April 19th, 2022
According to knowledgeable sources, the Princeton Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal, comprised of 9 faculty members, issued on Tuesday a strongly worded rebuke to a high-ranking official’s summary rejection of a formal complaint seeking an investigation into attacks on the University’s official website portraying Professor Joshua Katz as a racist.
The committee’s detailed letter was in response to an appeal by Professor Sergiu Klainerman of the official rejection. Professor Klainerman's original complaint, joined by seven other Princeton faculty, was that unnamed officials had violated University regulations in using the website to discredit Professor Katz, by smearing him as a racist for a controversial 2020 article criticizing certain race-related demands by activist faculty members.
The appeals committee’s letter found fault with multiple aspects of Vice-Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter’s December 7, 2021 ruling dismissing the October 4, 2021 complaint, the sources said.
The faculty committee is chaired by Professor Jean Schwarzbauer. Its letter said that all members agreed that the Minter letter dismissing the complaint was contrary to University policies and that the complaint raised a number of issues that should be investigated.
The committee’s harsh assessment contrasted starkly with the tribute to President Eisgruber’s "outspoken defense of free speech” by the Princeton Board of Trustees the day before, in its announcement that it had extended his tenure for “at least five [more] years.”
The Trustees’ high regard for Eisgruber’s stance on free speech also contrasts starkly with a March 15 letter from PFS urging the Princeton Board of Trustees to commission an investigation into the University’s persecution of Katz. And with the blistering assessment by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) of Princeton’s attacks on Katz’s free speech in a March 9 letter sent to the Princeton Board of Trustees. And with the similar assessment by the Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) in a March 29 letter to President Eisgruber. And with a harsh criticism by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on the same issue.
ACTA, AFA, and FIRE are among the nation’s most respected organizations supporting campus free speech. Yet Eisgruber and the Board of Trustees have ignored the criticisms by ACTA, FIRE, and PFS. Eisgruber rejected the AFA’s criticism in a March 31 letter that implicitly endorsed the same arguments that the 9-member faculty committee has now spurned. Eisgruber’s letter contained numerous misleading statements, which are detailed in a three-part analysis on the PFS website.
The faculty appeals committee has recommended a full investigation. The question is whether the Princeton administration will continue to stonewall.
Open PFS critiques of Eisgruber letter to the Academic Freedom Alliance configuration options