Duke Professor Facing Disciplinary Action for Criticizing ‘Diversity Training’

AP Photo/Jonathan Drew
AP Photo/Jonathan Drew

A professor at Duke University is facing two disciplinary proceedings after condemning diversity training initiatives taking place on campus.

Professor Paul Griffiths of Duke University’s Divinity School is facing charges of “harassment” and “unprofessional conduct” after arguing that socially-engineered diversity efforts have “illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies.”

In an email on the faculty listserv, Griffiths claimed that mandatory “re-education” programs have a “long and ignoble history.”  “When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual,” he wrote. “(Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.”

In response to Griffith’s email, Dean Elaine Heath chastised him for disagreeing, claiming that it for was “inappropriate and unprofessional” for Griffiths to “humiliate or undermine” his colleague. “The use of mass emails,” she continued, “to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution.”

Professor Thomas Pfau of Duke’s Divinity School fired back in Griffith’s defense, arguing that there was absolutely no discernable evidence of bigotry in Griffith’s email.

Having reviewed Paul Griffiths’ note several times, I find nothing in it that could even remotely be said to “express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry.” To suggest anything of the sort strikes me as either gravely imperceptive or as intellectually dishonest.

Griffiths, who will now face charges of “harassment” and “unprofessional conduct,” has claimed that academics like Dean Elaine Heath would prefer to discipline those who contradict her rather than engage with them.

These disciplinary proceedings are designed not to engage and rebut the views I hold and have expressed about the matters mentioned, but rather to discipline me for having expressed them. Elaine Heath and Thea Portier-Young, when faced with disagreement, prefer discipline to argument. In doing so they act illiberally and anti-intellectually; their action shows totalitarian affinities in its preferred method, which is the veiled use of institutional power.

You can read the entirety of Professor Griffith’s listserv email below:

 Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance.

We here at Duke Divinity have a mission. Such things as this training are at best a distraction from it and at worst inimical to it. Our mission is to thnk, read, write, and teach about the triune Lord of Christian confession. This is a hard thing. Each of us should be tense with the effort of it, thrumming like a tautly triple-woven steel thread with the work of it, consumed by the fire of it, ever eager for more of it. We have neither time nor resources to waste. This training is a waste. Please, ignore it. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Paul

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at tciccotta@breitbart.com

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