According to The College Fix, a Catholic professor at Duke Divinity School has resigned after the school faculty attempted to punish him for expressing criticism of a racial training program. Catholic Theology professor Paul Griffiths invoked the ire of the school establishment when he responded to a university-wide email encouraging staff and administrators to attend a two-day Racial Equity Institute training session. The email, sent by associate professor Anathea Portier-Young, asked that Duke Divinity professors consider showing up to the session, an invitation that Griffiths rejected in short order.
“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Griffiths wrote in February, responding publicly to the original email. “Don’t 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.”
Hours later, the dean of the school responded angrily to Griffiths’ email, saying it was not appropriate for professors to use the email system “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,” said the dean.
The dean requested a meeting with Griffiths, which turned out to be the second invitation he rejected. She then vowed that Griffiths would face disciplinary action for his email and his refusal to meet with her. Rather than go through the corrective steps, Professor Griffiths chose to resign.
The College Fix cited one of Griffiths’ co-workers, who helpfully explained that there are limits to free speech:
Valerie Cooper, Duke Divinity School associate professor of religion and society and black church studies, said the university’s treatment of Mr. Griffiths did not violate its commitment to academic freedom because the progressive view of diversity is not a subject up for debate.
“As you read Prof. Paul Griffiths‘ complaint, below, please bear in mind that Duke University has a clear statement in favor of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ms. Cooper wrote on Facebook this month. “Because this statement *is* Duke University policy, being against diversity isn’t an issue of academic freedom. It is academic malpractice. If you can’t abide by Duke’s policies, you shouldn’t work for Duke.”
Of course, Griffiths never claimed he was “against diversity,” did he? No, he simply expressed his (almost undoubtedly correct) view that a racial equity training would be filled with all kinds of misbegotten liberalism that staffers would be better off without. And in fact, why should the school have bothered with a two-day training session at all? If it’s either “our way or the highway,” send out a checklist of things professors can and cannot do/say, make it clear that their employment is contingent on following the rules, and be done with it.
That wouldn’t make anything better from a fundamental standpoint, but it would at least be a little more honest.