- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A petition demanding that Princeton University remains committed to free speech is gaining steam in the wake of nationwide protests by college students seeking protection from offensive language on campuses.

The petition, titled “Protect Plurality, Historical Perspective, and Academic Speech at Princeton,” has garnered more than 1,500 signatures by many in the Princeton community. It was created in response to demands outlined by the Black Justice League, which included a dorm for students to celebrate black affinity; mandatory diversity training; and a requirement that students take a course on so-called marginalized peoples, MarketWatch reported. They also want the renaming of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the removal of a mural of President Woodrow Wilson.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber agreed to set aside four rooms on campus for the use of students of different cultures, and to consult with faculty and the board of trustees on other demands, MarketWatch reported.

“We, the undersigned members of the Princeton University community, appreciate the concerns but oppose the demands of the Black Justice League,” the free-speech petition states. “We call for increased dialogue and the creation of a process that properly considers the input of all students and faculty, not merely those who are the loudest.

“[F]ree speech is fundamental to Princeton’s role as an institution of higher learning and excessive political correctness stifles academic discourse,” it continues. “[A]ny steps to purge this campus of its Wilsonian legacy creates a dangerous precedent and slippery slope that will be cited by future students who seek to purge the past of those who fail to live up to modern standards of morality.”

The petition demands that Princeton “maintains its commitment to free speech and open dialogue and condemns political correctness to the extent that it infringes upon those fundamental academic values.”

As the number of signatures on the petition climbed, students formed the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, asking Mr. Eisgruber to discuss preserving free speech on campus, MarketWatch reported.

“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,” the group said in its letter to Mr. Eisgruber, which has been shared more than 300 times on Facebook. “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.”

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