Content Warning: This article contains mention of homophobic and misogynistic language.
It seems that at least once a semester, Princeton’s campus is plagued by the same conservative Christian group that has links to the Key of David Christian Center. Following last Thursday’s “demonstration,” the Pride Alliance, Princeton’s only queer advocacy student group on campus, held a reflection space. Several students (many of whom were first-years) expressed the fear, loneliness, and grief they experienced after witnessing this hate group spout homophobic and misogynistic language, including slurs and insults.
In response to the news that several students, specifically queer and femme students, were referred to as “homos,” “whores,” and “sinners,” University Spokesperson Ben Chang explained to the ‘Prince’ that the University’s response included ensuring that Public Safety officers and “free speech facilitators” were present at the demonstration, in addition to contacting those who may have been targeted during the “demonstration” to provide them with information regarding resources. Chang also explained that in the future, the Department of Public Safety at Princeton would coordinate with the Princeton town police “in order to minimize the risk to those who have to traverse the area where the demonstration took place.”
The University decided how to proceed seemingly without input from the targeted community, and Chang never explicitly explained the “number of immediate steps” the University would be taking to support trans*, queer, and femme students during this time. This response demonstrates how the University administration remains within its bubble, releasing what amounts to useless information about its actions that have little meaningful impact.
We at the Pride Alliance are also frustrated by the University's emphasis on “free expression” in responding to this demonstration, as highlighted by their explanation that “free expression facilitators” were present. This emphasis runs parallel to President Eisgruber’s notion of free speech, which he has used as an excuse not to take meaningful action in past instances of racist and bigoted speech by community members. We have learned from Eisgruber’s justifications that this “freedom of speech” which the University often champions simply functions as a disguise for the protection of hate speech.
After being reminded that there are those who believe in our lack of humanity, it is heartbreaking that our University — which should be a safe space for students — supports this invalidation of our identity, by donning this cloak of "free speech."
So what response do we want to see from the University instead? The Pride Alliance believes in an anti-carceral approach to dealing with the ramifications of the “demonstration” from the conservative Christian group in the future: we do not want PSAFE or Princeton town police on campus. Policing has no place in supporting queer students, disabled students, and students of color, particularly Black students.
A more meaningful response — one that would demonstrate that “hatred expressed to any member of our community is an affront to our entire community,” as Chang stated — would be to provide queer and minority students with more resources.
Thus, the Pride Alliance demands that the University immediately prioritize the mental health and well-being of its queer and trans* students, women and femme students, and Black and Indigenous students of color. This includes but is not limited to:
- Hiring more therapists for queer and trans* students, women and femme students, and Black and Indigenous students of color. Having Jess Joseph — a counselor who works primarily with the Carl A. Fields Center and the Gender and Sexuality Research Center — do the amazing work they do alone, work that requires an entire staff, is exploitative,
- Hiring a licensed therapist specifically for the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, and
- Hiring a licensed therapist specifically for the Carl A. Fields Center.
The Pride Alliance demands that the University provide more funding to the understaffed and under-resourced centers and programs that already support marginalized students on campus. This includes but is not limited to:
- Directing more funding to, and hiring more staff for, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, including staff explicitly dedicated to supporting trans* and non-binary students at Princeton,
- Directing more funding to and hiring more staff for all centers supporting minority students, including the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the Carl A. Fields Center, and the Office of Religious Life,
- Expanding the Gender & Sexuality Studies program to a concentration, which includes hiring more faculty, and
- Expanding the Dialogue and Difference in Action orientation program.
The Pride Alliance demands that the University enact policies to make the University more inclusive of its trans*, non-binary, and genderqueer students. This includes but is not limited to:
- Creating gender-inclusive restrooms on every floor of every University building and
- Expanding the Student Health Plan (SHP) to cover medical bills for trans* and non-binary students who may be undergoing gender affirmation surgery.
The Pride Alliance demands that the University create an emergency fund specifically for trans* and queer students or directly contribute to the Bisexual, Trans, Gay, and Lesbian Alumni Association (BTGALA) Emergency Fund. With the unethical amount of money Princeton possesses and the unethical means by which it acquired that money, there is no reason for queer alumni to be the primary group of people donating to an emergency fund that specifically supports queer students.
The Pride Alliance would like to extend a cordial invitation to meet with University President Christopher Eisgruber at the earliest opportunity to discuss the swift implementation of our demands.
This article was written by Associate Opinion Editor Kristal Grant with the help of Max Jakobsen ’24 on behalf of the Pride Alliance, a student group centered around advocacy and community-building for LGBTQIA+ people at Princeton. Kristal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed by the Pride Alliance do not necessarily reflect the views of the entire LGBTQIA+ community at Princeton.