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The Price of Intellectual Freedom: A Personal Journey Through Vilification

In 1927, Julien Benda’s The Treason of the Intellectuals denounced those who would forsake truth in service of political aims. Nearly a century later, as a researcher and lecturer at Princeton University, I’m embroiled in a modern-day version of Benda’s tale. Indeed, I have become the target of a campaign to eradicate intellectual diversity on campus.

I was invited to share my thoughts at the Center for Jewish Life on campus, but the buildup to this event was fraught with challenges. Mere days before my lecture, the organizers alerted me to the rising pressure from certain professors to cancel the talk. Standing firm against this onslaught, the Center proceeded with the event and took protective measures.

On the day of the lecture, I was instructed to park at a specific location where two police officers awaited me. The officers led me to the Jewish Center via a back entrance due to the hostility brewing at the front, where a group of sixty students, spurred on by professors, aimed to obstruct my entry. When their efforts failed, they resorted to infiltrating the Center and causing an uproar outside the lecture hall.

This struggle has evolved into a bureaucratic battle wherein radical professors at Princeton are seeking to alter the hiring process for new research fellows. It will no longer test academic excellence, but rather political ideology. McCarthyism 2023. Their goal is clear: to eliminate the inclusion of conservative voices on campus.

This campaign began with a flurry of articles depicting me as an extremist, far-right sympathizer. But this was no personal vendetta. It was a calculated attack aiming to silence conservative thinkers on campus, a stern warning to any who dare to challenge the status quo. Following these misrepresentations, letters from colleagues arrived, advocating for my expulsion from the university based on my political views. The dissent was not from students but from the heart of the Princeton establishment.

This hostile environment replaced the pursuit of truth with the enforcement of ideological uniformity. The far-left campaign continued unabated—it even included an attempt to cancel my course in the middle of the academic year.

The ramifications of these actions are far-reaching, extending beyond the academic sphere. They threaten the principles of free speech and academic freedom, two cornerstones of pluralism safeguarded by the US Constitution’s First Amendment and the Chicago Principles that Princeton University has committed to uphold.

In the face of this turbulence, I find solace in some brave research colleagues and professors who still believe in freedom of expression, and in private discussions with students who express their concerns about whether independent thought still holds value. This unsettling state of affairs calls for introspection across the academic landscape—how have we strayed from the principles of pluralism and open dialogue?

Colleges and universities, as bastions of knowledge and intellectual freedom, must combat this growing tide of dogmatism. Administrators, faculty, and students need to rally behind the principles of open dialogue, humility, and intellectual curiosity, allowing schools to fulfill their mission of advancing human knowledge and fostering open discussion.

The suppression of divergent voices is not an isolated incident but a growing issue threatening higher education globally. This crisis necessitates a renewed dedication from the academic community to safeguard the principles that have always been the guiding light of intellectual exploration.

As we face this challenge, we should restore an environment of learning and growth, recognizing that no one individual holds all the answers. Intellectual humility, mutual respect, and understanding are pivotal in fostering a true exchange of ideas and encouraging a tolerance of differing opinions—the hallmarks of an enlightened society.

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