Princeton University’s Board of Trustees fired classics professor Joshua Katz, the university said in a Monday statement, claiming that the longtime faculty member “failed to be straightforward” during a 2018 investigation into a relationship between Katz and an undergraduate student.
Katz told National Review that he learned that he’d been fired only after the New York Times called his wife, and said the university sent his notice of termination to the wrong email address. The Washington Free Beacon first reported that Princeton was planning to fire Katz.
Katz was briefly suspended from the university in 2018 over the consensual relationship with a student, which occurred about 15 years ago.
However, the Board voted to fire Katz following a “detailed written complaint” in 2021 “from an alumna who had a consensual relationship with Dr. Katz while she was an undergraduate under his academic supervision,” the university said in a statement to the New York Times. A new investigation “established multiple instances in which Dr. Katz misrepresented facts or failed to be straightforward” in the university’s 2018 investigation.
Allies of Katz, who has tenure, have claimed that the firing was motivated by the professor’s criticism of Princeton’s “anti-racism” initiatives. In a 2020 essay for Quillette, Katz criticized a faculty letter stating that “Anti-Blackness is foundational to America,” and referred to a student group called the Black Justice League as “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.”
Students affiliated with BJL occupied Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber’s office for 33 hours in a protest in November 2015, the Daily Princetonian has noted, while Katz claimed in his Quillette essay that an alumni leader of the group conducted “what was effectively a Struggle Session against one of his former classmates” live on Instagram.
Katz offered to resign from the university weeks ago, but Princeton’s administration did not want to relinquish the ability to state publicly that the university president recommended the firing, Katz’s lawyer Samantha Harris confirmed to National Review earlier on Monday.
“I think that it speaks to the climate of pressure in these politically charged situations, that they felt that they absolutely couldn’t forgo the ability to say, ‘We were going to fire him,'” Harris said.