Another day, another example of social justice advocates on the attack:
A Duke University theology professor resigned this week following disciplinary action taken against him by the school. This, after the professor had excoriated diversity training sessions suggested by the university as “intellectually flaccid.”
A series of emails published by The American Conservative reveals that 61-year-old professor Paul Griffiths, who teaches Catholic theology at Duke, took umbrage by an invitation urging all divinity school faculty to partake in two full days of “racial equity” training this past March.
There are more details of this episode here.
Let’s focus on the most interesting angle. Here is what Professor Griffiths wrote:
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.
And here is how Dean Elaine Heath spun his words:
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.
It’s always interesting to see postmodernists insist that their interpretation of a text is the One True Way to interpret things (given that postmodernists deny this is even possible).
For I see no ad hominem argument designed to humiliate and undermine Anathea Portier-Young (the professor who sent out the message on the training sessions). I see Griffith as speaking out against the general notion of such “training” sessions without specifically targeting Portier-Young. What’s even worse is that Griffith’s email contains no sexism or racism, yet the Dean felt free to characterize it as such. I find such labeling to be intellectually dishonest. For where is the evidence of such racism and sexism in Griffiths’ email?
I think this example highlights one of the most disturbing elements of social justice ideology. Clearly, Griffiths’ email angered Dean Heath. And this anger was sufficient cause for someone who claims to be a Christian while also having a PhD to literally import “sexism and racism” into the mouth of another colleague. In other words, such accusations are nothing more than weapons being used to carry out retribution all because of disagreement. Such primitive behavior betrays the core values of academia and further illustrates its decline.
Of course, there could be more happening behind the scenes and there could be some history behind these interactions. But for those of us who value critical thinking and intellectually honesty, none of that excuses the willingness to misrepresent another’s words/argument as “sexism and racism.”