The Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW) has finally reported on the case of professor of classics Joshua Katz and the success of Princeton University in defenestrating him. The brief article posed two different cases, one for his dismissal made by the University and one by Professor Katz in his defense, both suffering from a paucity of facts and information in PAW’s article. The University’s case originated in a consensual relationship that Katz had with a student in 2006-07, for which he had been reprimanded and disciplined after a 2018 investigation for breaking University rules governing faculty-student relationships. The alumna (former student) did not participate in that investigation. In 2021 the investigation was reopened with participation of the alumna and in light of putative new revelations. Katz was accused of misrepresentation of facts and lack of straightforwardness in the 2018 investigation “in an effort to conceal a relationship he knew was prohibited by university rules,” according to the University’s statement. One wonders why this contravention of University rules, to which Katz admitted in 2018, was not sufficient for his dismissal in 2018 but is in 2021. (For details based on more thorough journalistic inquiry see coverage in the Washington Free Beacon on May 17 and June 24.) Only a malignantly biased reading of the reported email history between Katz and the alumna could lead to the inference that he had no regard for her well-being and was not genuinely sorry for the pain he had caused her. The fact that this correspondence continued for 15 years is testimony to his continuing concern.

What had happened between 2018 and 2021 to change the University’s posture and lead it to inflict this double jeopardy? Katz’s case claimed that the reopening of the earlier misconduct investigation was a pretext for punishing him because of a statement he made in a Quillette article criticizing the Black Justice League as a “small local terrorist organization.” PAW omits to mention, in support of Katz’s case, that the University doctored his statement from that article to make him into a poster boy for systemic racism in a freshman orientation video. This was a clear case of slander and character assassination as well as a dismissal of the Chicago Principles to which President Eisgruber with a straight face vigorously claimed the University adhered. Eisgruber contorted the Chicago Principles by intoning that Katz had some obligation under those principles to exercise his free speech “responsibly.”

Princeton has earned its last place standing in the Ivy League for free speech and 135th in the FIRE rankings. PAW’s report on page 16 of its latest issue is an unremarkable professional obituary of an eminent Princeton scholar and teacher. But take heart and read on to page 24 where there is cause for celebration at the filling of four new positions related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, more than making up for the loss of one eminent faculty member. Perhaps PAW should remove its masthead claim to be “An editorially independent magazine by alumni for alumni.”

Harlan Tonie Wright ’63
Richmond, Va.