Despite the best efforts of students and faculty, the sordid saga of Professor Verdú may end not with a bang, or even with a whimper — but with inaction. Resolutions have been passed and petitions submitted calling for the University to respond to Verdú’s sexual misconduct. My colleague Ryan Born has gone so far as to call for his termination. Despite it all, the University has shown no intention of acceding to these numerous and full-throated requests. Perhaps that’s because it believes, as my colleague Liam O’Connor does, that Verdú’s punishment shouldn’t be retroactively altered “based on ever-changing popular will and political winds.” Whatever the reason, Verdú is here to stay.

But University inaction does not have to translate into student inaction. We will soon be faced with a rare opportunity to rebuke Verdú, and in doing so, send a strong message to the administration that we will not tolerate sexual harassment of any shape or form.

Next semester, Verdú will be teaching an electrical engineering course called Information Theory (ELE 528). To my fellow students, I issue a simple call to action: Boycott the course. 

Some of you might have been planning on taking the course to fulfill a requirement, or simply because the subject material interests you. Given its stellar reviews — last year it had a score of 4.75, and the year before 4.86 — this is understandable. “Fantastic course!” one student raved. “Gives you a very solid foundation of all the tools needed to navigate the topic in the future.”

But there is much more at stake here than simply organizing one’s ideal course load. To begin, in boycotting Verdú’s course we find a way around O’Connor’s argument. Assuming the University’s penalty cannot and should not be altered, students remain free to issue a fitting penalty of our own. 

Boycotting Verdú’s course is a far more effective means of resistance than simply signing a petition or passing a USG resolution. Historically, neither has had much impact on university decisions. A petition for on-campus student parking failed to achieve anything, as did a recent USG resolution urging the University to “elevate its disciplinary actions” against Verdú.

But a full boycott of Verdú’s course puts the University in a much more difficult situation. It leaves Princeton to deal with a renowned, pioneering professor teaching a highly-reviewed course in which no students are enrolled. Of course, the class will have to be cancelled, but what next? What to do with a teacher who does not and cannot teach, by virtue of students’ disapproval? The University may not choose to remove Verdú from his job. But that doesn’t mean we can’t remove the job from Verdú. 

This boycott would set a strong precedent. Constituents express their opinions at the ballot box when they vote their representative out of office. And students can express theirs during course selection when they push their professor out of the classroom. There is nothing the University can do to stop this from happening in the future, should other professors be found guilty of similar offenses. 

Course selection begins this week for juniors, next week for sophomores and freshmen. This time around, worry less about avoiding the most boring or most time-consuming classes, and more about rebuffing professors who use their status to demean others. Verdú’s conduct was an egregious abuse of his power. It’s time we used ours.  

Lou Chen is a music major from San Bernardino, Calif. He can be reached at lychen@princeton.edu.

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