The state of the suburbs


The suburbs are in the news again. Remember this Tweet:

If you want to get a good sense of what is happening in the suburbs right now and how it influences American politics, check out Zack Stanton’s interview with historian Thomas Sugrue at Politico.

Here is a taste:

The “suburban lifestyle dream” is really different depending on who you are. There’s not one single “suburban lifestyle dream.” For immigrants from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador, it’s getting access to the plentiful service-sector jobs available in suburban places. For educated, well-to-do whites, it’s having a charming house in an older, walkable neighborhood with first-rate public schools. For middle-class whites alienated by the growing diversity of society, it’s having a place closer to open fields and farms, with brand-new housing stock and racially homogenous public schools. We have to talk about the diversity of “suburban lifestyle dreams,” and see that there’s not just one. And that’s where I think Trump has really misread the reality of today’s suburbs.

Read the entire interview here.

A Princeton classics professor will not be investigated for his dissent


A classics professor at Princeton University got into some trouble when he “declared independence” from a petition championed by hundreds of his colleagues.

Here is a taste of Joshua Katz‘s piece at The Wall Street Journal:

Now is the time to debate with renewed vigor existential questions of what counts as justice and how to fashion an equitable society. But the stifling of dissent is impeding the search for answers and driving people who disagree still further apart. Because students like to push boundaries and professors like to argue, colleges and universities are a crucible.

Take the university where I teach, Princeton. The campus—or at least the online campus, in the age of the coronavirus—has been in uproar since early July over a letter of demands to the administration signed by hundreds of my faculty colleagues, and especially over my response to that letter. I was immediately denounced on social media and condemned publicly by my department and the university president. At the same time, the university spokesman announced ominously that the administration would be “looking into the matter further.” On July 14, the Journal’s editorial board commented: “Princeton is demonstrating how a lack of leadership enables the cancel culture.”

It is therefore gratifying to report that Princeton’s leadership has done the right thing. I learned recently that I am not under investigation. The story of how I survived cancellation should be of interest to others, since I have no doubt that many more people, from once-obscure professors to public figures, will be vilified and in some cases materially punished for thought crimes.

In my response to the open letter, I agreed with some of my colleagues’ demands but objected to others, including some that are illegal (giving financial rewards specifically to faculty based on race) or, in my view, immoral (creating a new faculty committee to investigate research for traces of racism and discipline those responsible).

These demands deserve attention, not least because I believe that my colleagues are, for the most part, sensible people who are striving to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, heat over my use of the phrase “terrorist organization” to describe a defunct student group called the Black Justice League—whose members targeted and smeared fellow undergraduates for disagreeing with them—has triumphed over light: Neither my colleagues’ substantive demands nor my objections have received the attention they deserve.

The president of Princeton, Christopher Eisgruber, told a student newspaper that I had violated my obligation to exercise free speech “responsibly,” stating that he “personally and strongly” objected to my “false description” of the defunct student group. Four colleagues in my department, none of whom have been in touch with me directly, used the Princeton Classics website to denounce my language as “abhorrent” and made the astonishing claim that I had placed “Black colleagues, students, and alums at serious risk.” Some students and alumni went after me as well. And that’s to say nothing of the general vitriol online.

Read the rest here.

Liberty University’s Director of Diversity Retention Has Resigned


Quan McLaurin

His name is Quan McLaurin.

I am assuming he is resigning because of this:


Here is his tweet:

Here is what he wrote on his LinkedIn page:

Yesterday I tendered my letter of resignation. As of July 2, 2020, I will no longer serve as the Director of Diversity Retention at Liberty University.

In other news, if you know of any good student affairs or diversity, equity, and inclusion positions that are available feel free to shoot them my way.

McLaurin has a bachelor’s degree in Clinical, Counseling, and Applied Psychology (2015) and a master’s degree in communication (2020). Both are from Liberty University.

As I wrote in a previous post today, the co-founder of Liberty University’s Falkirk Center does not believe in white privilege or systemic racism.

Let’s remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

Identity Politics on Steroids at Amherst College


The Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Amherst College in Massachusetts recently posted its “Common Language Guide,” a forty-page glossary of terms that calls for “a need to come to a common and shared understanding of language…around identity, privilege, oppression and inclusion.”

Over at the left-leaning Catholic magazine Commonweal, Rand Richards Cooper, an Amherts graduate, offers his critique:

Some entries are almost comically tendentious. Here is the guide’s definition of “heterosexuality,” for instance: “A term developed as diagnosis of the hyper-infatuation with a different sex, first used by sexologist Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1868…. [It] is used today to denote the normalized dominant sexual identity.” And while the guide’s definition of “equality” begins straightforwardly enough—“treating everyone exactly the same”—it quickly takes a sharp left turn, observing that “an equality emphasis often ignores historical and structural factors that benefit some social groups/communities and harm other social groups/communities.” Does that mean that emphasizing equality is not a good thing?

Anything resembling traditional, received notions of gender (and anyone embracing them) receives a bruising definitional wallop from Amherst’s team of language mavens. We learn that “femininity” is “a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with girls and women,” and further that “performing femininity in a culturally established way is expected of people assigned female at birth.” The definition all but dismisses femininity as fraudulent—unless it is the femininity of the marginalized. Thus we encounter “hard femme,” defined as “an identity term for queer women… [who] remind us that femininity and strength can be synonymous.” “Hard femmes,” the entry continues, “are feminists.” But…wait! Can’t straight women remind us that femininity and strength can be synonymous? Can’t they be feminists? Not exactly; at least, not straight white women—since “white feminism,” as we learn, is “a form of feminism that centers the experiences of white (also: cisgender, straight, and upper-class) women…[and] is predicated upon the erasure of women of color and the ways in which racism and sexism converge and compound one another.”

Reading the guide is like stumbling into a trade-journal article, where specialized language demarcates territory and warns off intruders. Bristling with acronyms and niche designations, it elaborates a system of identity via a profusion of phyla: Latinx/o/a/e, QTPOC, AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth), FTM, MX, XTX (“a response by trans folks who reject the terms ‘FTM’ and ‘MTF’”). We wander into internal gender-politics squabbles, as when we learn that “Boi”—“a term describing masculine-presenting queer black women whose gender presentation can be more fluid and/or androgynous than completely masculine”—was “purposely coined to be different from ‘stud’/’AG’ [‘Aggressive Girl’] because of the rigid conformity to masculinity in those communities.” Meanwhile, TERF—Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist—denotes feminists who reject trans women because they were once boys; while this view has been rejected “by most queer and trans communities,” the guide notes that “TERF ideology still does infiltrate many women’s spaces.”

Apparently Amherst’s president was not happy about the guide.  Here is Cooper:

The Common Language Guide wasn’t on the Amherst website for long. Soon after it appeared, president Carolyn Martin, surely recognizing the potential for calamitous PR, took it down, then hastily called a faculty meeting to express her displeasure at such a document having been made public without her approval. Of course, nothing really disappears from the internet, and it didn’t take long for gloating reactionaries to seize on the guide and indulge their favorite sport of gleefully savaging liberal elitism.

Liberals will dislike being forced into strange bedfellow-ship with rightwing cultural critics. But a document like Amherst’s Common Guide may leave them no choice. Despite the sentiment expressed in its introduction, such a document will not serve to encourage discussion, but to stifle it; the goal is not intellectual diversity, but conformity. A professor friend of mine at another college notes ruefully that colleagues who oppose the ideas and language put forth in the Amherst document don’t dare say so publicly. “They’d be ostracized and shamed,” he told me. “You just can’t disagree with this kind of thing.” So much for the idea of tenure as a shield against censorship.

In a statement disavowing the guide, Martin commented that it “runs counter to the core academic values of freedom of thought and expression…[and] cuts against our efforts to foster open exchange and independent thinking.” A few days later, in a second, longer statement, Martin—presumably having taken heat from her faculty—partly walked back her initial criticism, praising “the intentions of those who created the document” and asserting that “they believed creating it would help us come to terms with the experiences and perspectives of marginalized groups and create an environment in which understanding and a sense of community could grow.”

Read the entire piece here.

Princeton’s Robert George on Intellectual and Ideological Diversity in the Academy


While I was visiting a big state university a couple of weeks ago I had a robust, spirited, and civil conversation with the history faculty about how to teach controversial or morally problematic issues.  Many of the history professors in the room said that they use their classrooms to advocate for certain political causes (all on the left) or see no problem giving their personal opinion about a particular issue or idea that arises from the study of the past.

I pushed back. I wondered whether the history classroom was primarily the place where such moral criticism should happen.  Those familiar with my Why Study History?: A Historical Introduction know that I think there is a difference between moral philosophy (ethics) and history.  Though I obviously have my opinions, and many of them are informed by my understanding of the past, I rarely bring those opinions into the classroom.  For example, the only time I talk about Donald Trump in my classroom is when he gets something wrong about history or uses the past irresponsibly to justify this or that policy.   I do the same thing with any public figure who manipulates the past for political gain.

In other words, my blog and other social media feeds are not the best representations of what my classroom looks like.

Robert George of Princeton University is very conservative.  I have seen him defending moral conservatism in public talks, in writing, and on social media.  But if I read his recent interview with Matthew Stein at The College Fix, I don’t think these conservative political and moral convictions dominate his classroom.  George has some very interesting things to say about intellectual and ideological diversity in the classroom. Here is a taste:

The College Fix: In your Open Minds Conference panel, you mentioned that you don’t think professors should “use their classrooms as a soapbox for advocacy,” and that you and professors like Cornel West make your classrooms as intellectually stimulating and valuable as possible by honestly portraying both sides of an argument. This seems to hit on a big issue with the universities today, as many professors of the “progressive orthodoxy” you later mentioned seem to use their positions to influence their students into becoming activists of related social causes. How do you think society can address this issue, particularly given the system of tenure and the sheer magnitude of the problem?

Robert George: Like most of the problems in academia—and society more broadly—today, what is needed above all is courage. We need the courage to speak the truth even when it is uncomfortable, and even when truth-speaking carries risks. Professors who seek to indoctrinate their students are betraying a sacred trust. They are supposed to be educators. If there is an antonym to “educating,” it’s “indoctrinating.” Professors (and other teachers) who engage in indoctrination need to be confronted. Certainly administrators need to do this. Fellow faculty members need to do it. And students themselves need to do it, too.

Is this risky, especially for students? You bet it is. But that’s where the virtue of courage comes in. All of us—including students—need to muster the courage to call out teachers who betray their sacred trust. In addition, professors who understand the importance of truly educating students, and who grasp the fundamental difference between education and indoctrination, need to set an excellent example for their colleagues—especially younger colleagues. Together, we can establish a milieu that powerfully discourages indoctrination.

CF: You also mentioned that you should create an atmosphere of “unsettling” each other in the classroom. Looking at the campus more generally, there are continually accounts of the opposite atmosphere in regards to discussing “unsettling ideas,” whether it be by an outside speaker being shut down or students on campus being afraid to express unpopular viewpoints. How can this negative general atmosphere on campus be improved to encourage students to act out the ideal intellectual atmosphere that you described?

RG: Again, courage is the key. Students must have the courage to express dissent—even if they are alone or in a small minority in the class in holding a particular view. And faculty members need to model courage for their students—and for their colleagues (especially younger colleagues). All of us must overcome the natural fear we feel in oppressive environments of the sort that too often exist today in college, high school, and even middle school classrooms. And when a dissenter does speak up in defiance of a campus dogma, all of us (and not only those who happen to share his or her dissenting opinion) need swiftly to provide that individual with support.

That is how we will establish an environment in which people are free—and feel and know they are free—to speak their minds, thus benefiting the entire community by contributing to robust, civil campus debates.

CF: Identity politics was one issue you touched on in the Q&A, which you said has a negative effect on both college campuses and society at large. Could you speak a little more on how identity politics and student groups organized around group identity has negatively affected the university? Are there any common issues of identity politics amongst the faculty? Has it had any effects on your or other professors’ ability to create the positive intellectual atmosphere you previously mentioned?

RG: Identity politics, and the dogmas of the phenomenon that has come to be known as “intersectionality,” harm learning environments by encouraging groupthink and stigmatizing dissent.

One especially regrettable consequence of the rise of identitarianism is the pressure placed on female and minority students to hold and express opinions that are in line with what women and members of minority groups are “supposed” to think. If you are female, you are “supposed” to hold a certain view on abortion and the status of unborn human life. If you are black, you are “supposed” to express a certain view on the desirability of affirmative action programs of certain sorts. If you are Latino, you are “supposed” to have a certain set of beliefs on immigration policy.

I find this reprehensible. People need to think for themselves. And they need to do that, and need to know that they are entitled to do that, whether they are male or female, black, white, green, blue, or purple.


Read the entire interview here.  He also has some interesting things to say about Liberty University.

Do You Have This Sign on Your Lawn? If So, Thank a Messiah College History Major


Back in December 2016, NPR ran a story on this popular sign.  Perhaps you have one in your neighborhood.  Or maybe you have one on your lawn.

The words first appeared on a black and white sign outside the Immanuel Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  It looked like this:

Bucher sign

NPR reports:

Pastor Matthew Bucher was definitely not setting out to start a nationwide phenomenon. His sign went up last year after he was “pretty disappointed” with the rhetoric of the primary debates, especially as directed toward people who weren’t born in the U.S.

“The church is located in the northeast part of Harrisonburg, which has a long tradition of being the African-American part of the city,” he says. “But in the past 20 years it’s also become home to a lot of people from Central America, the Middle East and around the world.”

“That’s why we did it in three languages — English, Arabic and Spanish,” he explains. “Because those are the three most common languages spoken in our neighborhood.”

Spanish-speaking church members wrote one translation. Bucher wrote the other with the help of friends in Egypt, where he spent time working with the Mennonite Central Committee. A member of the congregation painted their sign by hand. “It was a collaborative effort,” Bucher says.

A few months later, a group of local Mennonite pastors was trying to find a way to “say something positive,” says Nick Meyer, a pastor at Early Church in Harrisonburg.

So they decided to take the sign’s message and spread it more broadly. A friend of Meyer’s, Alex Gore, turned the trilingual message into a simple, colorful yard sign, and they printed up 200. The pastors distributed them, encouraging church members to pair the sign with concrete acts of outreach to their neighbors.

Read the rest here.

I should also add that Pastor Matt Bucher is a 2006 graduate of Messiah College.  And to make this story even better, he was a HISTORY MAJOR.  I remember Matt well and we have stayed in touch over the years, although I had no idea he had created this sign until one of his classmates recently told me about this NPR story during our history department homecoming alumni reception last week.

Some of you may also remember that Matt was featured in our “So What Can You Do With a History Major” series.  And here’s another fun fact: Matt was in the same graduating history class as The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling.

What Happens When You Teach a Graduate Seminar on “Women, Gender, and Sex in U.S. Religious History” to a Class That is Over 85% Men?


Andrea Turpin, a history professor at Baylor University, reflects on such an experience in a recent post at The Anxious Bench.  She uses her observations from this graduate seminar, as well as her experience teaching an undergraduate class on women and gender that was almost 90% female, to say some important things about history and diversity.

Here is a taste:

Too often the term “diversity,” and even the concept, comes loaded with all the baggage of the culture wars, and we reflexively either embrace it or reject it accordingly. (Indeed, as I was thinking about these things this week, a controversy along these lines broke out at Duke Divinity School.) So what difference does it really make, intellectually and spiritually, who our conversation partners are — in terms of our classmates and pewmates, the authors we read, and the voices from the past that we seek out?

Since I had a ready-made experiment at hand to help me answer this question, I periodically asked both classes to respond emotionally to what we had been reading or discussing. After all, in my view one of the great spiritual and intellectual benefits of studying history is that it can help students develop empathy for those who are different alongside critical thinking about themselves, others, and their world. I first tried this question on the graduate class after we discussed Rebecca Larson’s Daughters of Light (Knopf, 1999), about traveling Quaker female preachers in colonial America. The book is a bit hagiographic, but it paints a compelling picture of women who lived very full lives and whose spiritual and intellectual contributions were valued by the men of their community. I am not a Quaker and do not share all their theological convictions, but I always find the book moving and have had women students report a similar experience. No man in the course had that emotional response — though they did have thoughtful insights on the book’s strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, my great joy of class that day was watching one man have the sudden realization that he had not particularly felt for any of the book’s women in their triumphs or struggles — but that he had been moved by the account of a husband who had been left behind while his wife, with full support from the Quaker community, went on an extended preaching mission.

Meanwhile, the undergraduate class watched the movie Suffragette, about British women fighting for the right to vote in the early twentieth century. The movie is crafted to induce emotional responses — I wept openly at my kitchen table the first time I screened it — so every student certainly had one. But different things stuck with male and female students. It was one of the course’s two men who made the observation, part way through class discussion, that the movie featured three types of male characters: the suffragettes’ allies, their opponents, and men somewhere in between who were wrestling through competing impulses. He could give incredibly nuanced summaries of the attitudes of the different male characters and what might have accounted for them.

Turpin concludes:

What should we make of these stories? Perhaps the most obvious point is that students, and indeed all of us, tend to respond most easily to those people in history with whom we identify in some manner. Knowing our own history is a basic human need that helps us develop our sense of place and purpose in the world. Identifying with historical actors also helps pull us into their story. Once we’re there, we realize that these people are not only familiar, but also different, as denizens of the “foreign country” that is the past. They are paradoxically therefore also a gateway to widening our sympathies. Including diverse voices in the curriculum thus serves the spiritual and intellectual needs of multiple types of students.

The flip side is also true: having a diverse classroom population expands the minds and sympathies of all students. The presence of the two men in my undergraduate class meant that the class’s women were constantly confronted with the question of how what we were studying affected men as well. And my presence and that of the female graduate student meant that the men in my graduate class could not content themselves with merely dispassionately analyzing a book. The presence of students of color in both classes had a similar effect.

Read the entire post here.

What is Going on at Duke Divinity School?


Rod Dreher of The American Conservative and “Benedict Option” fame blogged about this yesterday under the title “Brave Prof Stands Up To Duke Divinity SJWs.”

The “brave prof” in question is Catholic theologian and Duke Divinity School faculty member Paul Griffiths.  After receiving a Ph.D in Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983, Griffiths taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago where he spent ten years in the Department of South Asian Languages  & Civilizations.  Between 2000 and 2007 Griffiths was the Schmitt Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago.  Since 2008 he has been the Warren Chair of Catholic Theology at Duke.  In 1996 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

After Griffith’s conversion he stopped writing about Buddhism and turned his attention to issues related to Catholicism.  He is perhaps best known for his book Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (Oxford University Press, 1999).  It is an excellent book and I recommend it.

Dreher published a post that Griffith wrote on his Facebook page:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

(This email is a public document. Please feel free to copy and distribute it in whole or in part, with or without attribution, with or without commentary.)

Intellectual freedom – freedom to speak and write without fear of discipline and punishment – is under pressure at Duke Divinity these days. My own case illustrates this. Over the past year or so I’ve spoken and written in various public forums here, with as much clarity and energy as I can muster, about matters relevant to our life together. The matters I’ve addressed include: 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; the nature of racial, ethnic, and gender identities, and whether there’s speech about certain topics forbidden to some among those identities; and the nature and purpose of theological education. I’ve reviewed these contributions, to the extent that I can (some of them are available only in memory), and I’m happy with them and stand behind them. They’re substantive; they’re trenchant; and they address matters of importance for our common life. So it seems to me. What I’ve argued in these contributions may of course be wrong; that’s a feature of the human condition.

My speech and writing about these topics has now led to two distinct (but probably causally related) disciplinary procedures against me, one instigated by Elaine Heath, our Dean, and the other instigated by Thea Portier-Young, our colleague. I give at the end of this message a bare-bones factual account of these disciplinary proceedings to date.

These disciplinary proceedings are designed not to engage and rebut the views I hold and have expressed about the matters mentioned, but rather to discipline me for having expressed them. Elaine Heath and Thea Portier-Young, when faced with disagreement, prefer discipline to argument. In doing so they act illiberally and anti-intellectually; their action shows totalitarian affinities in its preferred method, which is the veiled use of institutional power. They appeal to non- or anti-intellectual categories (‘unprofessional conduct’ in Heath’s case; ‘harassment’ in Portier-Young’s) to short-circuit disagreement. All this is shameful, and I call them out on it.

Heath and Portier-Young aren’t alone among us in showing these tendencies. The convictions that some of my colleagues hold about justice for racial, ethnic, and gender minorities have led them to attempt occupation of a place of unassailably luminous moral probity. That’s a utopia, and those who seek it place themselves outside the space of reason. Once you’ve made that move, those who disagree with you inevitably seem corrupt and dangerous, better removed than argued with, while you seem to yourself beyond criticism. What you do then is discipline your opponents. The contributions to our common life made by, inter alia, Chuck Campbell, Jay Carter, and Valerie Cooper exhibit these tendencies. I call them out too. I hope that they, together with Heath and Portier-Young, will reconsider, repent, make public apology to me and our colleagues for the damage done, and re-dedicate themselves to the life of the mind which is, because of their institutional location, their primary professional vocation. That life requires openness, transparency, and a willingness to engage. I commend all these things to them, and hope devoutly that they come to see their importance more clearly than they now do..

I’m making public the following narrative of these disciplinary proceedings under the pressure of three closely-associated thoughts. The first thought is that several more or less inaccurate versions of these events are already in circulation among us in the form of gossip; full and accurate disclosure is always better than gossip. The second thought is about responsibility. I’m happy to take full responsibility for my contributions to our common life at Duke Divinity. Those contributions have all been public, as is this message. But responsibility requires publicity. Heath’s and Portier-Young’s disciplinary proceedings are not public: they’re veiled, and accompanied by threats of reprisal if unveiled. I’d like them to take responsibility for what they’re doing, and so I’m making it public. The third thought is about the kind of confidence in speech (and writing) whose opposite is fear. Duke Divinity is now a place in which too many thoughts can’t be spoken and too many disagreements remain veiled because of fear. I commend a renunciation of fear-based discipline to those who deploy and advocate it, and its replacement with confidence in speech. That would be appropriate not only to our life together in a university-related Divinity School, but also to our life together as disciples of Jesus Christ.

the disciplinary actions

What follows, under (1) and (2), is a bare-bones factual account of the disciplinary procedures to date, together with two attachments. It may be useful to know that there’s a good deal of recent literature on the nature of university-based disciplinary proceedings like the ones I’m about to describe. I recommend, from quite different angles, Jon Krakauer’s Missoula (2015), and Laura Kipnis’s Unwanted Advances (2017). These books, with distinct agendas, agree that there are deep moral, legal, and procedural problems with university-based Title IX disciplinary procedures. These include, but aren’t limited to, their attempt to control speech and conduct by stifling expression; and their contempt for due process. It may also be useful to know that I’m not alone among Duke Divinity faculty in currently being, or having in the recent past been, subjected to discipline along these lines. I call upon those involved to share the details with us.

(1) Discipline initiated by Heath against Griffiths. In February 2017, Heath contacts Griffiths and asks for an appointment in which she’ll communicate her expectations for professional conduct at Duke Divinity. There’s back-and-forth by email about the conditions for this meeting, and agreement is reached for a four-way meeting to include Heath, Randy Maddox (Dean of Faculty, as support for Heath), Griffiths, and Thomas Pfau (as second for Griffiths). That meeting is scheduled for 3/6/17. Shortly before that date Heath cancels with no reason given, and then in short order asks for a new meeting on the same topic, this time with new criteria as to who can be present that rule out Pfau’s participation. Griffiths responds to this change in conditions by saying that he’s happy to meet, but now, given the changes, only under the condition that the meeting should be a one-on-one free exchange between himself and Heath. There’s email back-and-forth about this between Griffiths and Heath, all copied to Maddox. No agreement is reached about conditions for meeting: Griffiths and Heath each have conditions unacceptable to the other. Standoff. No meeting has occurred at the date of this writing. In a hardcopy letter (PDF attached) dated 3/10/17, Heath initiates financial and administrative reprisals against Griffiths. Those reprisals ban him from faculty meetings, and, thereby, from voting in faculty affairs; and promise (contra the conditions stated in his letter of appointment) to ban him from future access to research or travel funds. Heath’s letter contains one material falsehood (item #1 in her letter; the accurate account is here, in this paragraph), together with several disputable interpretive claims. More reprisals are adumbrated, but not specified, in the letter. There that disciplinary procedure for the moment rests.

(2) Discipline initiated by Portier-Young against Griffiths, via the University’s Office for Institutional Equity (OIE). In early March, Griffiths hears by telephone from Cynthia Clinton, an officer of the OIE, that a complaint of harassment has been lodged against him by Portier-Young, the gravamen of which is the use of racist and/or sexist speech in such a way as to constitute a hostile workplace. A meeting is scheduled for 3/20/17 between Griffiths and representatives of the OIE to discuss this allegation. Griffiths requests from the OIE a written version of the allegation, together with its evidentiary support, in advance of the scheduled meeting. This request is declined by Clinton on behalf of the OIE, as appears typical for these proceedings. Griffiths then declines the 3/20/17 meeting, and sends a written statement to the OIE, which is attached. The OIE will, it seems, now draw up a report and submit it to the ‘responsible persons’ in the case, which may include either or both of our Provost, Sally Kornbluth, and our Dean, Elaine Heath. (This may already have happened.) Those persons will then take whatever disciplinary actions they see fit, which may range from nothing to dismissal, with intermediate possibilities. There that disciplinary procedure for the moment rests.

With sincere good wishes to my colleagues, and in hope of better things, fuller transparency, more exchange, an increase in love, and, as always, more light: in lumine tuo videbimus lumen —


Now it looks like Griffiths has resigned his post:

As I poke around my social media feeds I am not learning much more.  In other words, it is unclear what Griffiths wrote or said that led to disciplinary action from the administration.  It appears it had something to do with a critique of what has become campus orthodoxy on matters related to diversity.  Dreher suggests that Griffiths stood up to what he describes as “Social Justice Warriors” on Duke’s campus.

I am guessing that Griffiths or someone else involved will provide more details about what happened.  In the meantime, however, people have taken to social media–defenders and critics of Griffith–to cast judgement, engage in name-calling, and draw conclusions with very little evidence.  And those who are privy to the details seem to be sharing just enough one-sided information to feed the sharks.

Stay tuned.

The End of White Christian America?

I am hoping to read Robert Jones‘s new book The End of White Christian America.  In this video he chats with Judy Woodruff of PBS:

This is very interesting, but something does not seem quite right. (Again, I need to the read the book).

I think it goes without saying that “white” Christian America is in decline.  The demographics bear this out.  But are the things that have long-defined “Christian America” (at least in the last half-century) fading away?  I don’t know.  It seems that in order to answer “yes” to this question we would need to make a case that non-white Christians do not care about core “Christian America” tenets such as the place of Christianity in public life, traditional marriage and families, opposition to abortion, a critique of the coarseness of popular culture, etc…  Since evangelicalism is booming in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere in the global South, can we really say immigrants arriving to America’s shores from these places are going to be any less “Christian” on these social issues?

This reminds me of a conversation I had recently with an immigration reporter for the Houston Chronicle who told me that many of the Latino immigrants she interviewed for a story were very conservative on social issues.  She was surprised how many of them were supporting Trump because they believed The Donald would deliver the Supreme Court.

Diversity in Academic Life

Elizabeth Corey is a political scientist who directs the Honors College at Baylor University,  In this piece at “Public Discourse,” the blog of The Witherspoon Institute, Corey offers some nice thoughts on academic diversity with particular focus on the Christian University.  

Here is a small taste:

Bradley has rightly pointed out that nobody is really interested in pursuing diversity in its most full, extreme form. Few people would want a campus where unapologetic underachievers are recruited equally with academic superstars, or where professors promote Nazi ideology. Even at the most secular campuses, certain moral goods—such as honesty, hard work, and achievement—are held in common. And diversity is never understood as mere variety for its own sake but as something that facilitates other goods: the advancement of knowledge, social equality, fairness, openness to difference, compensation for past underrepresentation, and so on.
In practice, diversity is understood—by both its supporters and detractors—as a code word, a means of smuggling certain unspoken values into institutions. For those who support these values, it is a way of effecting positive and much-needed change in recruitment and hiring. The aim is to transform the university so that its faculty, staff, and administration more accurately mirror the demographic characteristics of society as a whole. In this way, people who have not typically been heard can be given a voice.
The diversity trope makes reforms possible by appealing to social norms that, in principle, nobody would oppose. Would you really argue against having more African-Americans or women in your department? No? Then you must support diversity initiatives! But this question is always asked in the abstract—not in a situation where an honest answer would require weighing the benefits of a minority hire against other legitimate goods, such as a particular candidate’s academic merit, pedagogical experience, or fit with a university’s mission.
For those who are skeptical or suspicious about diversity, the word seems to act as a code for something subversive. It is seen as the latest step in a movement that originated in the 1970s with affirmative action and transformed itself into multiculturalism during the 1990s. As the skeptics understand it, this movement has always aimed at a utopian notion of equality and at elimination of the so-called hegemony of the white, male, conservative professoriate. The movement accomplishes its ends by featuring women, African-Americans, and other minority groups in leadership roles—people whose voices are presumed to be distinctive by virtue of certain demographic characteristics and shared experiences.
One danger of this approach, from the skeptical perspective, is that recruitment of token women and minority faculty members may result in lowering academic standards. This is not because minorities and women are inherently less qualified, but because institutional pressure to hire someone from an underrepresented group may become more imperative than simply hiring the best candidate without regard for his or her demographic characteristics. It’s not unlike the way federal government compels states to change their laws in order to receive highway funds. Universities may tie “incentives” to hiring women and minorities, such that departments are offered new lines or other new resources if they make minority hires. A skeptic might see such incentives as bribes.
But even more troubling is the movement’s implicit categorizing of people under the utterly accidental traits of race and gender. Are all women “nurturing” and “empathetic,” for instance? Surely not. Most women would resent being painted with such a broad brush. But this kind of benign—even complimentary—discrimination lies at the heart of the desire to promote certain groups on the basis of their race or gender.
Both the supporters and the skeptics of diversity have valuable insights into contemporary colleges and universities. For instance, the skeptics accurately point out that relevant intellectual or philosophical diversity often has little or nothing to do with demographics. Actual diversity in particular fields is exceptionally fine-grained. There may be five or six rival approaches to political philosophy, but they are not male versus female or black versus white. Demographic characteristics are basically irrelevant in this context, and the forms of diversity that are truly relevant are too knowledge-specific to be tracked by a “Chief Diversity Officer” at a university.
Clearly, this type of intellectual diversity is not what is really being pursued under the rubric of “diversity.” The aim of diversity initiatives is rather “To lead higher education toward inclusive excellence through institutional transformation.” This is by design a transformative, even revolutionary, movement that aims to root out “unconscious,” “implicit,” or “similarity” bias and other such under-the-radar offenses. Only in the contemporary world can we at once be unconscious of our actions and yet morally culpable for them.
This excerpt does not do justice to the entire piece.  Read it here.

How Are Christian Colleges Doing on the Diversity Scale?

Belhaven University

With the exception of a few schools in or around major U.S. cities or in California, not very well. 

Over at the Pietist Schoolman, Chris Gehrz reports on our largely white Christian colleges and how they compare to other colleges and universities.

By the way, I seriously think a Christian college should hire Gehrz as a provost.  He is wise, a proven academic leader, understands the mission of Christian colleges, and seems to love producing these careful studies of Christian colleges and universities.  And, of course, we need more historian-administrators.

Here are the most diverse Christian colleges (members of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities) in the United States:

Nyack College (NY) (74.1%)
Houston Baptist University (TX) (65.5%)
Belhaven University (MS) (58.9%)
University of the Southwest (NM) (51.2%)
Warner University (FL) (50.4%)
Fresno Pacific University (CA) (46.5%)
California Baptist University (CA) (44.0%)
Vanguard University (CA) (43.8%)
Hope International University (CA) (40.4%)
Biola University (CA) (39.6%)

Here are the least diverse Christian colleges in the United States

Waynesburg University (PA) (5.2%)
College of the Ozarks (MO) (5.5%)
Huntington University (IN)  (5.9%)
Cedarville University (OH) (6.4%)
Dordt College (IA) (6.4%)
Asbury University (KY) (6.5%)
Hannibal-LaGrange University (MO)) (7.7%)
Houghton College (NY) (7.9%)
King University (TN) (7.9%)
Southwest Baptist (MO) (8.2%)

Why Are Democrats Doing So Well in the South?

Mitch McConnell needs evangelicals to win in Kentucky

Over at The Atlantic, Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institution has made a very interesting observation about evangelicals and the mid-term elections in the South.  Jones argues that the five closest Senate races in the region (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky)  have one thing in common: the proportion of white evangelical Protestants has dropped significantly.  Here is a taste:

Two forces account for the declining proportions of white evangelical and mainline Protestants: the growth of non-black ethnic minorities and, perhaps surprisingly, the growth of the religiously unaffiliated across the South. Notably, each of these growing constituencies leans decidedly toward Democratic candidates. For example, in 2007, the religiously unaffiliated constituted 12 percent each of the populations of Kentucky and North Carolina. By 2013, the percentage of unaffiliated Kentuckians had jumped nine points to 21 percent, and the percentage of unaffiliated North Carolinians had jumped to 17 percent. While increases in the proportions of the religiously unaffiliated in Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana fall short of statistical significance, the patterns all point in the same direction.

So what does this mean for the 2014 elections? Certainly, events on the ground are still paramount; the campaign machines and peculiarities of candidates matter. And in low-turnout elections such as the midterms, the real weight of these demographic and religious shifts will not yet be fully felt at the ballot box. White evangelical Protestants have a strong turnout record, while non-black ethnic minorities and particularly the religiously unaffiliated are much less likely to vote. PRRI’s pre-election American Values Survey found that while two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants report that they were absolutely certain to vote in the November elections, less than half (45 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated report this kind of certainty. But the underlying trends indicate that at least one reason why there are a number of close elections across the South is the declining dominance of white evangelical Protestants, the most stalwart of GOP supporters.

Historians of the South:  Feel free to chime in.