The faculty of Princeton University presented a list of demands to the administration in the form of a 4,122-word letter with four hundred signatories. Many points would only interest those connected to Princeton. However, one item should concern anyone who believes in universal truth.
The demand reads: “Constitute 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.” (Emphasis added.)
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According to the Daily Princetonian, the move was spearheaded by Professor Jenny Greene, director of Princeton’s Prison Teaching Initiative. The article referred to hopes “that this political moment may yield substantive change at the University.” It then quoted Professor Greene saying, “You have to seize these moments and try to get as much thinking and resources and changes as you can and then know that you’re still going to have lots and lots of longer term work to do.”
In other words – never let a good crisis go to waste.
Resisting the Resistance
Classics Professor Joshua Katz did not sign the letter. He published his objections in A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor.
“For colleagues to police one another’s research and publications in this way would be outrageous. Let me be clear: Racist slurs and clear and documentable bias against someone because of skin color are reprehensible and should lead to disciplinary action, for which there is already a process. But is there anyone who doesn’t believe that this committee would be a star chamber with a low bar for cancellation, punishment, suspension, even dismissal?”
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Professor Katz also referred to an organization on the Princeton campus from 2014 to 2016 called “The Black Justice League.” The professor called it “a small local terrorist organization.” He cited a recording at one of its meetings, saying that it resembled a Struggle Session – a tactic used by Chinese Communists to humiliate in public those who resisted Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.
No Tolerance for Dissent from the New Order
Within a week of publishing the “Declaration,” Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber issued a statement in the Daily Princetonian.
“While free speech permits students and faculty to make arguments that are bold, provocative, or even offensive, we all have an obligation to exercise that right responsibly. Joshua Katz has failed to do so, and I object personally and strongly to his false description of a Princeton student group as a ‘local terrorist organization.’”
In a group statement, the Classics Department administrators charged that Professor Katz’s words drew upon “a long history of language used in this country to incite racial and specifically anti-Black violence. The use of such language is abhorrent at this moment of national reckoning with the continuing legacy of systemic racism and violence, and it has heedlessly put our Black colleagues, students, and alums at serious risk.”
Against a Long Tradition of Inquiry
How could the musings of a Classics professor represent a “serious risk” to anyone? Is he recruiting an army of followers to pelt the demonstrators with copies of Plato, Ovid and Aristotle?
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Professor Katz’s threat was that he used reason and evidence to expose fallacies. His declaration conforms to the long tradition of inquiry into the nature of the good, true and beautiful that long defined universities.
Since the turbulent sixties, however, this inquiry was confused with license to say or do anything. Academics abandoned and even attacked the idea of objective truth, along with goodness and beauty. They objected to objective truth because it would limit their ability to disseminate “new” truths.
The leftist professors peddled the idea of “academic freedom” as a means to protect their “right” to say whatever they wanted in their classrooms. Their pleas for academic freedom were always a sham. They only defended the freedom to teach their ideas. They would pay lip service to the “academic freedom” for everyone, but behind the scenes, traditional Christianity was discouraged and rejected. Conservatives faced great difficulty in securing tenured positions. Students who dissented from the professor’s opinions faced lower grades.
A Tool that Outlived its Use
Now, the left has abandoned even the veneer of academic freedom. In the current university, no idea is so ridiculous that it cannot be entertained. If misguided men claim to be women, dogs or whatever, they must be taken seriously.
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Those who adhere to and search for the truth stand out and therefore, must be suppressed. In the current overheated situation, the most useful epithet is the overworked term “racist.” Those whose research is unlikely to serve the globalist, egalitarian and socialist cause are racists. Those who present facts that contradict the left’s favorite delusions are racists. Those who publish books that counter the Marxist narrative are racists. Hence, the demand for a committee to control the messages coming out of academia.
Princeton’s President Eisgruber might rest easy for now. He has shown the leftists sipping Chablis in the faculty dining room that they can count on him. However, he should not get too comfortable. Even if he complies with every syllable in that 4,122 word “letter,” there will be a new round of more radical demands. If he refuses them anything, the radicals will turn on him. Then, the anti-racist faculty “Committee of Public Safety” will park their guillotine on his lawn. It will not be a pretty picture.