What is the whole “long and elegant sentence”?
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation" (Actual Declaration of Independence).
Holy Cow! Is Katz leaving Princeton!? Does he have a job at Ramsey Center for Western Civilization!? Who knows. It is clear, however, that Katz is a fan of the Declaration. Let us imagine the Katz' family festive fourth of July table. We are told that they read the stirring prose of the Declaration. Surely, they follow it with the powerful and equally moving short speech by Fredrick Douglass. They then, surely, discuss at length Prof. Danielle Allen's important "Our Declaration." Yeah, that surely must be how it goes.
These plausible imaginings aside, there are numerous additional elements of this letter that one could address. This response is already long; we will restrict ourselves to just a few more of the most egregious.
For example, in listing the possible reasons many Princeton professors signed the letter, Katz tells us that the last is the largest category.
"(4) They agree with some of the demands and felt it was good to act as “allies” and bring up the numbers even though they do not assent to everything themselves.
I imagine that the majority fall into this last category. Indeed, plenty of ideas in the letter are ones I support."
Reading this, We wondered what separated Katz from category 4. He agrees with some of the demands without assenting to everything. In such a document, one can reasonably sign in that situation. Perhaps, the self-revealing scare quotes around allies resolve the question. Katz perhaps worries that someone might believe him an ally. He need not worry.
Katz does not support the Faculty Letter, his declaration implies, because he worries that “dozens” of the proposals will lead to a campus “civil war” and undermine the public’s confidence in higher education. Katz is given to reckless exaggeration. We doubt he could find 24 objectionable proposals (there are 43 in total), let alone one that would lead to civil war. In fact, he cites nearly as many proposals that he agrees with as those he dislikes. But let’s explore some of what will bring on Princeton’s “civil war.”
What of the specific proposals that bother him? Let’s start from the clearest statement in the entire letter of his devotion to White innocence and colorblindness: “It boggles my mind that anyone would advocate giving people...extra perks for no other reason other than their pigmentation.” This one is a doozy. Firstly, because it suggests just how ignorant (willfully or accidentally) he is of the history of anti-Black racism in America and how it has functioned since the Civil Rights movement (we would recommend Bonilla-Silva Racism without Racists, but Katz doesn’t seem much interested in scholarship written on race in the last 5 or 6 decades). It is especially clear that he does not recognize how much his own skin color provides him with advantages. More distressing, however, is how he seems to understand it as a matter of pigmentation. One of the most obvious and enduring aspects of Whiteness is its position as the absence of color, which, again, identifies Whiteness as normal and everything else as deviant.
Then there is the principle of White neutrality: anyone who thinks that anti-Blackness is foundational would “teach the 1619 project as dogma.” Controversy over the 1619 project aside, this is an almost explicit statement that Katz does not trust his Black colleagues or anyone who signed that letter (if they are one of the “believers'') to be balanced and neutral in their teaching of US History. While he, on the other hand, of course, recognizes that slavery and race had something to do with America (just not much). This is why we are certain that he read Douglass and discussed Allen at his festive 4th of July table--because he is balanced and reasonable. This is no different from Black journalists who were barred by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from reporting on the George Floyd/Black Lives Matters protests since they (but not White colleagues) were deemed unable to do so without bias. This statement by Katz makes it clear that he does not think anti-Black racism has shaped American society. And, honestly, for people who believe this, there is no evidence that will ever be enough evidence to convince them otherwise. This type of belief in the face of overwhelming evidence is the actual dogma.
What follows next is probably the most egregious misrepresentation in the entire op-ed:
This student organization is NOT listed as a known terrorist organization. We checked. This statement, one of his numerous exaggerations in the op-ed, presents a claim so misleading that it borders on hate speech itself (by legal definition). We are not at Princeton and have no first-hand evidence about this group. Katz says that they made people who disagreed with them “miserable” and that he watched something on Instagram, something that he classified “as one of the most evil things he has seen.” We are guessing he has not watched any videos of the numerous Black Americans killed by police. Regardless, it is still not terrorism. It sounds more like a dog whistle to those who believe that anyone advocating for Black lives is a terrorist. We hope he didn't mean it that way. (PS. he made a "800-word statement" on his 'metaphorical use' of the terms. Lol. You can find it linked in this article along with a department statement and uni president statement).
The last in the list worth addressing is the call for a committee. Even Katz agrees that racist behaviors and incidents require disciplinary actions. The more troubling is faculty oversight of research and publications. This is a place where we also would want to be careful and we think that the letter writers themselves recognize the dangers. (See now this detailed response by Prof. Andrew Cole of Princeton on this element of the letter).
Katz asks rhetorically whether there is anyone who “doesn’t believe that this committee would be a star chamber with a low bar for cancellation, punishment, suspension, even dismissal?” We don't believe it nor, seemingly, do those who signed the letter. Katz’s discussion is alarmist, but let’s look at the actual proposal from the Faculty Letter:
"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."
This is academic bureaucracy, as familiar to Katz as to any faculty member. They want a group of faculty to create a document that sets out guidelines for what counts as racist actions on campus. Such a document would be crafted by Princeton faculty and have to pass, we imagine, a full faculty vote. There would then be a faculty only committee to oversee the enforcement of those rules, including a process for appeal. The devil will, of course, be in the details, but an arbitrary star chamber is not envisioned. And we want to add a dose of realism to hysterical academic handwringing. From our experience, any document that makes it through a full faculty vote will be so watered down that it will hardly be anti-racist anymore.
And, let’s also be clear--there already are committees and people who police research and scholarship. Sometimes it happens in peer review, sometimes at the tenure and promotion committee table. Sometimes it happens in conversations where we are told that x topic (insert something involving race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, reception) is not an “appropriate” topic for a “real scholar”. We all know it happens. Katz’s alarmism is perhaps addressed to people who carry on what can be understood as research with explicitly racist goals (race and IQ studies, for example--a favorite topic at Q***ette). We will never know.
In the end, the Faculty Letter is clear that it is offering “principled steps” that require “faculty endorsement and input.” The letter expresses the desire for discussions of its content. Did Katz speak with any of the signatories, many who were(?) his “friends”, about his concerns? Why did he publish this? In contrast to the Letter writers, his goal is unclear, unless it is just an anti-woke, self-aggrandizing, virtue signal to his colleagues over at the Heterodox Academy. We hope not.