An open letter to Princeton U President concerning minoritized student safety

Protestors on the steps of Clio Hall
Protestors on the steps of Clio Hall. | Photo: Ryland Graham / The Daily Princetonian

Reprinted from the Daily Princetonian

We,  the undersigned leaders, community members, and allies of cultural affinity groups of Princeton University — condemn in the strongest possible terms the University’s utter disregard for the safety and wellbeing of its students of color, the ongoing racist policing of students of color, and a total dismissal of the demands for divestment that our communities have made through peaceful demonstrations.

When Princeton’s endowment supports the state of Israel (and U.S. military action), which is committing a genocide that actively targets the families, friends, and communities of Palestinian students, it is clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities.

When two graduate students of color are arrested during a nonviolent protest and given less than 15 minutes to gather their belongings before being temporarily evicted from student housing, it is clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities.

When five undergraduate students — four of whom are pursuing degrees in African American studies and all of whom are people of color — are arrested during a peaceful sit-in, it is clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities.

When a Black Muslim student is forced to perform the Asr prayer in handcuffs right next to the Access, Diversity, and Inclusion Office with Princeton public safety officers watching — all because that student peacefully protested in Clio Hall for a meeting with the administration about the demands for divestment from Israel — it is clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities.

When the campus building named after Toni Morrison — home to the Department of African American Studies and the Effron Center for the Study of America, which houses programs in Indigenous Studies, Latino Studies, and Asian American Studies — is locked down without notice and surrounded by campus officers, it is clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities.

President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 wrote in a letter to the Princeton University community that “everyone on this campus needs to feel safe and to be safe. Faculty, students, and staff must be able to conduct University business without disruption, harassment, or threat.” In the name of “safety,” University officials have deployed carceral and policing tactics, controlling students’ freedom of movement and policing their right to access spaces that were hard-won through years of student activism.

The closure of Morrison Hall disrupted the studies of those majoring in African American Studies, as well as the students taking courses in American Studies, Latino Studies, Indigenous Studies, and Asian American Studies. These fields tend to attract students from minoritized backgrounds, and it was predominantly those students who bore the fallout of the Morrison Hall shutdown. When President Eisgruber declares that everyone at Princeton must be able to conduct their University business without disruption, it is clear that he is not speaking about all students at Princeton.

In recent years, the University has enthusiastically advertised its efforts to recruit students from more diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It is clear now that this agenda of diversity, equity, and inclusion is merely cosmetic, as the University recruits these students, while also policing them.

In an email that Vice President W. Rochelle Calhoun wrote to the campus community, she promised “to provide unwavering support for the expansive rights of academic freedom and free expression” for a community “capable of engaging civilly on the most contentious topics in ways that embody respect for everyone who studies and works here.” Where is the respect for our communities in African American, Asian American, Latino, and Indigenous Studies, whose academic freedom has been jeopardized by the University’s limitation of student movement and imposition of a type of police state on populations historically vulnerable to police brutality? Where is the respect for Muslim students, a great number of whose physical, mental, and emotional safety have been ignored by the University administration amid ongoing genocide?

Over the last seven days, student protests have been and continue to be entirely nonviolent. Demonstrators have repeatedly staged these non-violent protests in attempts to bring the University administration to the table to discuss Princeton’s divestment from Israel. The closure of Morrison Hall is a hostile move on the part of the University. It plays into the worst stereotypes of students of color, of them being dangerous and hostile. Any presumption that students of color are inherently violent is an egregious display of racism.

President Eisgruber and VP Calhoun, your actions and threatening emails have made it clear that our safety is not on your list of priorities. You do not value our bodies, our lives, or our mental well-being. Edward Said ’57 once wrote that “a lost cause is associated in the mind and in practice with a hopeless cause.” It is clear to us now that relying on you for safety and support as students of color at Princeton is a lost cause.

If there is indeed safety and support for us, President Eisgruber and VP Calhoun, you must openly demonstrate it by revoking all disciplinary charges against those engaged in the sit-in and all forms of peaceful protest staged in the last week, in a good faith effort to listen to us rather than to punish us.


Brandi Bushman, GS English, President of Native Graduate Students of Princeton

Patrick Jaojoco, GS Architecture, President of Pilipino Graduate Student Association

Humza Gondal, GS Near Eastern Studies, President of the Graduate Muslim Student Association

The ‘Prince’ independently verified the following list of signatories. Signatures were made by student leaders of the respective groups.

Caridad Estrada Cardona, GS Civil and Environmental Engineering, President of the Caribbean Graduate Student Association

Fatima Diallo, Class of 2025, Co-President of the Muslim Advocates for Social Justice (MASJID)

Givarra Azhar Abdulla, Class of 2027, Co-President of Princeton Students for Justice in Palestine

Nipuna Ginige, Class of 2026, on behalf of Sri Lankans at Princeton

Travis Chai Andrade and Ila Nako, on behalf of Natives at Princeton

Alma Hernandez Gonzalez, on behalf of the Latinx Graduate Student Association Leadership Committee

Rouguiatou Diallo, MPA*23, co-chair 2022-2023, Kat Phan, MPA*23, co-chair 2022-2023, Cydney Gardner Brown, MPA*24, current co-chair, Barghav Sivaguru, MPA*24, current co-chair SPIA Students and Alumni of Color

Jeremy Lee Wolin, co-organizer, on behalf of the Faculty-Graduate Asian American Studies Reading Group

Generational African American Student Association Members

Undergraduate Muslim Student Association Leadership Board

Undergraduate Princeton Arab Student Association

Intersecting Queer Identities / Queer Graduate Caucus Leadership Board

Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform

South Asian Progressive Alliance

The Pride Alliance

To view a full list of signatories, please see this continuously updated document managed by the organizers. To sign the letter, please see this link.

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