Magazine article The Christian Century

Duke Divinity Professor Disciplined amid Complaint over Antiracism Event

Magazine article The Christian Century

Duke Divinity Professor Disciplined amid Complaint over Antiracism Event

Article excerpt

Duke Divinity School has taken disciplinary action against a professor who wrote in an email to all faculty that a racial equity training event they had been encouraged to attend was "definitively anti-intellectual" and had "totalitarian tendencies."

When the conflict became public, someone at the divinity school sent the full text of several emails and images of printed letters to Rod Dreher at the American Conservative, who in turned published them on his blog.

Anathea Portier-Young, associate professor of Old Testament, on behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee, invited her colleagues to the equity training event in March, paid for and hosted by the school, saying that "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."

The Racial Equity Institute says on its website that it offers the training to help "leaders and organizations who want to proactively understand and address racism, both in their organization and in the community where the organization is working."

Paul J. Griffiths, professor of Catholic theology, in an email replying to all, "in the interests of free exchange," said: "I exhort you not to attend this training. It'll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there'll be bromides, cliches, and amencorner rah-rahs in plenty."

He went on to compare the training to communist reeducation of intellectuals by "bureaucrats and apparatchiks." He also wrote that the training was a distraction from the faculty's mission to think, "read, write, and teach about the triune Lord of Christian confession."

Elaine Heath, dean of the divinity school, then weighed in to support the event as "increasing our school's intellectual strength, spiritual vitality, and moral authority," before reproving use of the faculty email list to make disparaging statements.

"The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable," she wrote. "As St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, regardless of how exquisite our gifts are, if we do not exercise them with love our words are just noise." Griffiths then wrote to his colleagues again, releasing the message on social media, saying that two disciplinary proceedings had been instituted against him, one by Heath and the other by Portier-Young through the university's Office for Institutional Equity. …

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