Princeton Indoctrination Begins Before Classes Even Start
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Like alumni of universities across the country, many Princeton graduates have become deeply concerned about the attacks on free speech and academic freedom at our alma mater. It is not just the public attacks that are of concern. Multiple national and college-specific polls have shown that faculty and students are afraid to say what they think. Princeton is no different. One student told us he was afraid to speak up not just because he would be attacked, but because others with whom he was working on a project might also be attacked for associating with him.

It was certain that instances of indoctrinating, intimidating, and shaming students would pick up once in-person classes began again this semester. Little did we know that the indoctrination at Princeton would start during first-year orientation, before the start of classes, or that the orientation would conflict directly with the university’s own free speech rules.

As two Princeton professors stated in an op-ed: During orientation, the entering class received “a mandatory injection not of a vaccine against COVID, but of indoctrination,” including “an utterly one-sided and negative picture of Princeton’s history.” This indoctrination was in materials prepared by Princeton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the actions of which are ultimately the responsibility of Christopher Eisgruber, the university’s president.

Much of the orientation was devoted to an extensive “Gallery” of photos, drawings, and texts presenting the history of racism at Princeton, plus a video of professors discussing the gallery. The gallery gives multiple examples of speech and actions that it deems racist. Some of them – mostly from long ago – clearly were racist, from founders who owned slaves to the racist policies of Woodrow Wilson both as president of Princeton and later as president of the United States to the use of blackface by students in a 1949 theatrical production. The gallery also stressed isolated, allegedly racist actions by individual students as recently as last year.

It should go without saying that students should learn about the history of racism at Princeton. But should the first presentation by the university to new students, fresh out of high school, be a lengthy portrayal of today’s Princeton largely as an institution marinated in racism? There was very little context about the history of our country over the same period or about the many positive things Princeton has done to address racism on its campus and beyond.