Freedom of Expression

“We are in an era when many people mistakenly treat free speech and inclusivity as competing values. Universities must nevertheless remain steadfastly devoted to both free speech and inclusivity. We need the benefit of multiple voices and perspectives, and we need real engagement among them…. The freedom of speech allows not only for genteel conversation but also for harsh language, impassioned argument, and provocative rhetoric. Of course, it also permits all of us to criticize statements that we find offensive or irresponsible, even if that speech is fully protected from punishment or discipline.” – President Christopher L. Eisgruber, "Why Mutual Respect Makes Free Speech Better", July 2020.

Princeton supports the free and open exchange of ideas among members of our community and believes that free speech is essential to university life.

Our Statement on Freedom of Expression explains Princeton’s commitment to free speech and protections for campus community members engaging in academic inquiry, peaceful protest, ordinary conversation, and online discussion.  See also the University's Policy on the Classroom Learning Environment at section V.I in the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty.

Individuals have broad latitude to exercise their free speech, including the right to engage in Protests, Demonstrations and Peaceful Dissent.  See also University Sponsorship and/or Endorsement of Speakers and Programs.

In limited instances the University may restrict expression that violates the law, falsely defames a specific individual, or constitutes a genuine threat or harassment. Incidents of harassing verbal or physical conduct that implicate an individual’s protected identity characteristics (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) may be covered by the University’s Policy on Discrimination and/or Harassment.  To learn more, visit our FAQ.

The following materials were compiled to accompany President Eisgruber’s 2018 Pre-Read book selection, “Speak Freely,” and serve as a resource to all members of the University community illuminate the tensions that exist within the field of free speech.

Official Princeton University Statements
Commentary by Princeton Faculty
Books
Scholarly Articles
Surveys & Reports

Surveys

The Knight Foundation, Gallup, the American Council on Education, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Stanton Foundation recently surveyed 3,014 U.S. college students on attitudes toward the First Amendment.

  • Commentary: Chokshi, Niraj. “What College Students Really Think About Free Speech.” The New York Times, March 12, 2018.
    • Nearly 90 percent of surveyed students said that "free speech protections are very or extremely important to American democracy and more than 80 percent said the same of promoting an inclusive and diverse society.”
    • “When forced to choose, a majority of students said that diversity and inclusivity were more important than free speech, though opinions differed widely by demographic...That gap was widest along partisan lines, with 66 percent of Democrats saying inclusivity was more important and 69 percent of Republicans saying the same of free speech.”
  • Commentary: Knight Foundation. “8 Ways College Student Views on Free Speech are Evolving.” Medium, March 11, 2018.
    • 70 percent of students "still favor an open learning environment that allows all types of speech over one that puts limits on offensive speech.”
    • 62 percent of students "say shouting down speakers is never acceptable, although 37 percent believe it is sometimes acceptable.”
  • Full Report: Knight Foundation. “Free Expression on Campus: What College Students Think about First Amendment Issues.” March 12, 2018.

To complement the student survey above, the American Council on Education recently surveyed nearly 500 college and university presidents about their views on free speech and inclusion in higher education today:

  • Espinosa, Lorelle L., Jennifer R. Crandall, and Philip Wilkinson. “Free Speech and Campus Inclusion: A Survey of College Presidents.” Higher Education Today, April 9, 2018.
    • “An overwhelming 96 percent said it is more important for colleges to allow students to be exposed to all types of speech even if they may find it offensive or biased than to protect students by prohibiting offensive or biased speech.”
    • “Almost 80 percent of presidents said that campus inclusion and free speech work well together on their own campus; however, only 13 percent believed there was a similar connection between the two at a national level.”

Reports

Newspaper Articles & Op-Eds

Concerns about Campus Free Speech

  • Bloomberg, Michael and Charles Koch. “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus.” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2016.
    • “We believe that this new dynamic, which is doing a terrible disservice to students, threatens not only the future of higher education, but also the very fabric of a free and democratic society.”
  • Campbell, Bradley and Jason Manning. “The End of Academe: Free Speech and the Silencing of Dissent.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 21, 2018.
    • “If the activists prevail in blurring the boundary between speech and violence, it will mean the end of academe as a place of serious scholarship and debate.”
  • Friedersdorf, Conor. “The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus.” The Atlantic, March 4, 2016.
    • “To sum up: free speech on campus is threatened from a dozen directions. It is threatened by police spies, overzealous administrators, and students who are intolerant of dissent. It is threatened by activists agitating for speech codes and sanctions for professors or classmates who disagree with them. It is threatened by people who push to disinvite speakers because of their viewpoints and those who shut down events to prevent people from speaking…The evidence that free speech is threatened on college campuses is overwhelming.”
  • Kurtz, Stanley. “The Campus Free-Speech Crisis Deepens.” The National Review, September 27, 2017.
    • “Unless educators and legislators tackle the need to discipline speaker shout-downs, classroom invasions, building takeovers, and the like, campuses will continue to spin out of control.”
  • McLaughlin, Eliot. “War on Campus: The Escalating Battle Over Free Speech.” CNN, May 1, 2017.
    • “Assaults on college free speech have been waged for decades, but they used to be top-down, originating with government or school administrators. Today, experts say, students and faculty stifle speech themselves, especially if it involves conservative causes.”

Counterpoints

Videos & Interviews

Contact

Cheri Burgess

Cheri Burgess photo
  • Director for Institutional Equity and Equal Employment Opportunity
Phone: 609-258-8504
Office: Office of the Provost, 204B Nassau Hall