Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz has sued the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), saying in court documents that the group revoked his appointment to an international symposium because he expressed views that “offend the ideological sensibilities of some in academia.” 

The suit stems from an essay Katz published in July on the Quillette website in which he responded to a letter by faculty colleagues addressing racism on campus. In the essay, Katz said he agreed with some of his colleagues’ proposals but disagreed with others. He was strongly criticized for calling the Black Justice League (BJL), a student group that led the 2015 sit-in at Nassau Hall, a “terrorist organization.” Katz (who is the faculty’s representative to the PAW board) later said he used the term metaphorically to illustrate the group’s “use of fear tactics to intimidate” students who disagreed with the BJL’s views. 

The ACLS describes itself as the “preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences.” In February 2020, it appointed Katz to what’s usually a long-term position as delegate to the Union Académique Internationale symposium; the suit says the appointment was revoked in September, when the ACLS cited his comments about race and the attention they had drawn. Although the appointment was unpaid, the suit says that such positions affect professional advancement. In court documents, lawyers for the ACLS denied Katz’s allegations. 

Controversy over Katz has continued: In February, The Daily Princetonian published allegations that Katz acted inappropriately toward three female students, including engaging in a sexual relationship with one. Katz later acknowledged that he had a “consensual relationship” with a student when he was a young professor, violating University rules. “It was wrong, and I am ashamed of my past conduct,” he wrote. He said that the relationship was brought to the University’s attention “long after” it ended and that he complied with the University’s requirements after an investigation, including a yearlong unpaid suspension and counseling. He also said he was counseled on “appropriate boundaries” of faculty-student friendships in connection with another student.