The Disgraceful Firing of Joshua T. Katz
Joshua Katz knew it was dangerous to go public with his objections to a Princeton faculty letter, but he did so because his conscience demanded it. In the mid-2000s, Joshua Katz, a tenured Princeton professor and distinguished classicist, engaged in a consensual affair with a 21-year-old student in violation of university policy. As Aaron Sibarium reported in an article for the Washington Free Beacon, the Title IX investigation dismissed the charges of sexual harassment it had been asked to evaluate. So, what happened between 2019, when Katz completed his suspension, and late 2021 to justify the reinvestigation of a professor over a matter for which he had already been punished? The university claims that administrators were made aware of new allegations following a lengthy exposé published in February 2021 by the campus newspaper, the Daily Princetonian. This version of events seems perfectly straightforward, but it omits a number of developments that cast a rather different light on the story. On July 4th, 2020, while America was in the throes of the “racial reckoning” precipitated by the murder of George Floyd, a long and jargony open letter addressed to the university president and senior administrators was published, signed by over 350 Princeton faculty, staff, and students. There followed a list of 48 itemized demands, many of which constituted a heavily illiberal warrant for ideological indoctrination and social engineering. Joshua Katz responded to this letter with an article in this magazine on July 8th, titled “A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor.
However, many of the letter’s other demands left Katz aghast, and he warned that, “if implemented, [they] would lead to civil war on campus and erode even further public confidence in how elite institutions of higher education operate. So egregious was the manifesto’s assault on its signatories’ own academic liberty that Katz devoted some space to trying to understand why on earth they had signed it. Five years earlier, on November 18th, 2015, the BJL had led a march of nearly 200 Princeton students to Nassau Hall and occupied President Eisgruber’s office. It is plainly to this kind of coercive intimidation that Katz was referring when he described the BJL as “a local terrorist organization” and not to the race of its members. Four days after Katz’s Quillette article appeared, Eisgruber gave the following statement to the Daily Princetonian: “While free speech permits students and faculty to make arguments that are bold, provocative, or even offensive, we all have an obligation to exercise that right responsibly. On April 6th, 2015, Eisgruber oversaw the adoption by Princeton faculty of “the major portion of a freedom of expression statement that a University of Chicago faculty committee issued in January. These noble sentiments notwithstanding, Eisgruber evidently decided his condemnation of Katz had been insufficient. On July 13th, 2020, five days after Katz’s Quillette article appeared, four administrators in Princeton’s Classics department posted a public message denouncing Katz and his article, which they described as “fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.
But for all the sound and fury from students and faculty, and an announcement from administrators that the university would be conducting an investigation into Katz’s article, Princeton must have known that it could not possibly discipline, still less fire, a tenured professor on the basis of the views he expressed in his Quillette essay. Most important of all, Katz did not know that “since early July 2020, only days, if not hours” after the publication of his Quilllette essay, the Daily Princetonian had begun its investigation into the circumstances surrounding his 2018–19 leave of absence. The Dean of Faculty investigation into the affair announced shortly afterwards resulted in precisely that outcome. As of this writing, the report on which the recommendation for dismissal rested has not been made public, so it is difficult to evaluate the fresh evidence the university says it marshaled against Katz and that it used to justify his removal. Whatever the truth of a messy affair that appears to have reached a messy conclusion, it is outrageous that Katz was subject to reinvestigation over an affair for which he had already been punished and served his time. Princeton has denied that Katz was dismissed for expressing his opposition to the faculty letter in Quillette, and the evidence that they did so is circumstantial. It was not enough to expel Katz from Princeton, his head had to be displayed on a pike pour encourager les autres—tenured professors will now think twice before venturing to criticize DEI policies or the race-baiting demands of militant student activists. One of the most powerful corrupting forces in human affairs is the desire for a quiet life.
Read full article at Quillette