Princeton Facing Possible Legal Action After Labeling Professor Racist for Opposing Race-Based Faculty Perks

We just discussed a lawsuit by UCLA Professor Gordon Klein who alleges that the university threw him under the bus over a controversial email when it suspended him and posted statements strongly suggesting that he is racist. Now a second such case may be developing at Princeton with an even more direct university allegation of racism against Classics Professor Joshua Katz. The university recently featured Katz in a mandatory freshman orientation video that included a “Race and Free Speech” section in which he is condemned as a racist. According to the site College Fix, his lawyer has said that legal possible action is being explored.

The school featured the controversy that began with a Quillette article in which Katz questioned racial justice demands lodged by faculty members in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Katz was responding to 48 demands and expressly supported some.

Indeed, plenty of ideas in the letter are ones I support. It is reasonable to “[g]ive new assistant professors summer move-in allowances on July 1” and to “make [admissions] fee waivers transparent, easy to use, and well-advertised.” “Accord[ing] greater importance to service as part of annual salary reviews” and “[i]mplement[ing] transparent annual reporting of demographic data on hiring, promotion, tenuring, and retention” seem unobjectionable. And I will cheerfully join the push for a “substantial expansion” of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which encourages underrepresented minorities to enter PhD programs and strive to join the professoriate.

However, as a faculty member of 25 years, he objected to faculty of color receiving special “course relief and summer salary” and an extra semester of sabbatical. He criticized “extra perks for no reason other than … pigmentation.” The article is direct and many faculty likely felt insulted by the criticism. The issue is the role of the university in effectively calling these objections as raw racism. He also objected to the editing of his comments to remove counter evidence of his motivation or intent.

In the article, Katz denounced the request for the university to issue a formal public apology to members of the Black Justice League student group:

“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.”

The original posting removed the reference to the group attacking black students, but was later reportedly changed after objections. Such editing can be used as evidence of actual malice in a defamation lawsuit.

The page also includes a statement that “President Eisgruber condemned the words used by Katz, stating, ‘While free speech permits students and faculty to make arguments that are bold, provocative, or even offensive, we all have an obligation to exercise that right responsibly.'” The posting does not mention that, despite his initial comments, Princeton President Christoper Eisgruber walked back a threat to investigate Katz. Nevertheless, Katz may argue that he does not actually call Katz a racist. Yet Katz could say that the university is responsible for the entire presentation of quotes that leave little question on the view of Katz as a racist.

The page includes a statement from Professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Chair of the African American Studies Department, stating “Professor Katz, at times in this letter, seems to not regard people like me as essential features, or persons, of Princeton. That’s the feeling I got from reading the letter.” It also features the statement of  Tracy K. Smith, chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts, that “Members of the BJL have already begun to see an uptick in death threats. We have seen all too clearly how such race-baiting, disguised as free speech, can be deadly.”

That last comment seems to draw a connection between Katz’ criticism of the BJL and threats against its members.

The University is likely to argue that these statements are merely giving the countervailing views of faculty, including the university president. However, the page is the creation of the university and clearly paints Katz as a racist. These faculty clearly do have free speech rights, but the question is the inclusion of Katz as an example of racism as part of a mandatory program.

It is also an example of the type of shunning and pressure applied to faculty who offer dissenting views on such subjects. Few faculty would risk being the subject of this type of campaign in voicing dissenting views or opposing the university. Two exceptions are Princeton professors John Londregan and Sergiu Klainerman  who wrote a Sept. 1 op-ed supporting Katz. They also criticized the mandatory video and material, calling it “a weird, out-of-context presentation of racist views, such as those of the 20th-century physicist William Shockley, a figure with no notable connection to Princeton.”  They added:

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office of Princeton University has a message for incoming students: It wants them to participate in “tearing down” the very institution they have worked so hard to attend. And to drive this message home, the office is more than happy to tear down those who dissent from its official orthodoxy.

The attack on Katz may find its way into court. However, there is a separate debate that should be held on the impact of such university-sponsored attacks on academic freedom and free speech. Katz was not investigated for, let alone found guilty of, racist commentary. Indeed, such an investigation would have been, in my view, entirely inappropriate. Yet, he is still featured in a type of rogue’s gallery of racism for his criticism. Despite his stellar credentials and publications, the impact of such targeting is devastating on his career and creates a chilling effect on others who may have similar concerns.

24 thoughts on “Princeton Facing Possible Legal Action After Labeling Professor Racist for Opposing Race-Based Faculty Perks”

  1. Professor Turley is to be commended for his valiant fight against the totalitarian forces that dominant the Academy and which have metastasized to the broader body politic. He and his fellow defender of the 1st Amendment, Alan Desrshowitz are the last of the traditional liberals who still believe in the fundamental principles enshrined in our Constitution. Sadly, I think it is a losing battle. A whole generation of miseducated elites are lost to a Orwellian world where violence against offensive speech is considered free speech.

  2. I hope Katz sues the pants off them.

    It’s increasingly become a totalitarian movement. Agree with the far Left on everything and every word or face punishment.

    This is the hill to die on. I’m happy to see that some moderate Democrats are awakening to the abuses of this paradigm. Hopefully, the more moderate members of the party can take a more active role in its culture, rhetoric, and policy.

    1. The progressive left has people in this country believing that up is down and down is up. Unbelievable.

  3. Can it be any more obvious that liberals honestly feel blacks are a lower class people? I mean how much more proof does it take? The pandering and handouts, the placating and walking on eggshells by the elites in education, the media, entertainment and politics is just as pathetic as it is transparent.

  4. Professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Chair of the African American Studies Department; “Professor Katz, at times in this letter, seems to not regard people like me as essential features, or persons, of Princeton. That’s the feeling I got from reading the letter.”

    You get that feeling because you’re a perpetual victim, a provocateur and race-batier.. like many, if not most of your brethren. You are everything that is wrong with higher education.

  5. I wonder … If there were a “White Justice League” at Princeton (rather than the Black Justice League) what would Princeton do? It appears all but certain it would condemn the former – while it plays lickspittle to the latter.

    Best wishes in a lawsuit vs. one of the terrible examples of today’s “Universities.”

    1. Way to not get-it!

      It’s like when people say “White Live’s Matter Too” or “All Lives Matter”…. they are being ignorant, they don’t get-it!. The whole point to “Black Lives Matter” could be summed up like this, “Black Lives Matter Too”. They are claiming they matter too, not that other races don’t matter. Same with ‘Black Justice League’. Think, use your noggin.

      PS. I in no way support BLM or BJL. But that’s besides the point.

  6. The freedom of choice, discrimination and holding opinions on race and all other subjects is eminently constitutional.

    The claim that it is unconstitutional for an individual to eschew or reject some person or thing is false and fraudulent and entirely without constitutional basis.

    The denial of the freedom of choice or discrimination constitutes the orders or mandates of dictatorship.

    The freedom of speech encompasses the freedoms of thought, choice, rejection, acceptance, opinion et al.

    The freedom of assembly encompasses its inverse, the freedom of division, separation or segregation.

    If an American cannot choose, an American cannot be free.

    If an American cannot discriminate, an American cannot be free.

    That an individual does not enjoy or appreciate the freedom of assembly or its inverse, does not nullify, void or abrogate the freedom of assembly.

    Conflating violence with the holding of an opinion is false and fraudulent.

  7. Special perks for minorities is right in line with eliminating tests, grades and other standards, in the name of racial justice. Don’t these leftists realize that these actions smack of condescension? Don’t they see that they are announcing to the world that minorities — or, at least certain ones — just can’t keep up, so instead of special tutoring so they can reach the same standards as others, we’ll lower the bar for all. There were two roads liberals could have followed: help disadvantaged minorities achieve higher standards, or lower standards to their level. Unfortunately, lazy liberals went for the easy option, and we’ll all pay for it in the future.

  8. The school made a decision to produce a video to reflect what racism looks like. If their motivation was to teach these incoming freshman how to think critically, they would have followed that up with the entire, unedited video showing the full context of what Katz said. Had they done that, they would have established a clear expectation of what the school will expect from them in their Princeton experience. By not showing the full context, they exposed an entirely different motivation that undermines what these institutions are supposed to be about.

  9. When a university gives race based perks to a minority it is admitting and announcing that the minority needs “extras” to catch up and maybe measure up to majority professors. That is racism per se. An intelligent person cannot deny that fact. So the university fires the professor who tried to save the university from itself. The university administration cannot muster a defense to this reasoning. There is none and never will be. Now you know.

    1. When Congress gives wealth-based perks to the rich (e.g., via tax breaks that benefit the wealthy), it is admitting and announcing that the wealthy need “extras” to catch up and maybe measure up to low- and middle-income Americans. Now you know.

  10. As an alumnus of the University (Class of ’65), I am embarrassed to the hilt at this. To those behind the assault on Professor Katz I say “grow up,” “get a life” and quench your insufferable arrogance.

    1. Thanks for sharing your well-founded embarrassment. Having earned 2 degrees from Duquesne University in 1965 and 1969, I have found it necessary to say the same about that University — including politicking by its now-President.

  11. Good luck Professor

    “Be not intimidated…nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”
    ― John Adams

  12. Mob intimidation tactics.

    Lots of similarities to what Jewish professors experienced at German universities starting in 1934.

    Lefties are intimidating a despised minority – anybody who speaks out against their agenda.

    Up to ordinary Americans to call out these Lefty fascists.

    1. We keep getting told to worry about racists on the right,

      Yet, the self evident racism we see today is all from the left.

      Nearly all of those on the right beleif that minorities are just as capable as the rest of in myriads of areas.
      That blacks are capable of securing photo ID.
      That they are capable of completing high school,
      That they are capable of avoiding criminality.
      That they are capable of getting a job – even a crappy one and succeeding.

      That they do not need special black bonus points on economics exams, or blacks only curves.

      It is those on the left who seem to think that blacks are inferior to whites.

      We are told to worry about right wing violence – yet accross the country all the riots and looting and arson is being done by the left.
      It is not right leaning areas that are unsafe to live in.
      What little violence occured at the capital is dwarfed by the massive violence of the left in the past year, the past 5 years the past 50 years.

      We are told that the right is a bunch of dolts buying conspiracy theories and missinformation,

      But it is the left that bought the collusion delusion – many of whom STILL beleive what is now obviously a clinton plant story that Trump was in Bed with putin.

      In fact there as so many stupid idiotic actually debunked left wing nut conspiracy theories it is impossible to keep track.

      Yet it is right wing misinformation we need to worry about ?

      It is not the right that presumes it can use force to make us do whatever it pleases.

      It is not the right that is dangerous today.

      In innumerable areas the right and left have switched.

      The left is inarguably the party of the ruling elite, of wealthy special interests, of highly educated whites.

      The right is increasingly the party of the working class, and more and more of minorities.

      The right is the party of free speech and freedom generally, the left is the party of censorship and coercion.

      Joe MacCarthy would be right at home in the Democratic party today.

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