It’s open season on public letters at the moment. First there was Harper’s “Letter on Justice and Open Debate”. Then, a few days later, came a counterletter, which attacked the original not so much for what it said but for who agreed with it.
And now this letter by Joshua Katz, itself written in response to yet another (!) letter which was signed by hundreds of members of the faculty and students at Princeton university.
The most alarming part of this particular letter, as Joshua points out, is a call to create a faculty run committee that would oversee the investigation of all “behaviour, incidents, research. What qualifies as racist and what the consequences should be, would, of course, also be defined by the committee. Here’s the full quote from section 11 of the “faculty-level” demands:
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.
Having never studied at Princeton, I can’t, with any confidence, offer an opinion on what it’s like to be a black student or faculty member there. What I can say, with great confidence, is that this le el of overreach, and the fact that it’s being demanded so brazenly at a university with the standing of Princeton, is actually pretty terrifying.
It’s difficult to say if this was just posturing, or whether there was even the slightest hope that this demand would be met, but either way, I would be deeply concerned with having staff that thought this way influencing generations of young, soon to be influential minds.