Princeton, Columbia Policy School Deans to Discuss ‘Constructive Campus Conversations’ in Pair of Talks

Nov 20 2023
By Tom Durso

Following up on their widely cited New York Times commentary “The Discourse Is Toxic. Universities Can Help.,” the respective deans of Princeton University’s and Columbia University’s policy schools will meet for a pair of conversations on the topic at the end of this month. The first event will be held at Princeton, and the second at Columbia.

The Princeton talk, “The Current Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Constructive Campus Conversations,” is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28, at 12:30 p.m. in Robertson Hall’s Arthur Lewis Auditorium. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber will moderate.

Only Princeton University I.D. holders will be permitted in Lewis Auditorium. For all others, the event will be livestreamed. Click here to register.

In their Times piece, published October 30, Amaney Jamal, the dean of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, and Keren Yarhi-Milo, the dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, noted their shared concerns over how the situation has been discussed at colleges and universities as well as among the general public.

“One of us comes from a Palestinian family displaced by war,” they wrote. “The other served in Israeli military intelligence before a long career in academia. Our life stories converged when we were colleagues and friends for 10 years on the faculty of Princeton University. Notwithstanding our different backgrounds, we are both alarmed by the climate on campuses and the polarizing and dehumanizing language visible throughout society.”

Jamal and Yarhi-Milo called on universities to fulfill their roles as places where hard conversations can and must happen – but only within an environment of mutually respectful dialogue and an acknowledgement of shared humanity. All of that is especially true, they noted, at public policy schools, whose graduates are charged with addressing such conflicts.

“As educators, we at times have to make our students uncomfortable by challenging their preconceptions and encouraging them to think through their positions using data, evidence and logic,” the pair wrote. “It is unrealistic to believe that individuals can put their emotions away. But if a university doesn’t encourage students to reflect on how their own emotions shape, and occasionally distort, their analysis of the world around them, where else could they possibly learn this?”

The conversations on November 28 and 30 are part of a robust series of programming presented by SPIA in response to the crisis. Panel discussions and one-on-one talks have featured experts from the School as well as leading external voices, and SPIA faculty have shared their perspectives with numerous national and global news media outlets.