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The Targeting of Princeton Prof. Joshua Katz Continues

The Targeting of Princeton Prof. Joshua Katz Continues

The campus activists can’t get Katz fired. So they are trying to make his life so miserable he leaves. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, he has a lot of support.

Princeton University Professor of Classics Joshua Katz was one of our panelists at our “Saving Higher Ed From Cancel Culture” event in August:

Joshua Katz, Cotsen Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Classics, Princeton University. Prof. Katz authored a column at Quillette, A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor, that received enormous attention, sparking an effort to get him fired (not successful) and denounced by the President of Princeton (successful). You can read his after-action report, I Survived Cancellation at Princeton.

Katz gave a stirring presentation, which provided, in part:

In recent years, and especially recent months, people inside the Academy have, with frightening rapidity, persuaded a considerable segment of the populace that words are violence and need to be policed. Even more frightening is that these ideas have been coupled with violent actions and calls for defunding the actual, non-metaphorical police. My fellow denizens in the ivory tower are waging a war, and it is no longer advisable for me to retreat fully into the stacks of Princeton’s wonderful library. I only wish that I had spoken out sooner. Consider the newy dominant word “anti-racism”. It sounds attractive but isn’t. In fact, it is a Trojan horse for race-based discrimination of its own kind….

I’ve had enough. And I penned a lone letter of dissent. I believed then, and I believe now that what I wrote was measured, quite unlike the letter to which I was responding….

Nonetheless, the backlash was fierce. The president of Princeton issued a personal denunciation. A good number of my colleagues wrote and said scurrilous things about me…. And even some good has come from the presumptive “cancellation” ….

Free speech is a bedrock principle. If we cannot agree on this, then we are lost as a nation…. That’s an institutional comment, but then there’s, what’s more, most important for the mental health of anyone who walks through a firestorm. You need friends and supporters, people who will criticize, but not destroy you when you make a mistake. People who have your back, when they believe you’re right, though others seek to destroy you.

It is depressing just how many friends I’ve lost, but obviously they weren’t actually friends. Also depressing is just how many communications I received from people, including prominent colleagues at Princeton who say that they wish they could support me publicly, but, alas, are afraid of what will happen to them if they do. Still, some people, friends old and new, have stepped up to the plate, and I will be forever, especially grateful to them….

The pressure to apologize in an effort to appease one’s tormentors can be tremendous, but do not give into the pressure. If you feel you did no wrong, do not apologize. The majority of Americans loathe cancel culture; it is time to stop being afraid to express over and over again, and in as many public ways as possible, our collective disgust at the shocking illiberalism that has taken over the minds of a highly vocal, often extraordinarily privileged, minority of our citizens.

So Katz survived cancel culture, right? Right? Right?

Well, in one sense, yes. He wasn’t fired.

But it’s never really over when a professor has stood against campus political culture. Cancel culture isn’t just about the initial surge, it’s also about what happens afterwards, and retaliation that comes in many different forms.

We saw that at the University of Central Florida, where the administration knew they couldn’t fire Prof. Charles Negy over his tweets, so they solicited complaints about his classroom and other conduct, then launched an 8-month intensive investigation to find a reason to fire him. UCF claimed to find reasons, some dating back many years and at least one involving conduct UCF already cleared. UCF fired Negy, and the courts eventually will determine whether the investigation was pretext for punishing speech.

Not exactly the same thing happened with Katz. It doesn’t not appear, from anything I’ve seen so far, that the Princeton administration continues to target him. Nope, that effort is coming from the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian, which has been pursuing extraneous old claims against Katz, particularly one that already was addressed many years ago by the university administration. None of this would have happened had Katz not spoken out.

After a several month investigation into Katz, on February 2, 2021, the Daily Princetonian reported that in the “mid-2000s” Katz had a consenual romantic relationship with a student. That incident was completely known to the Princeton administration, who at the time put Katz on leave without pay for a year. Katz issued this statement in response to the Daily Princetonian “scoop”:

Statement by Princeton Professor Joshua Katz

Following is a statement that Professor Joshua Katz has made available today to Princetonians for Free Speech (PFS). For background, please see these two PFS editorials and a retired faculty member’s letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian — which it has neither published nor acknowledged.

When I was a young professor, I had a relationship with a student that violated the University’s rules. It was a consensual relationship. It did not involve – nor has anyone ever suggested that it involved – any coercion, harassment, or quid pro quo. Nonetheless, it was wrong, and I am ashamed of my past conduct.

Long after the relationship ended, it was brought to the attention of the University. When the university initiated its investigation, I immediately provided a complete, truthful, and genuinely remorseful account of what had happened. I have fully and willingly complied with all of the requirements imposed by the University as the result of my conduct, including a yearlong unpaid suspension and continued counseling. I have learned from my mistakes.

I have never come anywhere close to crossing this type of line with another student. I have, however, been a friend over the years to many students, male and female alike. In one instance, it was brought to my attention years after the fact that a student had felt uncomfortable having such a close personal friendship with a faculty member. After investigating the matter, the University determined that I had not violated any of its policies, but counseled me on the appropriate boundaries of faculty-student friendships.

I have been properly held accountable by the University for my conduct. I regret this conduct, and I am deeply grateful for the University’s continuing faith in me as a teacher, scholar, and adviser.

While I realize that some may still have questions, this statement is as full an account as I can give of these events while respecting the privacy of all concerned.

The Princeton administration backed up Katz that this was a closed incident:

University spokesperson Ben Chang wrote to the ‘Prince’ that Katz’s statement “accurately reflects the relevant facts as we understand them.” He declined to share any further details beyond what was reflected in Katz’s statement out of “respect for the privacy of all the involved parties.”

“The University appreciates Professor Katz’s statement,” Chang wrote, reiterating that as said in Katz’s statement, the University “investigated, adjudicated, and took appropriate action with respect to the matters brought to our attention years after the pertinent events.”

“Based on the information available to the University, and his subsequent compliance with University requirements, we believe that Professor Katz is able to fulfill his responsibilities as a member of the faculty,” Chang wrote.

Since that original scoop, the Daily Princetonian has run numerous stories and opinions suggesting that Katz needs to be fired, further investigated, stripped of some responsibilities, and so on. It’s meant to raise the pressure on him. We have seen this movie before.

Clearly, Katz is being targeted because of his political opinions, the rest is pretext. There are a lot of students, and faculty, who want him gone, so they are going to try to drive him out.

A group called Princetonians for Free Speech has come to Joshua’s defense in a series of posts on its website:

More McCarthyism at the Daily Princetonian

Update, Feb 17: A New Attack on Free Speech Is Insipid as Well as Vicious

The Daily Princetonian launched another lengthy McCarthyist attack on a Princeton professor on February 11, exactly one week after its original attack article on him, by publishing prominently an insipid, as well as cruel, personal attack framed as an opinion piece by Princeton senior Braden Flax, under a grossly misleading headline. Meanwhile, the newspaper has not even acknowledged a February 7 letter to the editor from a former long-term Princeton senior lecturer that criticized the February 4 article as “attempted character assassination.”

Click here for link to full editorial

Update, Feb 13: Letter to the editor which Daily Princetonian has ignored

Professor Elizabeth Bogan, a much-admired senior lecturer who retired last year after teaching economics from 1992 to 2020, submitted the following letter to the editor to the Daily Princetonian on February 7. She told PFS on February 13 that it had not been published or even acknowledged. Meanwhile, the paper has continued to attack Professor Katz.

Click here for link to full letter

The campus activists can’t get Katz fired. So they are trying to make his life so miserable he leaves. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, he has a lot of support.

You can let him know of your support at his Princeton email address.


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Professor Jacobson,

You are the Rush Limbaugh of conservative faculty activistism in our universities.

You should be very proud. (Rush did cite to this blog couple of times on his program.)

Thanks for posting his email. I sent him a note of encouragement.

LukeHandCool | March 1, 2021 at 3:05 am

When I first read of his plight, I emailed him a few words of encouragement. I told him about Professor Jacobson’s treatment at Cornell and suggested he get in touch with Professor Jacobson.

I was pleasantly surprised later when I saw he was going to be on the panel of one of LI’s virtual events. (I had to work that night.)

It’s deeply disturbing the anti-free speech crowd is still coming after him. I hope he can stay strong and not give in to the mob.

Where are the old-fashioned, liberal Democrats yelling “Enough of this madness!!”

Do they still exist?

    Dathurtz in reply to LukeHandCool. | March 1, 2021 at 7:16 am

    I don’t think they ever existed in meaningful numbers. That was just a pretext so we could pretend they were honest as they poured this same poison into the minds of our young people.

JusticeDelivered | March 1, 2021 at 9:00 am

I live children, the only irrational thing I do in my life. Civilizing them is a long painful process. Terrible twos, obnoxious threes, mouthy fours, etc. They test their limits and parents patience throughout the whole process.

When they finish high school they are still a long way from being adults. They have to make lots more mistakes, and suffer consequences in order to become responsible adults. They are still rather hollow shells, but they do not yet understand that.

There is often a profound arrogance, judgmental, a complete failure to see and understand nuance, shades of gray, for them everything is white or black, and they think they know it all.

For some strange reason I still like them, at least some of the time.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to JusticeDelivered. | March 1, 2021 at 9:05 am

    I love

    broomhandle in reply to JusticeDelivered. | March 1, 2021 at 9:46 am

    You are so right. That is why it is so destructive when universities fetishise every aspect of youth instead of setting clear boundaries that help students transition further into being adults.

    artichoke in reply to JusticeDelivered. | March 1, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    The trend in education is now the other way: we are supposed to learn from the students. We are all learners, a “learning community”, bla bla bla.

    And many university faculty and administration embrace it. And in part, it’s their true selves being allowed expression; they now have permission to behave like 4 year olds.

I support Prof. Katz completely. It must be tough to be a conservative voice at such a liberal enclave. It could be a lot worse. Try being a conservative in a suburban Massachusetts public high school. I did. It was brutal right up until I was forced to retire.

The kids are not “alright.” They’re being indoctrinated and we’re paying for it. Not a good plan for the nation.

Woke universities are teaching us a lesson for sure.

Their lack of self awareness of WHICH lesson they are teaching is staggering.

The process is the punishment.

I just sent an email of support. What’s up with the student who is continuing this?

Please indulge, or forgive, me for the probably abusive length of this response. I only hope it possesses the merit to justify your time/patience and LI’s space/cost to post it and keep it here.

. . . “My fellow denizens in the ivory tower are waging a war, and it is no longer advisable for me to retreat fully into the stacks of Princeton’s wonderful library. I only wish that I had spoken out sooner.” . . .

My heart dropped at the same instant my brain exploded, in a sense, after reading the last sentence. Evidently, the honest, dignified decency and heroism, found in the memorable words and great deeds of, say, the WW II German Lutheran pastors and theologians, Dietrich Bonhöffer,,
and Martin Niemöller,,
were somehow inexplicably lost on Professor Katz — up until he penned his admirable Declaration. Be that as it may, the painful, high rebuke he suffered in response to his remarkably praiseworthy, faculty comment is akin to “. . . then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me,” copied below.

Naturally, as was Reverend Niemöller’s, and ultimately even worse, Reverend Bonhöffer’s fate, this rebuke, too, is tragic, along with his current plight to resist a contemplated cancel-fate.

It is Reverend Niemöller’s renowned and revered, post-war, poetic confession, “First They Came . . . ,” that’s of particular and relevant note herein. The verses are supplied here in full:

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

“Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

“Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

“Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

“Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”

(My response takes a different approach to the cancel hysteria raging in our workplaces nationwide than others posted here. My intent might appear to imply blame toward the victim in this iteration of cancel the professor, Joshua Katz. Neither that nor anything like that is intended here. My central idea tries to and I think does point up only the apparent lack of a single element of Promethean mentality — ie, not employing the Titan’s gift to humankind, so the ancient Greek myth relates, of forethought, foreseeability, mindfulness, or practical wisdom — in a(n ancient Greek) word, φρόνησις, phrónēsis.*
* “In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre called for a phronetic social science. He points out that for every prediction made by a social scientific theory there are usually counter-examples. Hence the unpredictability of human beings and human life requires a focus on practical experiences.”

(I only my hope my words here are taken as useful, valid, and worthy, and, while being probably no more than an infinitesimal part, if at all, of what the Great Books commit to the Great Conversation, and certainly nothing at all demeaning; and that, in the end, my expressed thoughts contribute a fair share of reason and considered responsibility to the proper recognition and repair needed to help us all out of this dark and frightful, cultural morass.)

I wish Professor Katz well, and I respect his if-no-objectively-based violation-of-policy/then-no-apology conviction. If only his “fellow denizens in the ivory tower” were so likewise composed. Alas, as he now knows well, they have not been and still are not, but at present are far worse than he ever imagined — with the cultural winds of vile treachery at their backs. Such is our common Zeitgeist.

I find it worthy to ask, How long have college and university administrators and trustees put up with — if not worse, wishfully blessed, or even possibly worst, gleefully developed an intellectual or actual hard-on or both in response to — the student/professoriate alliance to shut up and shut down invited/accepted, authorized and contracted conservative or other non-Leftist speakers as these special oratory guests expressed their obviously controversial thoughts, concepts, and views on current events and issues; how long, then — 10, 15, 20 years?

Above all else, to be sure, these special, speaking guests exercised the unalienable, gifted property of free speech, bestowed on them and everyone American by The Founder of Liberty and Justice Himself and countless freedom-loving warriors throughout the ages, as memorialized in our founding documents by our nation’s Founders.

So what sort of relevant mentality other than a naïve, wishful, and amoral, if not immoral one, clearly educated to the max, but no matter, could not, or would not foresee that, for both the host institution and the society at large, if not also the more global civilization’s practices and institution on the whole, this routinely practiced, anti-free-speech activity would neither bode nor end well for the schools — but especially for the students, deprived as they were of the chance to be truly educated and edified as thinking persons of dignity in the best spirit and effect of the traditional liberal arts.

An inflection point for this monstrous, cancerous, corrosive and lethal vapor, so hostile to the First Amendment and its cultural and sociopolitical, free-speech outgrowths, can be traced to the term starting in January, 1987, at Stanford University. Leading the students in their campus march toward the Administration, “the Reverend” (referencing the jesting, mocking sound made by Rush Limbaugh) Jesse Jackson chanted loudly and repeatedly, leading the Stanford undergrads to lyricize in form, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Culture’s got to go!”, at 11 and passim.

The 1987 Stanford Academic Revolt was Critical Theory’s — ie, the Neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, incorporating an exploitative and thus perverse reading and application of the psychoanalytic practices of Freud — opening Angriff or assault on Western Civilization’s core value: free inquiry, in all its bourgeois, nationalistic decadence — so, at least, the Frankfurt School’s fundamental premise set forth, in good communist tenor and tone. It is never about individual responsibility for one’s action, guided largely by a moral compass.

So, those Stanford students there, and many more students and professors from around the nation, were — aroused? agitated? provoked? does anyone object to the accurate and fitting use of incited nonviolently? — to find the long-mandated prerequisite, wholly instructive and essential survey-course in Western Civ — a roadmap to civil understanding and reason-based discourse on how to amend ordered liberty by institutionally protected, empirical means — effete and useless, irrelevant, but mostly hostile to their neo-Marxist-Nazi SA-fashioned, newly adopted, higher form of consciousness about the world-system. In any case, free thought and its speech had to go.

Who would have thought? the never-Prometheans now ask; who would have thought the 21st-century anti-free thought, academic tyranny colleges and universities have shown controversial conservative or other non-Leftist guest speakers would have boomeranged against some of the teachers themselves?

Prometheus taught humankind, ancient Greek myth relates, that, as this teaching relates to the present question of foreseeability or mindfulness, anyone and everyone bestowed the gift of reason can and should consider the described boomerang effect on larger and larger, impacted communities, quite possible, if not likely.

So, I ask, was today’s cancelling phenomenon unimaginable, unforeseeable, impossible to predict? Were those scholars in the humanities, who knew better from their studies than most other scholars did from theirs, because of the humanities’ core topics and, thus, essential relevance, arguably more responsible for its viability in the end if responsibility and accountability still exist?

Did Professor Katz miss learning and teaching something of inestimable worth to a liberty-and-justice obsessed people — if only awkwardly, to say the least, in the way they manage it, individually and in the aggregate — in his most renowned scholarship? I’d like to know what he thinks about that, if it matters to him at all.

karl_lembke | March 1, 2021 at 6:44 pm

So Katz is being dogged.

“Free speech” = anti free speech
“Antiracist” = racists
“Antifascist” = fascist
“Antixenophobes” = xenophobes

Bottom line

The left are composed of hypocrites that project their own failings and bad practices on conservatives.

It will persist as long as we let them define the language and act like ignorant infants. We must free America from the Bizarro world that the left is creating.

Time to Make America Great Again!