Princeton president: We’d OK pro-bin Laden rally on campus
If students at Princeton University wanted to have an event on campus in support of Osama bin Laden, university president Christopher Eisgruber would be okay with it, he said.
In comments to the news website The Indian Express, Eisgruber said he expects such an event would be offensive, but “we would permit that (event) and there would be no disciplinary action of any kind against those students."
The context takes a peek into Indian-American relations to understand.
US Ambassador Richard Verma recently caused controversy in India after hailing free speech as a "hallmark of democracy both in India and the US" after anti-national slogans were promoted at a Jawaharlal Nehru University campus meeting in Delhi Feb. 9, the anniversary of the day Kashmiri separatist Afzal Guru was hanged for his role in a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.
Indian politician Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu angrily responded to those statements, questioning whether a U.S. university would allow celebrations of bin Laden, according to multiple reports. The Indian Express posed the question to Eisgruber.
Eisgruber recently dealt with students who occupied his office protesting what they said was the racist legacy of President Woodrow Wilson — looking to have a mural in Wilson's honor removed and to have the school rename buildings and programs named for him.
Wilson, the 26th president of the United States, had been a president of Princeton starting in 1902. Some historians consider him among the nation’s most racist presidents for his sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan, refusal to hire blacks in his administration and segregationist views. Cabinet heads in his administration re-segregated facilities in their buildings. He told a delegation of black professionals who came to the White House to protest its policies “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”
Eisgruber told the students he agreed with them that Wilson's legacy included racism, and that the university needs to acknowledge that.
But the president also told students it is important to weigh Wilson's racism against the contributions he made to the nation. Princeton is home to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
“We at Princeton believe that it is a fundamental advantage for a university to be able to tolerate even offensive kinds of speech and to respond to bad arguments when they are made with more speech rather than with disciplinary actions,” Eisgruber told The Indian Express.
The Associated Press contributed to this report