AFA Sends Letter to Princeton About Ongoing Retaliation Against Professor
Letter criticizes the continued labeling of Prof. Joshua Katz as a racist
PRINCETON, NJ – The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) today sent a letter to Princeton University regarding its continued and repeated denunciations of Professor Joshua Katz for past controversial speech. On July 8, 2020, Professor Joshua Katz published an opinion piece reacting to the July 4th public letter signed by members of the Princeton faculty. In that piece he criticized a former student group and hyperbolically characterized it as a “small local terrorist group.” The piece generated a series of responses and threats of disciplinary action from the university at the time, and the university’s Carl Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding continues to single out Katz before public audiences with charges of racism.
“It is hard to see the actions of the Carl Fields Center as anything other than ongoing retaliation for Professor Katz’s speech,” wrote Keith Whittington, chair of the AFA’s Academic Committee, in the letter to Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber. “For university officials in their individual capacities to sharply criticize a professor for his speech is one thing. For the administration to memorialize criticism and highlight it as the introduction of every student to the university is something else. We are not aware of any other example of a university systematically denouncing a sitting member of its own faculty in such a way. It is not an example that should be followed or repeated if universities are to remain vibrant centers of intellectual freedom.”
The AFA’s letter references a university- sponsored freshman orientation this year in which Professor Katz was singled out for criticism by the Carl Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. On a website bearing the copyright of the board of trustees of the university and co-sponsored by myriad university administrative units including the Office of the Vice Provost of Institutional Equity and Diversity, Professor Katz is held out as an example of a professor making a racist statement and is shown being denounced by the university president, the Classics department, and the chairs of two academic units for engaging in racist speech.
The Academic Freedom Alliance is a diverse alliance of college and university faculty members who are dedicated to upholding the principles of academic freedom and professorial free speech. These principles are central to the mission of our institutions of higher education for the pursuit of truth and knowledge. The AFA is committed to defending universal principles of academic freedom and will come to the assistance of professors regardless of their individual views. As always, the AFA is not concerned with the substance or merits of a professor’s ideas but with the principle that universities should be places that tolerate controversial ideas and allow free inquiry and debate, not public opinion or political pressure, to separate error from truth.