Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber has recommended that the school’s board of trustees fire conservative professor Joshua Katz, a decision that is causing backlash from allies who say it was politically motivated, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The recommendation, dated May 10, comes as Katz, a tenured professor in the classics, is alleged in a faculty report to not have fully cooperated in a sexual-misconduct investigation.
The probe stems from a consensual sexual relationship he had with an undergraduate student beginning in 2006 after her junior year and continuing until her graduation.
However, Katz’s lawyer Samantha Harris said the past relationship had already been adjudicated when he was suspended for one year without pay. She suggested instead that Katz was being targeted for his political beliefs.
“If expressing an unpopular opinion is an invitation to have your personal life turned inside out looking for damaging evidence, how many people are going to be willing to speak out?” Harris asked.
Katz’s beliefs began to be questioned in certain corners of the university when he first criticized proposals to address the school’s “legacy of racism” in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020.
He then had several more run-ins with faculty regarding race, including outspoken opposition to the removal of President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school in June 2020.
But Eigsruber largely cited a second probe, which stemmed from a 63-page complaint sent to the school. That investigation claimed Katz failed to cooperate with investigators and discouraged the former student from seeking psychiatric help when she threatened self-harm.
Princeton last fired a tenured professor, Sergio Verdú, in 2018 for sexual relations with another student. He has since sued the university, citing gender bias in the investigation. The lawsuit is currently undergoing an appeal attempt.