Princeton University disgraced itself by firing free speech hero Joshua Katz

“It is our collective responsibility not to shrug” or accept “the normalization of untruths,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during Princeton Class Day 2022 on May 23. That same day, Princeton’s board of trustees, acting on the recommendation of its chairman Christopher L. Eisgruber, fired star classics teacher Joshua Katz after nearly 25 years of employment.

In July 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Katz criticized a letter from Princeton faculty demanding preferential treatment for minority faculty members, the disbandment of Princeton security, and the creation of faculty panels. for the work of police colleagues for supposed racism. Katz was immediately called a racist and ostracized by his colleagues. Eisgruber condemned him for using his freedom of speech “irresponsibly”.

Princeton reluctantly admitted that Katz could not be sanctioned for his dissenting statements, but wasted no time finding an excuse to get rid of him. The Student Newspaper spent months snooping into Katz’s private life and confidential college affairs, and discovered he had once been suspended for a consensual relationship he had with an undergraduate student, in 2006. Rejecting due process, Princeton reconsidered the case. and cryptically determined that Katz “misrepresented the facts or was not forthright” the first time around.

Along the way, in August 2021, Princeton produced a mandatory “anti-racism” internet feature for incoming freshmen that put Katz in the same category as slave owners among Princeton’s founders, segregationists among its later leadership and discriminatory admissions policies, among other sins. A group of Katz’s colleagues filed a lawsuit on her behalf last October, but the university’s diversity bureaucracy dismissed it outright.

In a moment worthy of Orwell, Eisgruber refused to delete language about Katz, suggesting it would “censor” the free speech of those who wrote it. Days later, Princeton’s board praised Eisgruber for his alleged commitment to free speech and renewed his million-dollar annual contract for at least the next five years.

Earlier this month, Eisgruber recommended Katz’s termination to the Princeton board. He and other university officials coyly denied it had anything to do with Katz’s public speaking and instead insisted it was the result of a personnel affair from ages ago. is 16 and resurfaced at the exact moment the speech problem arose.

Exterior view of the Center for the Study of Religion on the campus of Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, November 29, 2011.
Oliver Morris/Getty Images

If you believe that, I have an ivory tower to sell you. To anyone even mildly capable of critical thinking, Princeton appears to have transparently resurrected a personnel case to punish a dissident for exercising his right to free speech while trying to protect himself from legal claims.

As Katz’s attorney, Samantha Harris, said his abysmal treatment “will have a powerful chilling effect on free speech, because anyone who would like to voice a controversial opinion knows they must first consider whether their life can withstand the kind of scrutiny to which Dr. Katz’s life has been subjected.”

Free speech advocates agree. “I’m embarrassed that I went,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Princeton alumnus and leading free speech advocate Judith Miller of Katz’s firing.

Katz told the New York Times that he believes he has been treated with “gross injustice”. He is understandably “angry and heartbroken”. In a letter to the wall street journal published just hours after he was fired, he convincingly lamented that Princeton “gave me food for the cancel culture crowd.”

Its legal claims are strong, however. “New Jersey law,” Andrew P. Napolitano, a Princeton alumnus and former New Jersey State Superior Court judge, told me, “requires private schools to discipline faculty members to follow basic due process. Re-punishing Professor Katz for a matter for which he has already been punished is a clear violation of the law.”

Internet slurs associating Katz with Princeton’s history of racism also suggest a strong libel claim. Colleges and universities routinely lose such cases these days, and Princeton will be hard pressed to deny that he called Katz a racist and thereby caused him significant reputational damage.

It’s also not a foregone conclusion that Katz can’t recover. Last week, the University of Central Florida was legally forced to reinstate psychology professor Charles Negy to his job and tenure (with back pay) after he was fired for criticizing the tenets of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Regardless of the court outcome, Professor Katz can also take comfort in Princeton’s grotesque myopia. By firing him from a prestigious job he loved for reasons that seem absurd and downright underhanded, it simultaneously made him a figure of national prominence, with nearly every major media outlet covering his story. Once the sting wears off, he may well realize that he is now a public intellectual of greater stature and higher moral authority than all the other professors of classics in America combined.

Stripped of his affiliation with a disreputable university that wields appalling control over the speech, behavior and privacy of its employees – and no longer weighed down by the groupthink of creepy conformist colleagues – he now has the ultimate freedom. to say and do what he wants without reference to a failing academic culture that will soon be dead and buried.

It’s smart to lose your job, but it’s wonderful to be handed a megaphone. Looking forward to hearing Professor Katz use his.

Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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