“Commonweal Catholic” Professor who called diversity training a ‘waste’ resigns after liberal Protestant divinity school dean punishes him

[“Commonweal Catholic”] Professor who called diversity training a ‘waste’ resigns after [liberal Protestant divinity school] dean punishes him

[Hat-tip to New Oxford Review]

MAY 23, 2017

A Duke University Divinity School professor who called diversity training a “waste” of time has resigned after disciplinary proceedings were launched against him and he was barred by his dean from faculty meetings.

At issue is a February email in which Professor Paul Griffiths advised his colleagues not to bother with a proffered volunteer diversity training, called “Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training.” Slated for March, it would work to ensure the divinity school is “equitable and anti-racist in its practices and culture,” according to the invite.

“I exhort you not to attend this training,” Griffiths stated in his Feb. 6 listserv reply to his peers. “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 added.

For that, he was accused of racism and sexism, and disciplinary proceedings against him were launched.

Griffiths’ dean, Elaine Heath, responded on the listserv that it was “inappropriate and unprofessional” for him to publicly “humiliate or undermine” his colleague who sent the invitation, Prof. Anathea Portier-Young.

Next, in a March 10 letter to Griffiths, Heath stated: “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.”

So Griffiths said good riddance.

In a statement in Commonweal Magazine, Griffiths writes in a piece headlined “To the University, with Love: Why I Resigned from Duke” that his 34-year career in academia has come to an end. He said he came to education with a love of words, and it is that passion for discourse that was his downfall. He laments that the Ivory Tower is no longer a place where freedom of thought and expression is allowed:

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.

The episode is of concern to many.

“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,” writes Charlotte Allen in The Weekly Standard.

Writing on First Things, Jennifer Frey points out that Griffiths’ exercise of his freedom of speech led to his resignation.

“Why would an eminent Catholic theologian resign? The immediate reason was that Prof. Griffiths had spoken his mind freely and frankly about his reservations regarding the various diversity initiatives on offer at Duke. For this sin, he was swiftly and resoundingly disciplined by his administration. Tired of fighting, Griffiths has decided to leave academia behind,” Frey writes.

The American Conservative has published all of the emails and memos related to the drama at Duke University.

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2 comments on ““Commonweal Catholic” Professor who called diversity training a ‘waste’ resigns after liberal Protestant divinity school dean punishes him

  1. Captain Kirk: Mister Spock! A Commonweal Catholic professor at Duke Divinity School forced out for refusing to submit to PC diversity training…. analyze using your usual superior Vulcan logic which we no longer call “superior” in order to avoid being accused of excessive rigidity and neo-Pelagian triumphalism by sensitive liberals and progressive modernists with self-esteem issues who might be less familiar with Aristotelian logic due to progressive curriculum changes from the Land O’Lakes conference agenda and who, therefore, might find displays of logic to be triggering events and microaggressions….

    Spock: Fascinating, Captain. It is possible that the infantilizing effects of Frankfurt School diversity training were too silly for the professor and he was overcome by a sudden resurgence of self-respect and scholarly decorum which was too much for the progressive snowflake administrators.

    Captain Kirk: So is that it? Is his career over?

    Spock: Not necessarily, Captain. He could always team up with Professor Esolen of Providence College and Professor McAdams at Marquette University to publish a book reporting their findings on the status of The Closing of the American Mind in the Ivory Tower in 2017. It is also possible that the Catholic University of America, Thomas Aquinas College, or even Hillsdale College could welcome such a scholar.

    Hans Küng: Don’t forget Tübingen, Leuven, or even Innsbruck!

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Father Gannon was always keen on providing asylum for scholars in exile at Fordham in the old days. Of course, things have changed a great over the years since Vatican II and the Land O’Lakes conference but perhaps Father Schall and Father Pacwa could put in a word for him…

    Walker Percy: I’d put in a word for him at Loyola of the South but I’m afraid the PC police are taking down so many statues in New Orleans already we’d be pushing the boundaries a bit there.

    Father Fitzgibbon: They could always try calling the Pope!

    Captain Kirk: I guess we can rule that out, Spock?

    Spock: At least until the next conclave. Bergoglio would probably side with those pushing PC diversity training in order to overcome excessive rigidity and whatever neo-Pelagian triumphalism may have crept into Duke Divinity during the era of ecumenical dialogue.

    Father O’Malley: High schools need Religion teachers.

    Father Copleston, S.J.: That is still part of the Ratio Studiorum.

    Robin: We could use another Religion teacher at Fordham Prep, Batman.

    Father Mulcahy, S.J.: Just be careful not to hide your joy…

    Dylan: I think I’m out of rolling papers, man. Do you have any papers on you?

    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening….Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, Max Weber’s concept of disenchantment in modern culture, and Professor Taylor’s secularization theories…

    Kierkegaard: As long as we deal with the problem of Angst and Cartesian dualism at the heart of modernity at some point we should be fine…

    Carol Brady: You’ve been spending a lot of time on that book, Mike. I just thought you should know that I went off the Pill…..

  2. Küng Fu: Modernism the Legend Continues

    Master Po: What is troubling you, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: I am confused, Master.

    Master Po: What is confusing your mind in these dark times, Grasshopper?

    Kwai Chang: If the professor can be forced out for not submitting to PC diversity training, have they not learned from the totalitarian abuses of the Maoists in shutting down the monasteries and forcing the masses to wear jumpsuits and overalls?

    Master Po: Ah, Grasshopper, if a field mouse falls off of a trampoline at a circus carnival, is it the fault of house cat resting on the sofa?

    Kwai Chang: Forgive me, Master. You wish me to know the answer to this strange question?

    Master Po: At some point, yes, when you have been shocked into a sufficient state of mindfulness that you can snatch the pebble from my hand. Until then you shall have many puzzles and riddles to meditate on.

    Dylan: PC diversity training is Orwellian. It’s a put-on, man.

    Mr. Roarke: Tattoo, do you feel that we treat you fairly here on the island?

    Tattoo: Well, it gets hot sometimes. Are you unhappy with the typecasting, Boss?

    Professor Jürgen Habermas: We should perform a hermeneutical analysis of the structures of communication relating to the narrative of this diversity controversy.

    Hans Küng: I vuz going to say zat! But first we must identify Professor Habermas’s Enneagram number.

    Ann: Who’s Jürgen Habermas?

    Batman: How’s your Latin homework at Fordham Prep coming, Robin? You were thinking about spending Tuesday afternoon translating the works of Cicero, Vergil, Horace, Catullus, Livy, Tacitus, Juvenal, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas,
    weren’t you, Robin?

    Robin: I was?

    Batman: Latin homework is diversity training, Robin. You’re not Italian, are you? And your mother tongue is not one of the Romance languages?

    Robin: I don’t think so, Batman.

    Batman: Always remember, Robin: civilization begins or falls with whether we are learning the proper Latin case endings.

    For Mary Richards, a childless single career woman in 1970s Minneapolis, washing her Ford Mustang while wearing a Fran Tarkenton Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt, as Glenn Frey and the Eagles crooned “Take It Easy” on her 8-track tape player, postmodern Frankfurt School diversity training, the decline of academic culture, and the progressive modernist obsession with climate change and Enneagram numbers were far from her mind…

    Reverend Neuhaus: That’s my opening….Forgive me for interrupting again as aggressive and pushy professional Protestant converts sometimes do, but speaking as a semi-recovering former Lutheran familiar with the pitfalls of eliminating reason and logic from discussions of religion, since this might be a good time to discuss the Naked Public Square in modernity, Max Weber’s concept of disenchantment in modern culture, and Professor Taylor’s secularization theories, I would like to make a few points about Maritain and Reinhold Niebuhr in relation to this business about the Benedict Option….

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