The Disgrace at Duke [With Comment by John]

You would think that after the fiasco of the fake rape case against the Duke lacrosse team that Duke University would behave itself with more rectitude. But no. Rod Dreher reports over at The American Conservative of a brave professor at Duke Divinity School, Paul Griffiths, who is resisting a typically tendentious Maoist-style re-education camp. And naturally for this he is being branded a—wait for it!—racist, sexist, bigot.

The entire collection of emails that Dreher has assembled is worth reading at the link above if you have the time. But here are a few highlights. First, a portion of the initial invitation to the workshop of the Racial Equity Institute:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

On behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee, I strongly urge you to participate in the Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training planned for March 4 and 5. We have secured funding from the Provost to provide this training free to our community and we hope that this will be a first step in a longer process of working to ensure that DDS is an institution that is both equitable and anti-racist in its practices and culture. . .

Then Prof. Griffith’s response to his faculty colleagues:

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. . .

This prompted a response from the dean of Duke Divinity School, Elaine Heath:

It is certainly appropriate to use mass emails to share announcements or information that is helpful to the larger community, such as information about the REI training opportunity. It is inappropriate and unprofessional to use mass emails to make disparaging statements–including arguments ad hominem–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. . .

As Dreher comments, just where is the “racism, sexism, and bigotry” in Griffith’s email?

And you’ll never guess what happened next, as the click-bait cliche goes: Yep—Prof. Griffiths has been hit with two disciplinary complaints. Here’s an excerpt from his account:

My speech and writing about these topics has now led to two distinct (but probably causally related) disciplinary procedures against me, one instigated by Elaine Heath, our Dean, and the other instigated by Thea Portier-Young, our colleague. I give at the end of this message a bare-bones factual account of these disciplinary proceedings to date.

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. They appeal to non- or anti-intellectual categories (‘unprofessional conduct’ in Heath’s case; ‘harassment’ in Portier-Young’s) to short-circuit disagreement. All this is shameful, and I call them out on it.

Heath and Portier-Young aren’t alone among us in showing these tendencies. The convictions that some of my colleagues hold about justice for racial, ethnic, and gender minorities have led them to attempt occupation of a place of unassailably luminous moral probity. That’s a utopia, and those who seek it place themselves outside the space of reason. Once you’ve made that move, those who disagree with you inevitably seem corrupt and dangerous, better removed than argued with, while you seem to yourself beyond criticism. What you do then is discipline your opponents.

There’s a lot more to take in from Dreher’s complete report, but this should be enough to expose the rot at Duke. Duke now costs $70,092 a year to attend. The cost of Duke Divinity School depends on which graduate degree program you pursue, but ranges for tuition alone from $23,000 to $30,000 per year—$20,oo0 cheaper than tuition for the undergraduate university, which may suggest something about the relative value of a degree from Duke Divinity School. But even at that discount it is a rip off. Duke really ought to be paying people to put up with this kind of crap.

JOHN adds: Duke is ridiculously bad–who would pay that tuition? It isn’t even a very good school. But this is what jumped out at me:

The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution. . .

Seriously? I understand that this email came from someone in the Divinity School, but most divinity schools these days are post-Christian, at best. And when has a Duke administrator last asserted, in the context of any public policy debate, that Duke is “a Christian institution”?

Duke (and virtually every other similar school) said goodbye to Christianity a long time ago. It is really contemptible to try to enlist Jesus in support of the left-wing cause du jour.