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Home/Rod Dreher/Princeton’s Disgrace

Princeton’s Disgrace

Joshua Katz, for now, a Princeton professor (Source)

The Anglosphere’s most elite universities continue to beclown themselves: Cambridge University undergraduates are to be taught to regard Mozart’s music as imperialistic. 

I know I keep saying that the totalitarian impulse ruining liberal democratic society today is like unto the Soviet Union, but they didn’t go that far even in Soviet Russia. In fact, the pianist who famously rebuked Stalin and lived to tell the tale (this story is recalled in the black comedy The Death of Stalin) was playing Mozart on the radio when the dictator heard her and loved her performance so much he demanded a recording of it. So, wrap your mind around the idea that Josef Stalin was more tolerant of Mozart than Cambridge University instructors.

Meanwhile, in the US, Princeton University advances towards woke madrassah status:

Princeton University is planning to fire one of the most distinguished classics professors in the country, Joshua Katz, after his criticism of the school’s racial politics made him the target of student protests and the subject of two separate university investigations.

University president Christopher Eisgruber—who in 2020 alleged that Katz had failed to exercise his free speech “responsibly”—passed his recommendation that Katz be stripped of tenure and fired to the university’s board of trustees last week, according to three sources with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

It is rare for a university to fire a tenured professor, and even rarer for a university to fire a professor with Katz’s record: By the university’s own admission, he did not commit fraud or sexual misconduct, two of the most common grounds for revoking tenure. Rather, the university is citing as grounds for dismissal a consensual relationship Katz engaged in with a student more than a decade ago, and for which he was already disciplined by the school in 2018.

The board is all but guaranteed to accept Eisgruber’s recommendation when it meets on Wednesday, the sources said. Board members include Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken, who has presided over several high-profile free speech-related scandals on her campus, including the intimidation of a second-year law student by university administrators.

Princeton University did not respond to a request for comment.

Read it all. 

Why are they going after Katz? It began back in 2020 with an astonishingly illiberal, even semi-totalitarian, proposal by black faculty members and allies that Princeton fully embrace race radicalism, to atone for its alleged racism. Part of the proposal called for:

… 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, following a protocol for grievance and appeal to be spelled out in Rules and Procedures of the 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.

Like I said, totalitarian.

Katz responded with a public letter in Quillette criticizing the proposal. Though he is one of the nation’s most accomplished classicists, Princeton has endeavored to make his life hell ever since. One of his lead antagonists is Dan-el Padilla Peralta, once mentored by Katz, and who now, as a Princeton Classics professor himself, is trying to overturn the field of Greco-Roman studies to “save it from whiteness.”

If Princeton fires Katz today, I hope he takes them to court and walks away with a fat fortune. I cannot imagine, though, that most Princeton alumni and donors would be happy with what Eisgruber and the board will have done. This is precisely the reason that many revolutions succeed: liberals charged with gatekeeping collapse morally and functionally in the face of radical challenge.

If Katz is sent down, Princeton is probably lost. No professor will feel free to resist the woke totalitarians. If they can get a tenured professor of Katz’s academic status fired for crossing the ideological line, who is safe?

I should say that since all this began in the Summer of Floyd, I’ve gotten to know Joshua Katz somewhat. He is a very fine and generous man, and a friend — which makes his persecution at the hands of Princeton’s privileged and powerful personally galling to me. What the Princeton board does not understand is that if they make a free speech and academic freedom martyr of Joshua Katz, they will, in the end, have done themselves and the Ivy League more damage than they realize. You don’t persecute and abominate a man like that without serious consequences. Bring them on.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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