Princeton paper dissolves conservative-leaning Editorial Board

The majority-conservative Editorial Board of Princeton University's official student newspaper has been dismissed and reorganized after publishing a string of conservative-leaning articles.

Editor-in-Chief Sarah Sakha announced in a September 12 open letter that she—in conjunction with the Managing Board, the Board of Trustees, and the staff of The Daily Princetonian—had dismissed the paper’s Editorial Board in order to "revise its process for publishing unsigned editorials."

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The decision, however, comes after the Board published a number of conservative-leaning pieces, as reported by The College Fix, including one criticizing the university's Women*s Center.

Other conservative-leaning op-eds included a defense of free speech, a case against private prison divestment, a call for freshman orientation to include a presentation on engaging with differing viewpoints, and a proposal for several due-process reforms to the university's handling of cases of alleged sexual assault.

"Historically, until about 12 years ago, these unsigned editorials generally were written by the most senior members of the 'Prince,'" Sakha explains, but "in recent years, they have been written by an Editorial Board consisting of students with no other ties to the 'Prince.'"

Despite Sakha's assertion, repeated in an email to the Fix, that the decision was intended to return the structure of the Editorial Board to a "more traditional model, for a college newspaper," the dismissed members believe it was actually politically motivated.

In fact, Jack Whelan, a former Princetonian Editorial Board member and founding member of a new, independent publication called the Princeton Editorial Board (PEB), told the Fix that the old board was "destroyed" because "the opinions we published on a regular basis were more conservative than the opinions published on a daily basis in the Princetonian as a whole."

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Notably, Sakha herself wrote an op-ed in October 2016 speaking out against the Editorial Board's criticism of the Princeton Women*s Center, and has contributed to the left-wing campus publication The Princeton Progressive.

In its first article as an independent publication, the PEB—formed by 13 of the 17 members of the dissolved Editorial Board—explains in detail what it views as evidence of institutional political bias at the Princetonian against the old Editorial Board, both before and during the time of its dissolution.

The article points to an October 2016 incident, when the Editorial Board had initially attempted to publish its article on the Women*s Center under the previous editor-in-chief, as the beginning of a pattern of conflict between the Editorial Board and the editor-in-chief.

Later that year, during Sakha's December campaign for the position of editor-in-chief, her platform included support for maintaining the Editorial Board, suggesting only a minor change of adding disclaimers to Editorial Board articles to indicate that they are "not the official opinion" of the Princetonian.

Additionally, the PEB challenges the "highly irregular process by which the Managing Board undertook the reorganization," in particular its "unprecedented" choice to overhaul a section of the paper in the middle of the year.

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In light of this, "as well as the past political disagreements between the Editorial and Managing Boards," the PEB concludes that "this was a decision to censor perspectives" that "did not align with the personal political convictions of the Editor-in-Chief and other senior editors."

The piece also alleges that members of the Editorial Board were only notified of their dismissal "one hour before the public announcement."

Campus Reform reached out to Sakha and the Princetonian newsroom for further comment, but did not receive a response.