Joshua Katz, a tenured classics professor at Princeton whose criticism of left-wing activism at the university provoked outrage and protests on campus, has officially been fired. Zachary Evans reports:
Princeton University’s Board of Trustees fired classics professor Joshua Katz, the university said in a Monday statement, claiming that the longtime faculty member “failed to be straightforward” during a 2018 investigation into a relationship between Katz and an undergraduate student.
Katz told National Review that he learned that he’d been fired only after the New York Times called his wife, and said the university sent his notice of termination to the wrong email address. The Washington Free Beacon first reported that Princeton was planning to fire Katz.
Katz was briefly suspended from the university in 2018 over the consensual relationship with a student, which occurred about 15 years ago.
But for anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty obvious that the real reason for Katz’s termination was political. In particular, as Evans notes, allies of the professor “have claimed that the firing was motivated by the professor’s criticism of Princeton’s ‘anti-racism’ initiatives. In a 2020 essay for Quillette, Katz criticized a faculty letter stating that ‘Anti-Blackness is foundational to America,’ and referred to a student group called the Black Justice League as ‘a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the many (including the many black students) who did not agree with its members’ demands.’”
As a result of the activist-led backlash to those comments, the Princeton administration has been gunning for Katz’s head for some time. Katz’s controversy-inducing comments about the Black Justice League being “a small local terrorist organization” were added to Princeton’s mandatory freshman-orientation course on the university’s legacy of racism, posted on the school’s official website. The section added denunciations of Katz from his colleagues and the university president himself, noting that “President Eisgruber condemned the words used by Katz” and that “the Classics Department made a strong statement against his views as well, arguing that they were ‘fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.’” But most scandalous of all, the portrayal of the comment itself was dishonestly edited to make it sound more provocative. As I reported earlier today:
The line that was initially included on the webpage conspicuously omitted the parenthetical clause “(including the many black students),” without any ellipsis to indicate that part of the sentence had been excluded, thus framing Katz’s comments in more racially charged terms.
In October, eight Princeton professors filed an internal complaint demanding “an investigation into who doctored Professor Katz’s quote and who edited and posted the page without identifying and correcting that error.” The Princeton website has quietly revised the passage, adding the “(including the many black students)” clause back to the quote. But no investigation appears to have occurred, and the school has not issued a public correction or an apology, nor has it contacted the freshmen who went through the orientation to notify them of the omission. It has subsequently refused calls to take the quote down, with Eisgruber saying earlier this year that he would “resist any suggestion” to edit the website.
And not only did Princeton not give Katz the courtesy of notifying him before publicly announcing his termination; administrators didn’t even allow him to resign. As I wrote today, Katz “was in talks about a tentative deal that would have allowed him to resign — but negotiations broke down after the university administration insisted it retain the right to publicly say the president had recommended his dismissal, the professor’s lawyer confirmed to National Review. . . . Katz offered to resign weeks ago — but the administration was not willing to go forward without the ability to note his impending termination.”
Shameful, cowardly stuff. But what else can we expect from the leadership of our elite universities these days?