“Anthropology 212: Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography,” a course on freedom of expression at Princeton University has been “reluctantly” cancelled, Professor Lawrence Rosen informed his students in an email obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD. Rosen’s email, sent at 2:07 p.m. on February 12, went on to say “I think it only fair that you be free, before too much of the semester has passed, to move ahead in another course of your choosing.”
Last week Prof. Rosen received national attention for using the N-word in this class on freedom of expression. Some students walked out and protested the term’s use. One report, cited in Princeton’s main campus newspaper, says that Rosen asked, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?” And when Rosen was met with disagreement of his use of the N-word, and on his continued use of the term in the academic setting, he said, he would use it, “if I think it’s necessary.”
Why was the course cancelled? Rosen’s email to students didn’t give specifics, other than that his decision had been “reluctant.” Calls and emails to Rosen went unreturned. Michael Hotchkiss of Princeton’s Office of Communications told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that the course’s cancelling “was Professor Rosen’s decision, and there was no pressure from the University.”
One student in the class tells TWS that he believes the course’s cancelling may have had something to do with an interaction that happened “about halfway through the first seminar.” A male student of color stood up, inches from professor Rosen’s face and shouted “FUCK YOU,” this witness claimed. Just before that, a female student of color had shouted at Rosen, as the first was approaching, “do you feel safe right now.” “There was no physical contact,” this witness claims, though at the time the student feared there might be. During that class, “nobody except Rosen defended Rosen,” the student told me. Another student in the class confirmed this account to TWS.
The course’s objectives, as Carolyn Rouse, chair of Princeton’s Department of Anthropology explained in defense of Rosen, was to have students, “be able to argue why hate speech should or should not be protected using an argument other than ‘because it made me feel bad.’” Now that Anthropology 212 has been cancelled, Princeton students have learned a powerful lesson about free speech, though perhaps not the one Rosen intended.