We have written about the growing intolerance of conservative and dissenting views on our campuses. Many faculty members fear that if they challenge liberal orthodoxy in their schools, they will be rejected, investigated, or fired. For many, that fear came to fruition this month at Princeton, where the university used a previously adjudicated grievance against classics professor Professor Joshua Katz to seek his dismissal. Katz had drawn the ire of professors and students by questioning a proposed anti-racism program of benefits for minority professors. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber has called on the university’s board of trustees to fire Katz in a move denounced as a transparent effort to circumvent free speech and academic freedom protections over his position. earlier public.
Katz became persona non grata when he questioned a proposal in a “faculty letter” to offer special benefits to “colored” professors, including summer pay and an additional sabbatical.
In a keel article, Katz questioned demands for racial justice made by faculty members in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Katz responded to all 48 requests and expressly supported some of them.
Indeed, many of the ideas in the letter are ones that I support. It is reasonable to[g]5 new assistant professors summer move-in allowances on July 1” and to “make [admissions] fee waivers are transparent, easy to use and well advertised. ” “Deal[ing] greater emphasis on service in the context of annual salary reviews” and “[i]enforce[ing] a transparent annual report of hiring, promotion, tenure, and retention demographics” seems beyond reproach. And I will happily join the push for “substantial expansion” of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which encourages underrepresented minorities to enter doctoral programs and strive to join the faculty.
However, as a faculty member for 25 years, he objected to faculty of color being given special “course relief and summer pay” and an additional semester of sabbatical. He criticized “additional benefits for no reason other than…pigmentation.” The article is straightforward, and many professors probably felt insulted by the criticism. The problem is the role of the university in effectively labeling these objections as crude racism. He also objected to his comments being edited to remove counter evidence of his motivation or intent.
In the article, Katz denounced the university’s request for an official public apology to members of the student group Black Justice League:
“The Black Justice League, which was active on campus from 2014 to 2016, was a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the many (including many black students) who disagreed with the demands of its members.”
The letter framed the demands as attempts to balance out racial disparities among school employees.
“It is beyond my mind that anyone advocates giving people – already extraordinarily privileged people, let me emphasize: Princeton professors – extra perks for no other reason than their pigmentation,” Katz wrote in response to the letter.
Many have called for Katz to be fired for expressing such views. The university later featured Katz in a mandatory orientation video for freshmen that included a “Race and Free Speech” section in which he was condemned as a racist.
It seems, however, that the university is not done with Katz. According to the Wall Street Journal, the university reopened a previously adjudicated sexual misconduct complaint and later used it as the basis for seeking her dismissal.
After the controversy over Katz’s criticism of anti-racism measures, the school newspaper decided to focus on the earlier controversy and seek new charges. The university accepted.
Katz had previously been tried for a consensual intimate relationship with a student in 2006. The relationship began when the student was a junior and reportedly continued after graduation. The student refused to cooperate with the university in its investigation.
The 2018 investigation found that Katz violated the school’s policy prohibiting sexual relations between teachers as well as its nepotism policy. He was then punished with a one-year suspension without pay.
The prior judgment and sanction should have closed the matter. It is the academic equivalent of the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause which held that no one “shall . . . be liable, for the same offence, to be twice put in danger of death or physical integrity. . . . ”
However, at the request of the students, the university reopened the investigation and found two violations of school policy. He claimed that Katz (1) misled investigators and failed to cooperate with the investigation and (2) discouraged the former student from seeking psychiatric help when she threatened to self-harm.
It was enough to allow Eisgruber to ask for his dismissal while claiming that it was not about his academic opinions on anti-racism measures. The message, however, couldn’t be clearer to the dissenting voices of the faculty: if you talk. any past grievance or issue can be dug up to request your dismissal.
Edward Yingling, co-founder of Princetonians for Free Speech, reportedly said
“With the dismissal of Professor Katz, Princeton will have sent a message. If any faculty member or student says anything that contradicts our orthodoxy, we’ll get you – if not for what you said, then by twisting your language, using the university’s vast resources to shame you before the student body, and by investigating your personal life from years past.
I have no memory for Dr. Katz on the earlier dispute. Indeed, there is little information about the underlying facts of the earlier case. It suffices that he has been previously judged and punished for his conduct. We can accept this judgment and still oppose a subsequent retroactive and additional sanction.
The chilling effect on faculty will be chilling. This is a warning that even closed cases can be reopened to facilitate your termination if you defy the majority.