In response, board members go rogue, launch their own publication
Leaders of the student newspaper at Princeton University have disbanded the publication’s independent editorial board, a move that comes after the group put forth a string of right-leaning opinions, including denouncing the women’s center for its radical feminist agenda and arguing in favor of due process.
“The top editors of the Prince have no involvement in what we write,” said Jack Whelan, a member of the dissolved editorial board, in an interview with The College Fix. “The reason why were we were destroyed is the opinions we published on a regular basis were more conservative than the opinions published on a daily basis in the Princetonian as a whole.”
While most campus newspapers’ editorial boards consist of top editors, the Princetonian had a unique set-up in which its editorial board was made of students representing a wide and diverse swath of campus life, as well as students who leaned left, right and center.
Earlier this month, however, that independent board was dissolved by the Princetonian’s top editors, who reverted to the more common model of having senior editors pen unsigned editorials.
The decision upset members of the disbanded board, who have gone rogue, launching their own website to continue to publish opinions and combat what they call the Princetonian’s “anti-pluralism.”
In their debut editorial Sept. 14, they also called current leaders of the Princetonian out for bias, noting the “catalyst for the change in the Editorial Board’s structure was a series of editorials that did not align with the personal political convictions of the Editor-in-Chief and other senior editors.”
Bravo to the Daily Princetonian Independent Editorial Board! Standing up to campus illiberalism and anti-pluralism! https://t.co/GNOWnV9PiO
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) September 15, 2017
The first conservative-leaning editorial that caused controversy came last fall, when the board criticized the women’s center for programming that solely advanced a radical feminist ideology.
Sarah Sakha, the current editor in chief of the Princetonian who led the decision to disband the board, had written an op-ed at the time denouncing the board’s criticism.
“The Board fails to acknowledge and recognize the valid intersectionality of racism and sexism. In fact, by branding such programming as singularly liberal, the Board perpetuates the harmful politicization of basic questions of human dignity and identity, which lie at the core of these issues,” Sakha wrote last fall.
Sakha, who also contributed to the Princeton Progressive, the Ivy League institution’s left-leaning political publication, became editor in chief of the mainstream Princetonian in February of this year.
Since then, the independent editorial board continued to publish right-of-center opinions.
In March, an editorial agreed upon by a majority of the board defended free speech and critiqued “collective punishment” in the wake of a scandal in which the men’s swimming and diving team was suspended for “several materials” deemed “vulgar and offensive, as well as misogynistic and racist in nature,” the piece stated.
“The Board rejects a brave new world in which a student offended by an overheard or electronic conversation can make a report that results in a Title IX administrator suspending an entire sports team,” it added. “We believe that Princeton students, as adults, have the ability to resolve differences that do not arise to the level of a crime between themselves. Language policing by administrative referees undermines the sanctity of private relationships that all students cherish.”
There had been a dissent published with this majority opinion, a practice used if there was strong disagreement. The women’s center piece, however, had been unanimous, Whelan told The Fix.
In April, the board took a stance against prison divestment. In May, it called for orientation to include a presentation on engaging with opposing viewpoints, noting “students are likely to encounter ideas and speech with which they disagree during their four years here.” That same month, the board put out an editorial titled “Ensuring due process in sexual misconduct cases.”
“While the University continues to bolster its efforts to reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct on campus, it is essential that Princeton concurrently ensures its adjudication process is as fair and impartial as possible, to the benefit of accusers and the accused alike,” the editorial stated.
Sakha, in an email to The College Fix, defended the decision to disband the group, noting it was made by the Managing Board, which she heads, after consulting with other members of the Princetonian and its Board of Trustees.
“We decided to revise the structure of our Editorial Board, in a return to a more traditional model of an editorial board, for a college newspaper,” Sakha said. “We welcome a diversity of opinion, which is why we have invited all current members of the board to apply to the new board. Alternatively, they can become bylined columnists, without having to apply. We expect their voices will not be lost, but rather amplified, on our Opinion pages by having a byline.”
“I firmly believe this was the best decision for the future of the newspaper, the community, and our readers, by including both the voices of our editors and staff and those of the campus community,” she added.
Reached for comment, top trustees of the Princetonian referred media requests back to Sakha.