“Inside Higher Ed” on the Duke Divinity School Controversy


Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed reports on the controversy at Duke Divinity School surrounding professor Paul Griffith’s opposition to diversity training and the subsequent backlash.  Get up to speed here.

Here is a taste of Flaherty’s article:

Griffiths’s offenses, according to the letter, included refusing to meet with the dean to “discuss expectations for professional behavior as a faculty member and to abide by the agenda of the meeting which I have set.” Griffiths and Heath reportedly did not agree on terms of for such a meeting, and it never happened. Heath threatened further consequences for continuing not to meet with her, including loss of travel and research funds.

Heath also cited “your inappropriate behavior in faculty meetings over the past two years.” It’s unclear exactly what that means, but Griffiths in an email to colleagues referred to his past public comments about “the vocation and purpose of our school; the importance of the intellectual virtues to our common life; the place that seeking diversity among our faculty should have in that common life,” and — perhaps crucially — “the nature of racial, ethnic and gender identities, and whether there’s speech about certain topics forbidden to some among those identities.”

Portier-Young, who originally invited Griffiths to the training, allegedly brought a separate complaint to Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity, based on her interactions with him over the course of a year. Saying that he stood by his conversations with his colleagues but that he refused to defend himself against Portier-Young’s complaint, Griffiths in an email called it “illiberal, anti-intellectual and shameful” and an “attempt to constrain speech by blunt force rather than by free exchange.”

The American Conservative reported secondhand that Griffiths has resigned, effective in 2018. Griffiths did not respond to a request for comment, and Duke said he was still employed, and that it was immediately unaware of a resignation but otherwise unable to comment on a specific personnel case.

“Duke Divinity School is committed to scholarly excellence and academic freedom, which includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Audrey Ward, a spokesperson, said via email. “We seek to foster an environment where diversity of opinions is respected and members of the community feel free to engage in a robust exchange of ideas on a range of issues and topics. We believe that all faculty have a right to speak out as members of a civil academic community, and if all voices are to be heard, diverse perspectives must be valued and protected.”

As part of an ongoing effort to foster and support such a community, she added, “we will continue to offer voluntary opportunities for faculty, staff and students to participate in diversity training.”

Pfau, who supported Griffiths, told Inside Higher Ed that the main problem has been his colleague’s “sometimes strident tone,” rather than his objection to the training. And Griffiths’s opposition to the training, Pfau said, was “strictly to the means chosen,” not the expressed goal of equity or diversity. Pfau also said that Griffiths is resigning — a decision arrived at “without any administrative pressure being brought to bear on him.”

Portier-Young did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the entire article here.