Fired professor: Princeton fed me to the cancel culture mob

Last week the Washington Free Beacon published a story about the case of Princeton professor Joshua Katz who was on the verge of being fired over a relationship he had with an undergraduate student 15 years ago. Katz was investigated, admitted wrong-doing and was punished for it back in 2018. He was suspended for a year without pay.

Jump forward to 2020 and in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Princeton professors were eagerly signing a letter demanding more anti-racism at the school. Katz agreed with some of the ideas in the letter, such as support for a program to encourage more minority PhD students, but thought other parts of it were absurd, including a plan to grant extra sabbatical time to “faculty of color.” But what really set people off was his criticism of a black campus organization:

“Acknowledge, credit, and incentivize anti-racist student activism. Such acknowledgment should, at a minimum, take the form of reparative action, beginning with a formal public University apology to the members of the Black Justice League and their allies.” The Black Justice League, which was active on campus from 2014 until 2016, was 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. Recently I watched an “Instagram Live” of one of its alumni leaders, who—emboldened by recent events and egged on by over 200 supporters who were baying for blood—presided over what was effectively a Struggle Session against one of his former classmates. It was one of the most evil things I have ever witnessed, and I do not say this lightly.

In the wake of some of the things we’ve learned about Black Lives Matter over the past year it’s at least somewhat acceptable to criticize that organization now. But attacking this student group in this hyperbolic way in July 2020 was something else. And the fact that this appeared not in a faculty email but was published by Quillette made it even more of an outrage. The result was a concerted effort to get rid of Katz which finally succeeded this week.

Princeton University’s board of trustees voted Monday to fire Joshua Katz, a tenured professor in the classics department, for failing to fully cooperate with a sexual-misconduct investigation that his supporters say is retaliation for his viewpoints.

Katz sparked controversy for a 2020 essay opposing faculty proposals to combat racism at the university after the murder of George Floyd. The backlash against his piece vaulted him to star status among some conservatives who viewed the reaction as an attack on free speech. Amid the attention, allegations of Katz, 52, having an improper relationship with a female student resurfaced, leading to a university investigation that has now led to his dismissal…

His attorney, Samantha Harris, declined to say whether Katz is will take legal action but said he is keeping all of his options open.

“Princeton is going to say this had nothing to do with his political speech and this was a completely new investigation,” Harris said. “But I don’t think there is a person out there who genuinely doubts that if Professor Katz had not published his article in 2020 that he would be employed by Princeton.”

As predicted, Princeton is claiming that politics had nothing to do with this.

Jarrett, the faculty dean, pushed back against the assertion that Katz’s views were the catalyst for the investigation in a November report on the probe, saying “the current political climate of the university, whether perceived or real, is not germane to the case.”

That’s the story and they are sticking to it but it’s obviously not true. In fact, the entire effort to purge Katz from the school is clearly connected to the Quillette piece. He made the woke left angry and they were determined to have their revenge. Katz explained it in a piece for the Wall Street Journal published today. It’s titled “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…

So what did I get wrong? There are at least five things of which I was unaware. First, I didn’t yet know that one of my colleagues had, in her official capacity as director of graduate studies, written an individual letter to every graduate student in the classics department about the “pain” I had caused. Second, I didn’t yet know that, in a Zoom session about “equity” only a couple of days later, students and colleagues would badger me to apologize. (For what exactly, they did not say, and I refused—which was absolutely the right thing to do.) Third, I didn’t yet know that, with only a handful of exceptions, almost none of my colleagues would ever speak to me again. Fourth, I didn’t yet know that the university would make an example of me to the entire incoming freshman class in August 2021, singling me out among sitting faculty as a virulent racist, in part by doctoring a quotation from my article—a move that has brought widespread condemnation.

And then there is the fifth thing. I didn’t yet know at the end of July 2020—and could scarcely have imagined—that two student reporters at the Daily Princetonian had begun digging into my past in an attempt to destroy me. The result of their investigations was published in early February 2021, whereupon the editor-in-chief wrote an email to her staff about the “stellar reporting,” which “has been in the works for seven months,” that is to say, since early July 2020, only days, if not hours, after I had criticized the faculty letter.

It was the Daily Princetonian report which convinced the woman Katz had been in a relationship with 15 years ago to come forward with new claims. Katz writes, “she now provided the university with a selection of decontextualized emails. I then provided the context, in full detail, but the administrators didn’t care. They had their ammunition and were all too glad to use it.”

Katz’ relationship with the student was clearly a bad idea though not necessarily forbidden at the time. He deserved to be punished for it and he was. But the effort to re-investigate the situation clearly came about as a result of his causing offense to woke students and administrators who took it upon themselves to make him pay for his opinions. Even the firing itself shows their contempt:

The dismissal did not go smoothly. 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.”

She later said Dr. Katz had discovered that the university’s notice that he was being fired had been sent to the wrong email.

Katz will be fine but this despite his education from Oxford, Harvard and Yale and his awards for teaching, it will probably be hard for him to find another job. Anyone who tries to hire him will find another student mob on campus eager to make sure he remains canceled.