Professor Paul Griffiths of Duke University Divinity School has resigned from the faculty after being subjected to academic disciplinary action because he had referred to diversity training a “waste” of time. In February, Griffiths advised colleagues to refrain from taking volunteer diversity training. Slated for March, “Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training” was intended to ensure that the divinity school is “equitable and anti-racist in its practices and culture,” according to an invitation.
“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Griffiths stated in his February 6 listserv reply to his colleagues. “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.”
“… We have neither time nor resources to waste. This training is a waste. Please, ignore it,” he wrote.
Because of his message, Griffiths was excluded from some faculty meetings, while disciplinary actions were launched against him in response to accusations of racism and sexism. Elaine Heath, Griffiths’ dean, told the recipients of an email to the listserv that it was “inappropriate and unprofessional” for him to publicly “humiliate or undermine” Professor Anathea Portier-Young, a faculty member. Griffiths is a Catholic and held the Warren Chair in Catholic Theology. Portier-Young is a specialist in Jewish scripture.
Heath stated in a March 10 letter: “It is unacceptable for you to refuse to meet with me … Beginning immediately you will not be permitted to attend or participate in faculty meetings or committee meetings … Your continued refusal to meet with me will result in further consequences, including but not limited to the loss of travel and research funds.”
Griffiths responded to Duke University by writing a peace at Commonweal Magazine, “To the University, with Love: Why I Resigned from Duke.” He wrote that his 34-year career in academia has come to an end. Here follows an excerpt:
“It’s over because I recently, and freely, resigned my chair in Catholic Theology at Duke University in response to disciplinary actions initiated by my dean and colleagues. Those disciplinary actions, in turn, were provoked by my words: critical and confrontational words spoken to colleagues in meetings; and hot words written in critique of university policies and practices, in support of particular freedoms of expression and thought, and against legal and disciplinary constraints of those freedoms. My university superiors, the dean and the provost, have been at best lukewarm in their support of these freedoms, preferring to them conciliation and accommodation of their opponents. And so, I reluctantly concluded, the word-struggle, the agony of distinction and argument, the search for clarity by dramatizing and exploring difference—these no longer have the place they once had in the university.”
Charlotte Allen wrote in The Weekly Standard:
“It’s hard to figure out what’s more appalling about this episode: the ease with which powerful faculty members can strip their colleagues of their ability to do their jobs just because those colleagues exercise free speech and don’t sign on to their ideological priorities—or the increasing power of bloated university bureaucracies, especially ‘diversity’ bureaucracies over every facet of existence at a university that is supposed to be devoted to the life of the mind.”
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