Rod Dreher Publishes E-Mails from Duke Divinity School Controversy

Duke

You can read them here.

Get up to speed here.

Some quick thoughts on what I have read:

  1. Faculty were invited to attend the Racial Equity Institute training at Duke.  They were not forced to attend.
  2. Regardless of what one thinks about racial equity training, Griffith’s response to Anathea Portier-Young‘s e-mail was unnecessarily rude and provocative.  If Griffiths does have a legitimate critique of this training, he is not going to get very far convincing others with an e-mail like this.  The e-mail was very unprofessional.  Nevertheless, in an environment defined by academic freedom he has the right to express his views this way.
  3. Keep your eyes on the prize.”  Interesting way for Griffiths to end the e-mail.
  4. One of the best things I have read about this kind of racial sensitivity training is Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn’s book Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution.  I recommend it to all involved.
  5. Elaine Heath‘s original response to Griffiths is fair, but I think Dreher has a point when he says that Heath was assuming a lot when she described Griffiths’s e-mail as a model of “racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry.”  Thomas Pfau, who holds an endowed chair in the Duke English Department, seems to agree with Dreher here.
  6. Griffiths sounds like he can be a real pain in the neck.
  7. For someone who has never been part of an academic institution–Christian or otherwise–Dreher sure seems to have this case all figured out.
  8. How will the faculty who Griffiths offended respond this week?  How will Griffith’s defenders respond this week?  This will say a lot about the Christian character of the Duke Divinity School community.  One self-proclaimed “conservative” student has already said that “repentance” is needed.  Dreher seems most concerned about how this all relates to the culture wars.
  9. This raises a big question for me:  Where does one draw the line between exercising academic freedom and using such freedom to undermine the community of a Christian institution?  Often-times Christian schools use “community” to stifle academic freedom or marginalize independent voices. Those who approach issues from a Christian perspective or confessional commitment that might be different from the dominant Christian culture of the institution can be easily ostracized.  I have seen this happen.  At other times independent voices spew forth their ideas without any consideration for how they might hurt or damage the community in the process.  I have seen this happen.

In the end, I am sure there is a lot more to this story.  It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

6 thoughts on “Rod Dreher Publishes E-Mails from Duke Divinity School Controversy

  1. Griffiths gets zero sympathy from me on this one. You do not mass email people to express disagreement. Just this semester, not one but two of my college students have expressed their displeasure with grades received to the administration of my institution, often emailing multiple members of the admin; in both cases, students have been encouraged to start by expressing their concern privately. I’m sure Griffiths, at some point in his career, had a similar experience. He should know better.

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  2. Had the exact same response: Griffiths was reveling in poking at these people, his rhetoric invited hostility, etc. (I guess it’s part of how things work that the people who are courageous enough to speak out are going to be a little offensive, too, however.) But I sympathize with his frustrations about all the “training” seminars and etc. faculty get subjected to these days. It’s very often of mediocre quality, it’s sanctimonious, under-thought-through, captive to faddish shibboleths, and etc. Force-feeding faculty bromides cooked-up by “the helping professions” is a recipe for the kind of response Griffiths offers. Doesn’t Proverbs say something about not provoking people to wrath? Might be relevant.

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  3. For all I know Griffiths may be guilty as sin and Portier-Young right as rain, but the process as conducted thus far by Heath is unknown to the Saints. It may be allowed – even encoraged – by any number of statutes and compatible with secular academic policy, but this process is inimical to the Christian faith. It is worth review by the University Senate.

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  4. Academic infighting like this easily makes untenured faculty jumpy, especially if they hold views they believe to be unpopular. Freedom of speech can be elusive, even in a profession which trumpets its protected freedoms.

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