The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.
The summer after I graduated high school, my perspective about a former friend — someone who was about to attend Princeton with me — changed. I learned that they had violated the trust and privacy of a close friend, causing me to reevaluate prior instances with them where I believed physical boundaries had been crossed. When I would see them in passing, they would stare at me, and I felt intimidated. I no longer wanted to associate with this person and began feeling intensely anxious when I was in close physical proximity to them.
It was the University’s No Communication Order that helped me deal with this situation. The No Communication Order is an indispensable tool that keeps students safe, comfortable, and engaged on campus so that they can devote time to the things that truly matter — academics, extracurriculars, and forming new connections. The University’s recent attempts to change the process are misguided.
Thankfully, I did not have to interact with this person much as a first-year, since our friend groups did not overlap. But after returning to campus in 2021, the two of us were part of the same student group and had to be in the same space as them with frequency. Moreover, in the process of making new friends on campus, I quickly realized that many of my new friends knew this person. I found myself increasingly anxious and having to be extremely vigilant to avoid this person. These experiences even contributed to a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis that I received that academic year.
I neither wanted to withdraw from my new community, nor interact with this person. Help came in the form of a Sexual Harassment Assault/Advising Resources and Education (SHARE) peer, who eventually connected me with a trained clinician. With their help and advocacy for my comfort, I was able to work with my Director of Student Life (DSL) and to receive a No Communication Order, and eventually a No Contact Order, which remained in effect for the remainder of my academic year.
My situation was not an overt instance of sexual misconduct, but it did involve a violation of privacy and deep discomfort when it came to future interactions. Had it not been for the amazing clinicians of the SHARE office, who helped me to navigate potential resources to address my discomfort with this individual, I do not believe that I would have been able to enjoy and thrive in my junior year to the extent that I did.
Unfortunately, the administration has taken steps this year to make the process of getting No Communication Orders and No Contact Orders more difficult. Students now have to informally contact the person they’re seeking the No Communication Order against before the University will review the matter. The only exception is if the situation is related to sexual misconduct. This change was made around the same time as an incident involving a No Communication Order between Danielle Shapiro ’25 and Harshini Abbaraju ’22, which Shapiro later documented in the Wall Street Journal.
It is important to remember the intent behind a No Communication Order (NCO) or No Contact Order. (A No Communication Order stops students from communicating directly, whereas a No Contact Order additionally stops students from being in the same place.) According to Princeton’s most recent policy update on No Communication Orders and No Contact Orders, “These Orders help to ensure an environment in which individuals can focus on and pursue their education and/or work.” How does forcing students to “informally” engage with those who have made them uncomfortable serve this goal?
University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss explained to the Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW) that students should only have to write to the other party “where there hasn’t been any significant conflict.” But who is to judge that? Isn’t the desire of a student to request an NCO in the first place a clear sign of conflict, or at least serious tension?
No one ever gets an NCO just for the sake of getting an NCO — they get an NCO because they want to feel safe and to be able to go about their day-to-day life in a way that is not constantly marked by anxiety and fear.
This policy update also creates more stigma for the individual requesting a NCO by forcing them to communicate. The process of requesting an NCO, which can take weeks to be implemented, is already stigmatizing — especially as other individuals become aware of the NCO when they communicate with both parties. It doesn’t need to be made worse.
Princeton should not engage in policy change so flippantly. The previous NCO policies allowed me to thrive. Through the help of the SHARE office, I even became inspired to become a SHARE peer in my senior year, allowing me to actively work towards reducing instances of interpersonal violence in the Princeton community. Making changes to the NCO process is not compassionate towards the students who rely on an NCO to feel comfortable on campus.
Editor’s note: In the process of publishing this piece, the ‘Prince’ took several steps to corroborate the author’s account, including reviewing emails and documents relevant to seeking a No Communication Order. The 'Prince' did not verify any alleged misconduct.
AJ Lonski is a senior from Franklin Lakes, NJ majoring in Neuroscience. He can be reached at email@example.com.