A Princeton professor has drawn anger from his department and the university’s president after criticizing an open letter signed by faculty members which made extensive “anti-racist” policy requests to combat racism on campus, among which was the curtailment of academic freedom.
Joshua Katz, a professor of classics at Princeton, published a “declaration of independence” in Quillette days after more than 350 faculty members called on the university to adopt a series of “anti-racist” actions, some of which Katz says would “lead to civil war on campus.”
In the July 4 “Faculty Letter,” the signatories request Princeton’s administration implement measures they say will combat racism, including rewarding “the invisible work done by faculty of color with course relief and summer salary” and removing questions about felony convictions from admissions applications.
One request specifically called for punishment of “racist” academic work, reported Forbes. The letter demands a “Constitute a committee composed entirely of faculty that would oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty … Guidelines on what counts as racist behavior, incidents, research, and publication will be authored by a faculty committee for incorporation into the same set of rules and procedures.”
While Katz says he agrees with many of the ideas expressed in the faculty letter, he argued that many of the specific changes, if implemented, would stoke chaos and erode public confidence in elite higher education.
“It boggles my mind that anyone would advocate giving people—extraordinarily privileged people already, let me point out: Princeton professors—extra perks for no reason other than their pigmentation,” Katz writes, referencing the calls to reward faculty of color for “invisible work” and with a guaranteed one additional semester of sabbatical.
“Not incidentally, if you believe anti-blackness to be foundational, it is not a stretch to imagine that you will teach the 1619 Project as dogma,” he goes on.
In the climate of fear and intolerance that has descended on academia, it takes extraordinary courage for someone publicly to state a dissenting opinion, knowing that he or she will be vilified and perhaps “made an example of” lest the dissent spread.https://t.co/4iW9Yvk7Ep
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) July 10, 2020
The language that specifically prompted members of Katz’s department and Princeton’s president to to denounce him include Katz’s characterization of the Black Justice League as a “small local terrorist organization,” whose alumni leader he saw participating in a “Struggle Session” by supporters who were “baying for blood” in a video posted on Instagram. (RELATED: Why An Accomplished Researcher Turned His Back On Academia)
“It was one of the most evil things I have ever witnessed, and I do not say this lightly,” he writes.
Some people have criticized elements of the protests and political correctness as being evidence of Maoist “struggle sessions,” which is a form of public humiliation designed to shape public opinion.
The Black Justice League is a student group that has demanded Princeton hold cultural competency training sessions for all faculty and staff along with adding history of marginalized people classes as a graduation requirement for students, according to Planet Princeton. The group led a 32-hour sit-in of Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber’s office in 2015.
“The language in which those views are expressed – ‘terrorist organization,’ ‘baying for blood,’ ‘one of the most evil things I have ever witnessed,’ all in the context of vilifying a Black student activist group – activates a long history of language used in this country to incite racial and specifically anti-Black violence,” the classics department message says after affirming that Katz does not speak for the department.
— Liz Butterworth (@butterworth_liz) July 11, 2020
“The use of such language is abhorrent at this moment of national reckoning with the continuing legacy of systemic racism and violence, and it has heedlessly put our Black colleagues, students, and alums at serious risk. It is fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.”
“I object personally and strongly to his false description of a Princeton student group as a ‘local terrorist organization.’”
A Princeton spokesperson told the student newspaper that they will be “looking into the matter further.”