keep up academically at major colleges and universities (never mind at the super elite schools) are being as ill-used as the bereft kids who are deployed in the cotton fields, er, on the football and basketball squads in the SEC and the ACC, among others.

          Frankly, I wonder if the Cornel Wests and Louis Gates-es of the academic world aren’t angry for the same reasons. Maybe they feel they’re only at Princeton or Harvard because they deepen the hue of the faculty and they and their purported peers know it and act accordingly every day.

          • And the pressure to keep up in classes where they’ve been academically mismatched would only potentiate that anger. Pretty cruel, when you think about it. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

  3. I applaud these students and their courage. They’re about to feel the full lashing of bureaucracy soon enough, as well as violent threats, public shamings, and public harassment. I have the hunch the University will not support them, may deny them, and possibly punish them.

    They are brave enough to put their names to their letter and attach themselves to principle. Unlike their adversaries, they have bright, if tough, futures; if they get kicked out of school, they have no need of degrees as their actions speak louder than anything.


      • One of my favorite quotes, and clearly applicable in this case. Another one that applies is the one about the scarcity of patriots. I’d do it, though. Either Princeton sees the self-evident logic in this, or a degree from them isn’t worth the paper its printed on.

      • I believe so too. Let’s hope these students (they’re not children, unlike their adversaries) start something off here. Principles are hard to defend, especially in the face of danger and weak authority.

        It only takes a few of us to stand up and defend, though. The rest will crumble under their own delusions, one way or another.

  4. Dang! Here I was, getting all excited at the prospect that current trends in the Minitrue/Miniskule camps (formerly campuses, or campi) would continue – making it ever more clearer to my grandchildren, in the nick of time, that they need not think about even breathing once in one of the camps, if there ever is anything they need to learn.

  5. Kudos to those Princeton students, who had intelligence and rationality to write the piece, and the courage to actually sign it. Still pathetic that a liberal arts education — which used to include the “free exchange of ideas” — has reached the point where student who want to be students and simply say so become heroes. But then our supposed democratic republic used to be based on the same precept — and that is quickly becoming obsolete. Group-think, the big lie, it’s all here and Americans are letting it happen.

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