Eisgruber selects book on free speech and universities for Pre-read

Feb. 7, 2018 3:25 p.m.

President Christopher L. Eisgruber has selected "Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech" by Princeton politics professor Keith Whittington as the book for this year's Pre-read.

Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech book

President Christopher L. Eisgruber has selected “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” by Princeton politics professor Keith Whittington as the book for this year’s Pre-read.

The Pre-read is a Princeton tradition that introduces first-year students to the intellectual life of the University by offering opportunities to engage with a book that students, faculty and staff read.

"'Speak Freely' is an insightful book about an important topic," Eisgruber said. "Keith Whittington's clear, accessible argument explains why free speech is essential to university life. The book also illuminates campus controversies that have grabbed headlines around the world. Because issues about free speech matter to everyone at Princeton, I am inviting all faculty, staff and students to read 'Speak Freely' along with the incoming freshmen."

"Speak Freely" will be published by Princeton University Press in April. The Press is an independent publisher with close formal and informal connections to the University.

This summer, each member of the incoming Class of 2022 will receive a copy of the book — in time to discuss it with classmates in the fall. The book also will be distributed to all current Princeton undergraduates, graduate students and faculty, and will be available to staff by request.

Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, is an authority on American constitutional theory and law. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1997. He is the author of "American Political Thought"; "Constitutional Construction: Divided Powers and Constitutional Meaning"; "Constitutional Interpretation: Textual Meaning, Original Intent, and Judicial Review"; and "Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy: The Presidency, the Supreme Court, and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History."

"I hope the book can foster conversations about, and a better appreciation of, the purposes of a university and the role of free speech within it," Whittington said. "I have had the great good fortune of being part of a particularly vibrant intellectual community at Princeton, and I hope the book can help clarify and sustain the principles that have helped make this University a great institution."

"Vigorous argument and constructive disagreement are vital to the mission of this University, and I expect this book will inspire precisely that sort of lively conversation," commented Eisgruber.

Keith Whittington

Keith Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, is an authority on American constitutional theory and law.

During Orientation, first-year students will have the opportunity to talk about the book’s ideas with Whittington and student leaders. Throughout the coming academic year, Eisgruber will meet with students in the University’s residential colleges and across campus to examine Whittington's arguments. 

The Princeton Pre-read started in 2013 and has continued with a new selection each year: 

2013 — “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” by Kwame Anthony Appiah

2014 — “Meaning in Life and Why It Matters” by Susan Wolf

2015 — “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” by Claude Steele

2016 — “Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality” by Danielle Allen

2017 — "What Is Populism?" by Jan-Werner Müller