Duke theology professor forced to resign after objecting to 'racism' seminar
A professor of theology at Duke University is resigning rather than facing disciplinary measures for criticizing a "Racial Equality Institute" training program.
Paul Griffiths, Warren professor of Catholic theology, responded to a faculty-wide email announcing the program by criticizing it as a waste of time and declaring that it would be "intellectually flaccid."
The resulting firestorm of criticism led to disciplinary measures that the professor refused to accept.
"I exhort you not to attend this training," Mr. Griffiths wrote in the Feb. 6 email. "Don't lay waste your time by doing so. It'll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there'll be bromides, cliches, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show."
Several colleagues replied that they were looking forward to the Racial Equity Institute training session, which was scheduled for March 4-5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Elaine Heath, dean of the divinity school, took a different tack.
She condemned Mr. Griffiths for using mass email "in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree."
"The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution," she wrote in the email, also sent Feb. 6.
Mr. Griffiths sent another facultywide email months later detailing the disciplinary procedures brought against him after the initial email exchange, which was first reported by Rod Dreher of the American Conservative.
Ms. Heath tried to schedule a meeting with Mr. Griffiths but refused to let him bring a sympathetic colleague, English professor Thomas Pfau, to serve as a witness. She eventually barred him from faculty meetings and threatened to take away his access to research funds.
"It is unacceptable for you to refuse to meet with me as the Dean of the Divinity School," Ms. Heath wrote in a March 10 memo to Mr. Griffiths. "I cannot physically force you to meet with me, but your refusal to meet with me will have consequences."
Ms. Portier-Young filed a complaint with the Office for Institutional Equity claiming the use of "racist and/or sexist speech in such a way as to constitute a hostile workplace," Mr. Griffiths' email said.
This is a familiar script with a typical ending. Accusing someone who disagrees with the dominant liberal view of racism results in the perpetrator being branded a "racist" despite the fact that no racist sentiments were expressed. The very act of defiance is considered, by itself, "racist."
Note also in this case that because the professor disagreed with a woman, a charge of "sexism" has been added to his crimes.
Is there any reason a political or social conservative should find himself employed at most American universities? Certainly, for many scholars – liberal and conservative – teaching is a calling, and the desire to impart wisdom and knowledge to a generation of young people often outweighs the calumnious and ridiculous charges thrown at those who disagree with the dominant narrative.
But enough is enough. The "hate speech" bar has been lowered to the point that it has become indistinguishable from simple political opposition or even academic disagreement. I'm sure that's the intent of the closed-minded, intolerant orthodox liberals who run most of the universities in America. But that doesn't mean it should be accepted without challenge. Forcing liberals to demonstrate their intolerance for all to see is the only way to fight back.
Professor Griffiths did so at high personal and professional cost.