Princeton president suggests Congress was mean to Gay, Magill, Kornbluth; echoes their defense of calls for genocide

Eisgruber suggested that the three university leaders were not treated with 'civility and respect' during the hearing.

In a Dec. 13 letter, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber echoed the sentiments expressed by Harvard President Claudine Gay, MIT President Sally Kornbluth, and since-resigned University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill during their disastrous congressional testimonies, in which all three refused to state that “calling for the genocide of Jews” is unequivocally unacceptable on their campuses. The three university leaders asserted that the acceptability of such calls for violence would depend on context, with appeals to the value of free expression. 

Eisgruber’s statements were made in a written response to Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s (D-NJ) Dec. 11 letter asking that New Jersey colleges share their concrete plans for combatting the nationwide outpouring of campus anti-Semitism. 

Eisgruber suggested that the three university leaders were not treated with “civility and respect” during the hearing. “The issues confronting us demand serious and thoughtful discussion, and I believe that we can and should do better than the hearing that took place last week,” he wrote, asking Sherrill to promote “the same kind of civility and respect in the Congress that you rightly ask universities to promote on our campuses.”

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“Of course, like anyone who is fully committed to First Amendment principles, I must sometimes protect speech that I find repugnant, hateful, or awful,” Eisgruber wrote. “When Princeton cannot—and should not—suppress or discipline immoral speech because it is protected under our policies and the First Amendment, the University can still respond in many ways.  We can sponsor better speech, we can state our values, and we can support our students.”

”We will do all these things, and we will do them in a way that is even-handed and fair to all identities and viewpoints, but we will not stoop to censorship.”

Eisgruber made sure to call out both “anti‑Semitism and Islamophobia,” He then went on to lay out Princeton’s policy approach to “bullying and harassment,” which includes both an official complaint process and the university’s commitment to promoting a “culture that encourages mutual respect and free inquiry.”

“These efforts begin from the moment students arrive on campus.  Their initial orientation includes modules on both free speech and diversity.  The free speech session emphasizes not only the University’s broad protection for academic freedom and debate, but also the responsibility of community members to listen carefully and speak respectfully to one another.

“Last week, your colleagues—the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania—testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce,” wrote Sherrill. “They were invited to discuss their efforts to confront antisemitism on their campuses.”

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“These leaders had an excellent opportunity to make clear that our nation’s higher education institutions do not tolerate antisemitism or hatred of any kind, and to communicate their support for their students. Stunningly, they did not avail themselves of that opportunity. Instead, the presidents gave technical answers that were deeply disappointing and unsatisfactory, both from a policy perspective and from the perspectives of many of the Jewish members of their communities.”

In 2022, Eisgruber recommended the firing of tenured classics professor Joshua Katz. The move came after Katz publicly criticized a Princeton faculty letter written in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The letter issued various demands that were meant to shape the university into an “anti-racist” institution, including promoting university employees based on race and implementing committees of non-white students and faculty.

“Princeton grudgingly admitted that Katz could not be sanctioned for his dissenting statements, but wasted no time finding a pretext to dispose of him,” Paul Du Quenoy, president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute, wrote for Newsweek following Katz’ firing.  “The student newspaper spent months muckraking through Katz’s private life and confidential university business, and discovered that he had once been suspended for a consensual relationship he had with an undergraduate student, way back in 2006. Casting due process to the wind, Princeton reinvestigated the matter and cryptically determined that Katz had ‘misrepresented facts or failed to be straightforward’ the first time.”