May 25, 2022

PU Fires Classics Professor Katz Following Complaint, Investigation

Joshua Katz

The Princeton University Board of Trustees voted on Monday, May 23 to fire Classics Professor Joshua Katz, effective immediately.

The dismissal followed an investigation initiated in February 2021 prompted by “a detailed written complaint” from an alumna who had a consensual relationship with Katz while she was an undergraduate under his academic supervision, according to a statement by Princeton University.

That relationship had prompted disciplinary proceedings against Katz in 2018 resulting in his unpaid suspension for the academic year 2018-19 and three years of probation from 2019-2022. 

The recent investigation concluded that Katz had “misrepresented facts or failed to be straightforward” during the  2018 proceedings and had discouraged the alumna from speaking and from “participating and cooperating” and from “seeking mental health care although he knew her to be in distress, all in an effort to conceal a relationship he knew was prohibited by University rules,” according to the Princeton University statement.

“These actions were not only egregious violations of University policy, but also entirely inconsistent with his obligations as a member of the faculty,” the statement said.

The University’s statement does not mention Katz’s claim that he was unfairly targeted for his criticism of a protest group on campus.  In 2020 Katz wrote an article in Quillette, an online journal, that criticized a faculty letter which proposed a series of measures to advance equity and racial equality on campus.

Over the past two years, Katz’s case has caused much political debate over the question of whether he is being punished for exercising his right to freedom of speech. His lawyer Samantha Harris, as quoted in the New York Times contended, “The University’s decision will have a powerful chilling effect on free speech, because anyone who might wish to express a controversial opinion knows that they must first ask themselves if their personal life can stand up to the kind of relentless scrutiny that Dr. Katz’s life was subjected to beginning just days after the publication of his Quillette article.”