“Katz’s real offense was running afoul of the woke pieties that now dominate American campuses.”
We have been following the story of Professor Joshua Katz of Princeton University, who came under fire from campus activists for defying the progressive narrative and agenda in higher education.
Now the school has fired him.
Princeton even added insult to injury:
Princeton fired Joshua Katz this evening—and announced it publicly before informing him of the final decision. https://t.co/id36EKYrIa
— Aaron Sibarium (@aaronsibarium) May 23, 2022
From the New York Times:
Princeton Fires Tenured Professor in Campus Controversy
A Princeton classics professor was fired, “effective immediately,” on Monday after the university’s administration found that he had not been fully honest and cooperative with an investigation into his sexual relationship with an undergraduate student about 15 years ago.
The dismissal of the professor, Joshua Katz, was a rare case of a tenured professor being dismissed, and came after a fierce debate on campus and in wider political spheres over whether Dr. Katz was being targeted for an article in an online journal that criticized anti-racist proposals by faculty, students and staff.
The board voted to dismiss him based on a “detailed written complaint from an alumna who had a consensual relationship with Dr. Katz while she was an undergraduate under his academic supervision,” according to a statement from the university issued Monday afternoon. That relationship was in 2006-07, but the alumna did not file her complaint until 2021.
When told that Princeton had announced his firing, Dr. Katz’s wife, Solveig Gold said, “That’s news to me. We have nothing.” She added, “It’s pretty damning that we don’t have it ourselves.”
Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review offers this assessment of the situation:
A Princeton Classics Professor Gets Railroaded
Show me the man,” Stalin’s enforcer, Lavrentiy Beria, liked to say, “and I’ll show you the crime.”
Beria would have done well at Princeton.
In the New York Times, Anemona Hartocollis reports the story of Joshua Katz, a classics professor at Princeton who is set to be fired soon. Ostensibly, Katz is being fired for “his conduct with female students.” Really, he is being fired because, two years ago, he described a student group called the Black Justice League as “a small local terrorist organization” and suggested that he was “embarrassed for” any of his colleagues who had signed a letter insisting that “Anti-Blackness is foundational to America.” Katz, “who is tenured,” Hartocollis writes, “is not facing dismissal for his speech,” but “for what a university report says was his failure to be totally forthcoming about a sexual relationship with a student 15 years ago that he has already been punished for.”
This is a flagrant, insulting lie on Princeton’s part. Katz’s “failure to be totally forthcoming about a sexual relationship with a student 15 years ago” was investigated and punished in 2017. Until his words “sent up a flare,” as Hartocollis put it, the incident had passed into history. Katz’s real offense was running afoul of the woke pieties that now dominate American campuses.
Katz’s attorney Samantha Harris offered this comment to Legal Insurrection:
I don’t think there’s a person out there who doubts that if Joshua Katz had not published his “Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor” in Quillette [link], that he would still be employed by Princeton University. Princeton will bend over backwards to say this was not double jeopardy; that it wasn’t simply splitting hairs to find new grounds to punish Dr. Katz for a relationship he had already been punished for. But whether it was or wasn’t, the message to would-be dissenters is clear: the price of speaking out is having your personal life turned inside out looking for information to destroy you. How many people are willing to roll that dice?
The situation could not be more clear.
Defy the campus left, and you become a target for destruction.
Here is Katz’s presentation at a Legal Insurrection online event on August 30, 2020, Academic Death Spiral: VIDEO Highlights From “Saving Higher Ed From Cancel Culture”. It’s almost like he saw it coming (excerpt):
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.
UPDATE: Professor Katz has written a response to his firing for the Wall Street Journal:
Princeton Fed Me to the Cancel Culture Mob
Nearly two years ago, I wrote in these pages, “I survived cancellation at Princeton.” I was wrong. The university where I taught for nearly a quarter of a century and which promoted me to the tenured ranks in 2006, has revoked my tenure and dismissed me. Whoever you are and whatever your beliefs, this should terrify you.
The issues around my termination aren’t easy to summarize. What is nearly impossible to deny (though Princeton does deny it) is that I have been subjected to “cultural double jeopardy,” with the university relitigating a long-past offense—I had a consensual relationship with a 21-year-old student—for which I was already suspended for a year without pay well over a decade after my offense. This was, I emphasize, a violation of an internal university rule, not a Title IX matter or any other crime.
Why would one of the country’s leading educational institutions do this to a successful faculty member who once made a grave mistake, admitted to this mistake as soon as he was investigated for it and served his time without complaint? Unfortunately, the current environment makes the question all too easy to answer: In the summer of George Floyd, certain opinions about the state of America that would have been considered normal only a few months earlier suddenly became anathema. For better or worse, I was the first on campus to articulate some of these opinions, publicly criticizing a number of “antiracist” demands, some of them clearly racist and illegal, that hundreds of my colleagues had signed on to in an open letter to the administration in early July 2020.
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