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Princeton dismisses professor Joshua Katz ‘effective immediately’ after U. investigation finds policy violations

<h5>Stained glass windows in East Pyne Hall, home of the classics department.</h5>
<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Stained glass windows in East Pyne Hall, home of the classics department.
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

On Monday, May 23, the University Board of Trustees voted to dismiss classics professor Joshua Katz from his tenured faculty position at Princeton, effective immediately, according to a University statement to The Daily Princetonian.

The decision follows last week’s recommendation from University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 and two separate University investigations into Katz’s misconduct.

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Katz was originally disciplined by the University in 2018 for engaging in a sexual relationship with an undergraduate student in the mid-2000s. He received a one-year unpaid suspension for the 2018–19 academic year, and according to the University’s Monday statement, three additional years of probation.

In February 2021, the ‘Prince’ published an investigation into three alleged instances of inappropriate conduct with female students by Katz. The reporting included a mid-2000s relationship with a female advisee — acknowledged by Katz in a statement soon after the ‘Prince’ investigation — and two other perceived boundary violations with alumnae who said Katz pursued them during their undergraduate years in ways they felt crossed professional boundaries.

A second University inquiry began in spring of 2021, when the mid-2000s alumna, referred to by the ‘Prince’ pseudonymously as Jane, submitted a detailed complaint to University administrators. According to Monday’s statement, this complaint provided new information to the University, prompting a separate investigation.

This time, the investigation “did not revisit” the policy violations that caused his 2018 suspension, instead establishing that Katz had “misrepresented facts” and failed to be fully forthcoming during the 2018 investigation, the statement said. Additionally, according to the statement, Katz had “a successful effort to discourage the alumna from participating and cooperating after she expressed the intent to do so.”

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal by Katz Monday night, however, he stated that Jane had “resolutely refused—of her own volition, I stress,” to participate in the 2018 investigation. He also claimed that he “provided the context, in full detail” on her allegations to the University during the recent investigation.

The dismissal also hinged on the Dean of the Faculty report’s finding that Katz had discouraged the alumna from seeking mental health care during their relationship, in an effort to keep himself out of trouble, according to The New York Times, which reviewed the report. 

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An individual who was interviewed by University investigators in the summer of 2021 — a close friend of Jane’s at the time of the relationship — previously told the ‘Prince’ that she disclosed to investigators that Jane had “tried to seek help multiple times during her senior year,” but ultimately did not access mental health care in light of Katz’s influence.

Monday’s University statement said that these actions by Katz “exposed the alumna to harm” and were taken “in an effort to conceal a relationship he knew was prohibited by University rules.”

The University described the behavior as “not only egregious violations of University policy, but also entirely inconsistent with his obligations as a member of the Faculty.”

According to the University’s Rules and Procedures of the Faculty, faculty subject to proposed discipline are entitled to a hearing with the Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal (CCFA), an independent committee composed of and elected by members of the Faculty. The CCFA found that the record supported the initial ​​dismissal recommendation from the Dean of the Faculty, and submitted the recommendation to Eisgruber.

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The Board of Trustees vote came after further review by an “ad hoc committee,” and upon recommendation of both Eisgruber and Dean of Faculty Gene Andrew Jarrett, according to the statement.

When asked about her husband’s dismissal immediately following the announcement, Solveig Gold ’17 told The New York Times, “That’s news to me. We have nothing.” 

Neither Katz nor his lawyer, Samantha Harris ’99, responded to a request for comment from the ‘Prince.’ 

But in the Journal op-ed, Katz wrote that the dismissal subjects him to “cultural double jeopardy” in what he argued constitutes re-litigation of an offense for which he had previously faced punishment. In a text message to the Times, he said “I am both angry and heartbroken, which is a dreadful combination.”

In a statement to the ‘Prince’ on May 20, Harris said that “the successful effort to destroy Professor Katz for daring to say what many think but are too afraid to say will have a profound chilling effect on free expression at Princeton and beyond, as few people are willing to pay the price of having their personal lives turned inside out in search of damaging information.”

In the summer of 2020, Katz drew headlines when he wrote a column in Quillette opposing a then-circulating faculty letter with a series of demands for Nassau Hall on race and equity measures. In that column, the classics professor referred to a former Black student activist group as a “small local terrorist organization,” a statement that saw backlash from students, colleagues, and Eisgruber himself, who also affirmed that the University’s policies “protect Katz’s freedom to say what he did.”

In the two years since, Katz had become a “cause célèbre” among some conservative commentators, who have argued — as Katz himself does in the Journal op-ed Monday night — that the recent University investigation into his alleged misconduct and the dismissal itself stemmed from controversy around his Quillette column.

Katz has not actively taught at Princeton since the spring of 2021, according to the Office of the Course Registrar website. In the fall of 2021, he was initially scheduled to teach classes, which were removed from course listings by August. He did not teach in spring 2022 and was not scheduled to teach in fall 2022.

Katz served as a trustee at the ‘Prince’ from 2014 to early 2020, and before that, as a faculty columnist from 2006 to 2013.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include quotes from Katz’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, published on the night of Monday, May 23.

Paige Cromley is a sophomore who writes for the News, Features, and Arts & Culture sections of the Prince.’ She can be reached at pcromley@princeton.edu.

Evelyn Doskoch is a former Head News Editor who has reported on University affairs, COVID-19 policy, student life, sexual harassment allegations, town affairs, and eating clubs. She can be reached at edoskoch@princeton.edu or on Twitter at @EvelynDoskoch.

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