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Tags: academia

US Academia Seeks to Impose a Totalitarian Moral Order

a statue in front of a building at princeton university
Princeton University (Dreamstime)

Paul du Quenoy By Friday, 24 June 2022 10:44 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

“A Soviet childhood leaves its traces on the heart,” wrote University of West Georgia professor Nadya Williams in April.

Williams, who is apparently an immigrant from the Evil Empire, really wasn’t kidding.

Earlier this month, she wrote a lengthy screed in Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for the decaying academic profession, in which she denounced the distinguished classics scholar Joshua Katz, whom Princeton University fired in May.

Katz’s dismissal followed national controversy over a short piece he wrote following George Floyd’s killing in June 2020.

He objected to colleagues’ demands that minority Princeton faculty members receive race-based raises and perks, that Princeton’s security be disbanded, and that faculty committees review professorial research for suspected racist content.

Princeton officials smeared Katz as a “racist,” condemned his views, questioned his right to express them, and appear to have defamed him in mandatory student orientation materials that likened him to slaveholders and segregationists.

When Princeton colleagues and multiple professional organizations objected to Katz’s appalling treatment, the university refused to take corrective action, ironically citing free speech principles.

At the same time the scandal broke, Princeton’s campus newspaper began to muckrake through Katz’s professional history and discovered that he had been disciplined for a consensual relationship with a student, which had occurred in 2006, long before virtually any university prohibited professor-student relationships.

Princeton officials reopened the investigation and claimed that Katz, who had accepted and fully complied with the terms of a sanction imposed upon him years ago, had not fully cooperated with the original investigation.

Despite New Jersey state laws prohibiting double jeopardy in academic employment investigations, Princeton’s president Christopher L. Eisgruber cited this alleged non-compliance as cause to terminate Katz’s employment after nearly 25 years of service.

Naturally, almost no sane person believes that this, and not the irrational and militantly pursued race controversy, was the real reason for Katz’s dismissal.

Many critics have observed that leftist faculty members making controversial political comments would have suffered no such consequences. Princeton history professor Kevin M. Kruse, a woke liberal who has been accused of plagiarism, appears to be in no significant danger of professional repercussions.

Williams, who attended Princeton while Katz was teaching there but did not, to the best of his recollection, study with him, slavishly believes the party line, perhaps one of those pitiful “traces on the heart” left over from her Soviet childhood.

Believing what the commissars proclaim, her outrage flared from the fact that Antigone, a respected open-access classics forum, published a scholarly essay by Katz while his cancellation was in progress.

Unnamed individuals who were “aware” of the allegations against him, she claimed with remarkable passive aggression, “wondered” if it is “appropriate to give him a platform just because he also happens to be an exceptional scholar.”

Williams deliberately ignored that the only policy violation for which Katz had been found responsible was a consensual relationship that involved no allegation of harassment, and that he had accepted and fulfilled the terms of a sanction imposed by his employer in a process that was intended to be confidential.

She ignored that we have a multigenerational feminist movement founded on the sacrosanct principle that women should never be told what to do with their bodies.

She ignored that our society celebrates and legally protects virtually all forms of sexuality except for those that occur in or even around a workplace, which are now proscribed with near-monastic fanaticism.

She ignored that a person intellectually mature enough to read a scholarly publication should also be able to separate a contribution by a distinguished expert in an academic field from unrelated controversy rather than fall into infantile hysterics at the mere sight of a byline by someone of whose personal actions they may disapprove.

Williams congratulates “some of us” (i.e. herself and those who share her authoritarian views) who make what she calls “character-based judgments” that “ultimately condemn individuals like Joshua Katz” — a man whose choice of consensual romantic partner 16 years ago upsets her now.

“Can we trust the brainchild of someone so morally flawed?” she asks in indignation, tendentiously adding that conservatives “simply do not care about the character of individuals” while insisting that only reliable party members like her do.

Her solution is textbook Lenin: “[I]t is time for us to unite in thinking as a democracy about character and recognize that such abuses of power affect more than just the immediate victims.” (We can wonder whether consensual relationships have “victims,” or if we need shrill scolds like Nadya Williams to tell us they do, but she is certainly committing a microaggression by not calling them “survivors.”)

Williams’ Soviet childhood evidently did not impart the fundamental lesson that a real democracy cannot and must not “unite” on the definition of intangibles like “character.”

Forming and imposing such a definition can only be undemocratic. Officially mandated “character” can, and in many contexts has, imposed uniformity of religion, thought, language, morality, politics and other fluid attributes that our Founding Fathers fought against and then drafted an enduring Constitution to banish from public life

Evidently, the blessings of liberty do not suit Williams’s leftover Soviet sensibilities, which are shared by people who believe that our Constitution should be torn up, and who view our freedoms as an obstacle to their peculiar vision of social justice.

As if to prove that very point, Williams launches into a strange and error-ridden attempt to justify the judicial murder of none other than Socrates.

Socrates, she questionably claims, slept with his student Alcibaides (Alcibaides, as recorded by Plato, denied it), thereby rendering all of his teachings “decidedly problematic” — so “problematic” that people with Williams’ credentials still teach them 2,400 years later.

Socrates’s trial, which resulted in his being condemned to suicide by poison, was in Williams’s estimation an admirable character judgment of the same type that she would now like for a “united” society to impose upon Joshua Katz and, presumably, anyone else whose “character” does not rise to her standards.

It is lamentable that the editors of Inside Higher Ed unapologetically greenlighted a deranged piece that implies a modern academic professional should be dead for transgressing a marginal sect’s moral expectations. They owe Professor Katz a full retraction and an apology.

Williams may only be an obscure professor at a third-tier college so financially troubled that it recently had to lay off faculty, but her backwater career only proves how universally and how enthusiastically woke progressives are embracing the purge and the gulag of her native country.

We should thank her for reminding us that seeking reasoned dialogue with them is a waste of time.

Paul du Quenoy is president of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Georgetown University. Read more — Here.

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PaulduQuenoy
"A Soviet childhood leaves its traces on the heart," wrote University of West Georgia professor Nadya Williams in April.Williams, who is apparently an immigrant from the Evil Empire, really wasn't kidding.Earlier this month, she wrote a lengthy screed in Inside Higher Ed,...
academia
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2022-44-24
Friday, 24 June 2022 10:44 AM
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