Princeton Students Pass Referendum on Academic Freedom · 12 May 2006
As the academic year winds to a close, we have exciting news to report from Princeton University where the entire student body voted on April 27 to pass a version of the Student Bill of Rights-the first time the Bill has faced a campus-wide referendum.
Although the vote was close (with 51.8% of students voting for the measure) the result showed that even many students not affiliated with the College Republicans voted in favor of academic freedom, proving the Bill's ability to inspire bi-partisan support.
The success of the Student Bill of Rights can be attributed to the vigilant efforts of the Princeton College Republicans and their president, Alexander Maugeri and treasurer, Wyatt Yankus. The College Republicans papered the campus with fliers in support of the Student Bill of Rights and collected signatures to get the measure on the ballot in the campus center and dining halls.
The campaign waged by the Princeton College Republicans in support of the bill was explicitly non-partisan. Despite their best efforts to keep partisan politics on the sidelines, the College Democrats and others on campus waged a somewhat hysterical campaign to prevent the Bill's passage.
The president of the College Democrats sent an email to her approximately 1000 members stating that "the College Democrats do not support the College Republicans' 'Student Bill of Rights' and we are urging our membership to vote 'no.'" Members of a group called "Free Exchange at Princeton"-affiliated with the national coalition Free Exchange on Campus which was designed explicitly to hinder the academic freedom movement and has repeatedly spread false accusations about our efforts-also launched an opposition campaign to defeat the Bill.
The Princeton campus newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, reported on the College Republicans' efforts to counter these partisan attacks:
Set back by accusations of partisanship, officers implored students to read the text of the bill, which makes no specific reference to a particular political ideology. "The challenge we posed was, 'Can you find anything in this document to which you disagree?' " College Republican membership chair Nicholas Cox '08 said. "A lot of the arguments came down to the fact that [the referendum was from] the College Republicans."
"We succeeded because by distributing copies of the Bill of Rights to every dorm room on campus, we were able to bypass all of the misinformation and slander, allowing students to see the bill for what it truly is," Princeton College Republicans Treasurer Wyatt Yankus explained. "I take pride in the fact that the Princeton student body took a stand in defense of academic freedom and intellectual diversity."
In a post on his personal blog, Students for Academic Freedom Chairman David Horowitz called the Princeton vote "a historic victory for academic freedom" and noted that it "a student bill of rights on academic freedom is an idea whose time has come."
Alex Lenahan, President of the Undergraduate Student Government at Princeton, has said that he will sign the Student Bill of Rights, at which point it will be recognized as the official statement of the student body at Princeton.
The entire text of the Princeton legislation may be read here and we encourage our chapters on other campuses to adopt this resolution and introduce it or other versions of the Student Bill of Rights on their own campuses.
Passing the Torch
As the end of the school year approaches, it is crucial for those SAF leaders who are graduating this spring to name their replacements for the upcoming school year. Please send me an email at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or give me a call at our new toll-free number, 888-527-3321, to let me know who the new SAF president or contact person on your campus will be next semester. If you are planning to start an SAF chapter next fall, now is the perfect time to gather the information and materials you will need to hit the ground running next September. Just get in touch with me and I will gladly get you everything you need to get started.
Yours in Freedom,
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom