“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.