Two weeks after The Daily Princetonian published allegations of inappropriate conduct by classics professor Joshua Katz with three female students, Katz released a statement acknowledging he had a relationship with a student that violated the University’s rules and was suspended as a result.
“When I was a young professor, I had a relationship with a student that violated the University’s rules,” Katz said in the statement. “It was a consensual relationship. It did not involve — nor has anyone ever suggested that it involved — any coercion, harassment, or quid pro quo. Nonetheless, it was wrong, and I am ashamed of my past conduct.”
The statement added that “long after the relationship ended, it was brought to the attention of the University” and that administrators initiated an investigation. “I immediately provided a complete, truthful, and genuinely remorseful account of what had happened,” Katz wrote.
The consequences of the relationship, according to Katz, included a “yearlong unpaid suspension” from the University and “continued counseling.”
“I have been properly held accountable by the University for my conduct,” Katz wrote in the statement. “I have learned from my mistakes.”
Katz’s statement was published on the website of Princetonians for Free Speech. Stuart Taylor ’70, the organization’s president, confirmed in an email that the statement was genuine and authored by Katz.
Princetonians for Free Speech has previously denounced the ‘Prince’ reporting as “McCarthyism” in an editorial published on its website. Taylor and Edward L. Yingling ’70 authored the editorial, characterizing the “extensive, seven-month investigation” as “hearsay,” “outrageous,” and a “hit piece.”
University spokesperson Ben Chang wrote to the ‘Prince’ that Katz’s statement “accurately reflects the relevant facts as we understand them.” He declined to share any further details beyond what was reflected in Katz’s statement out of “respect for the privacy of all the involved parties.”
“The University appreciates Professor Katz’s statement,” Chang wrote, reiterating that as said in Katz’s statement, the University “investigated, adjudicated, and took appropriate action with respect to the matters brought to our attention years after the pertinent events.”
“Based on the information available to the University, and his subsequent compliance with University requirements, we believe that Professor Katz is able to fulfill his responsibilities as a member of the faculty,” Chang wrote.
The ‘Prince’ investigation, published on Feb. 4, reported allegations from eight alumni that Katz engaged in a multi-year relationship with an undergraduate advisee, referred to pseudonymously as Jane, in the mid-2000s. Three of the eight alumni, close friends of hers, said Jane told them Katz had sex with her. When Jane and Katz first met, she was 19, and he was in his mid-30s.
The ‘Prince’ also reported that Katz took an extended leave of absence with reduced pay in the academic year 2018-19 and that two professors with knowledge of the leave found it “highly unusual.”
Katz did not immediately respond to an email on Friday requesting confirmation that the relationship addressed in his statement was with Jane and that his 2018-19 leave constituted the suspension mentioned in his statement.
The ‘Prince’ investigation also contained allegations about Katz’s behavior towards two other female students: one, identified in the piece as Clara, who felt that his behavior toward her over multiple years constituted “repeated boundary violations” — through invitations to expensive off-campus dinners, comments on her appearance, and gifts from travels abroad — and another, identified as Bella, who said he asked her on what she felt was a date while she was a student in his class.
In his statement, Katz asserted that aside from the relationship with one student, he has “never come anywhere close to crossing this type of line with another student” and that he has “been a friend over the years to many students, male and female alike.”
Still, Katz’s statement went on to acknowledge that in one later instance, he was informed “years after the fact” that a student had “felt uncomfortable having such a close personal friendship with a faculty member.”
“After investigating the matter, the University determined that I had not violated any of its policies, but counseled me on the appropriate boundaries of faculty-student friendships,” Katz wrote.
Katz did not immediately respond to a request seeking clarification about whether the second student discussed in his statement was Clara. In its original story, the 'Prince' reported that Clara shared her concerns about Katz with an administrator in the Provost's office. Clara recalled the administrator was "extremely sympathetic," but ultimately told Clara that the matter had been "closed" and a note placed in Katz's file.
Katz's statement made no mention of any other incidents.
“While I realize that some may still have questions, this statement is as full an account as I can give of these events while respecting the privacy of all concerned,” Katz wrote. “I regret this conduct, and I am deeply grateful for the University’s continuing faith in me as a teacher, scholar, and adviser.”
The original reporting by the ‘Prince’ detailed the advising and mentorship roles Katz has held at the University throughout his tenure, including serving as chair of the Rhodes and Marshall scholarship endorsement committee, post-graduate fellowship advisor, founding director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, and president of Princeton’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Students interviewed by the ‘Prince’ claimed Katz exploited his positions to push professional boundaries. In one instance, one high-achieving classics student said Katz’s relationship with her friend helped deter the student from seeking his guidance in applying for fellowships or from applying at all. Seeing Katz as a “gatekeeper,” the student told the ‘Prince’ she felt “very wary” of him.
Another high-achieving classics alumna, who as a student was aware of concerns surrounding Katz’s alleged behavior toward women, likewise viewed him as a “gatekeeper.”
“The University put him forward so intensely as one of their great undergraduate teachers, and nothing has been done to retract that,” Elizabeth Butterworth ’12, a Rhodes Scholar and salutatorian who has been critical of Katz, previously told the ‘Prince.’ “You feel like you’re being gaslit by the University because you come in being told that this person is so great and cares so much about mentoring young students.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 to add comment from University Spokesperson Ben Chang.