Update: Francisco Nava '09 has since admitted that he fabricated the threat messages described in this article. Please see the updated story.
In the news section of today's Daily Princetonian, a grotesque tale of personal intimidation is told, detailing activity not acceptable anywhere, let alone at an elite American university. The lives of five members of the University community who hold and defend traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality, including Rhodes Scholar Sherif Girgis '08 and politics professor Robert George, were threatened Wednesday afternoon.
It is tempting to believe that this is only an isolated incident. It is not. These tactics are part of a pattern designed to silence members of our community who speak out against the hookup culture and sexual liberationist ideology.
Francisco Nava '09 returned to Princeton after the summer break feeling a new sense of intellectual liberation. He had resolved to a kind of political coming-out, deciding that he would, as he told me, "no longer mask my views on contemporary moral issues."
And so he joined the Anscombe Society as an active member. He spoke up in class and precept in order to defend the beliefs that do not just belong to him — they define him and his faith. It was then that he was first faced with personal intimidation here at Princeton University. Anonymously scrawled on a piece of paper and laid hauntingly in his mailbox, Nava found the aggressive message: "YOU HAVE FOUND THE WRONG CAUSE."
Though rendered a little "afraid and paranoid" by the malice behind such a threat, Francisco tried to let it slip from his mind. Mustering the courage to continue to speak out, he published a well-argued opinion piece in these pages entitled "Princeton's Latex Lies." Heralded by some and denounced by others, the article prompted campus-wide discussion of pertinent issues of health and morality.
Two days passed. Returning from Sunday morning church services, Nava discovered a new note written with the same ominous green and black ink as the first. It read, chillingly: "ONE MORE ARTICLE AND YOU WON'T LIVE TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY."
He wrote to me: "For several days I lived in fear of saying, writing or even thinking anything controversial in class or informally among my friends." Nava's foray into intellectual openness came to an abrupt, horrible stop. And only a week later, a third threat with the same message was placed in his mailbox.
On the afternoon of the second threat, Public Safety dutifully arrived on the scene and collected the letter as evidence. Presumably a report was filed and, as Nava, an alternate RCA, informed me, all reports involving students are forwarded to the administration. Herein lies the most disturbing detail: The administration of Princeton University knows that a member of its student body has had his life threatened. And nothing happened.
After nearly a month of waiting, he received a two-line email from Public Safety. But from Butler College, from Nassau Hall, from West College, there was nothing.
It is instructive here to compare the treatment of Nava, the morally conservative Mormon student, with the administration's swift and forceful reaction to another incident on Princeton's campus.
Returning from Fall Break, some homosexual students found obscenities — apparently phalluses and other images — sketched on the blackboards outside their rooms. Within a few hours, Whitman College had RCAs, counselors and two deans to the scene. The LGBT Center sent out a notice about the event and encouraged students to mount pink triangles in their windows and doors to show solidarity.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 11, Nava sat alone in his room. There were no counselors. There were no deans. There was no University-sponsored center to raise awareness, offer support and encourage solidarity. There was just Francisco.
It is time to state an obvious but often-ignored fact: There is an intolerable double standard here — one that the University must erase if it is to be true to its own core values. A sincere commitment to equality and diversity — not to mention safety — would demand the same efforts to protect students holding morally conservative views as are made to protect those who more neatly fit the progressive mold. It is time to expose as a fraud the "oppression narrative" by which a cognoscenti divides the world into oppressors and victims depending on whether their views accord with or deviate from politically correct campus orthodoxies.
Indifference to the plight of students such as Nava has abetted the evolution of a community in which certain students can be demeaned and even physically threatened. By permitting a double standard to exist, the University has — inadvertently, I am sure — signaled to those who would use intimidation tactics to silence the voices of morally conservative students that their misconduct will not be investigated, much less punished or even denounced. In such an environment, one thing should have been predictable: Intimidation tactics would continue to be used and they would escalate in their egregiousness.
Now, with the explicit death threats against Nava, Girgis, George and the others we see the escalation. Whoever is responsible seems to have gotten the message that it is open season on people who defend morally traditional views on our campus. It's time for the administration to send them a new message: the season is closed. Brandon McGinley is a sophomore from Pittsburgh, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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