Princeton University, No-Contact Orders

November 2023
Princeton University (Private college or university)
Princeton, NJ

Identity of Speakers

  • Alexandra Orbuch

  • Danielle Shapiro

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    Student publication
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Right wing
  • Incident Responses:
    Student sanctioned
  • Incident Status:
    No litigation
  • Was Speech Code incident


On November 9th, student journalist Alexandra Orbuch of The Princeton Tory, the school’s conservative student publication, attempted to cover a campus protest held by Students for Justice in Palestine. While recording footage of the protest, a graduate student allegedly attempted to block Orbuch’s camera and continued to follow her around. Orbuch reported this incident to a public safety officer, who reportedly blamed her for “inciting something” and refused to intervene. The graduate student allegedly continued to obstruct Orbuch, eventually stepping on her feet and pushing her.

Subsequent to the protest, and despite no evidence of Orbuch having done anything more than ordinary newsgathering, the graduate student was able to obtain a no-contact order (NCO) against Orbuch. And despite Princeton’s policy of requiring students to first communicate with the other party in writing before obtaining an NCO, the University reportedly allowed the order to stay in place even after they learned that the student had never attempted to communicate with Orbuch. Princeton’s NCO policy also appears to sweep broadly. An assistant dean later told Orbuch that she was to “refrain from writing or to be interviewed for articles that mention the name of the student with whom you have an NCO.” Otherwise, her statements “may be interpreted by the other student as an indirect or direct attempt to communicate,” violating the terms of the no-contact order.

This is not the first time that Princeton has allowed the use of no-contact orders to chill student journalists. In February 2022, Danielle Shapiro, another student journalist, attempted to cover the Princeton Committee on Palestine’s protest of the Center of Jewish Life’s Israel Summer Programs Fair. To confirm facts and quotations prior to publication of her article, Shapiro had communicated with a student leader with the PCP. Despite that being the only time Shapiro had talked with that student, Princeton approved the PCP leader’s NCO request. Shapiro later wrote about this incident in The Wall Street Journal, describing how the NCO, issued without any investigation by Princeton, effectively prevented her from performing the necessary due diligence required to report on PCP’s events and protests. In response to Shapiro’s piece, Princeton somewhat modified its NCO policy and began ostensibly requiring students to notify the other party before requesting a no-contact order.

In response to criticism of Princeton’s handling of the November 9th incident, the University again revised its NCO policy in March 2024, attempting to narrow the circumstances under which such orders can be issued. It remains to be seen if these changes will adequately protect legitimate student journalism. Given Princeton’s track record, a healthy amount of skepticism might be justified.