My University in the News

"Shouldn't Princeton students have the same rights as their counterparts down the road at Mercer County Community College?"

Princeton is a private institution, and has a greater ability than state institutions to set its own codes of conduct for its students.  That being said, as one who wants Princeton to remain a strong institution, I don't understand what the university's interest is in limiting free speech.  Particularly booing at a play.  The only exception I might make to this are efforts to make sure that invited speakers or scheduled performances can actually be heard and aren't drowned out by protesters, but I don't get the sense that this is what is going on here.

This "unwanted verbal conduct" standard that a number of universities have adopted is absurd, and is only harming students by releasing them into the real world believing that the government will protect them from encountering any criticism.  In this sense, Princeton and other universities are creating students in the modern Islamic mold, teaching them they should somehow be immune to criticism and that they should react with rabid outrage at the first person who says anything negative about them.  The only difference is that these students are being taught to respond with lawyers rather than explosive backpacks, but the outcome in terms of stifled free speech is the same.


  1. Brock:

    Could it be that Princeton is teaching a valuable lesson that, sadly, too many people haven't learned by that age? There are (rightly) repercussions for ignoring societal standards of civility and decorum. I can't believe that anyone (administration, faculty, staff, alumni) would want to see a dramatic presentation at Princeton resemble the plebeian entertainment of The Globe. Nor would they wish Princeton to be compared in any way, shape, or form to Mercer Community College.

    From a strictly property-rights standpoint, if the dramatic troupe (or presenter, lecturer, etc.) has contracted with Princeton for the stage, and attendees have contracted with Princeton for the seats, then all have a duty to perform as specified. In this case the terms of compliance are clearly spelled out by Princeton. If Princeton did not enforce the contract terms against booing attendees, they would be violating the contracts they hold with all the other attendees (especially during something as ephemeral as a play).

    It also occurs to me that the attendees are in the unique position of being able to cancel their contract with Princeton at any time and without recourse. They just have to extricate themselves from the auditorium without disturbing the other attendees. Once off Princeton property, they can be as uncivil and plebeian as they wish subject, of course, to the repercussions provided by the real world.

  2. Highway:

    This is another case where everyone thinks they have some stupid 'rights', when what they have is privileges. Sounds like what everyone wants is some right to be an ass. People are really continuing to bug me, with the thinking that they should have some opportunity to express whatever boorish opinion they have, at any time, and any place.