Staddon critiques Duke Divinity School in Martin Center column

Duke professor emeritus John Staddon takes aim at the Duke Divinity School in his latest Martin Center column.

The chickens have come home to roost at Duke’s Divinity School. Protesting students claim the school is insufficiently diverse. More needs to be done, they say, to combat racism, transphobia, homophobia, and associated evils. All this despite a campaign by the administration to achieve these very aims in the course of which a distinguished faculty member was induced to resign.

Paul J. Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology, resigned last year after a dispute with Dean Elaine Heath. Griffiths was essentially fired for sharing his frank opinion about an effort to indoctrinate faculty on racial issues. Dean Heath said in an interview after her appointment last year that pushing the school to be more diverse was a top priority. She professed herself committed to “diversity and inclusion,” but apparently Prof. Griffiths’ remarks were a bit too diverse for her to include.

Here is the underlying problem. Educational institutions these days are required to show not just sympathy, but active support—even celebration and incorporation into the curriculum—for an ever-expanding list of “marginalized groups.” Apparently, all institutions, even divinity schools, are guilty of “institutional racism” and “implicit bias”—“structural sins,” as Dean Heath called them in a March 18 op-ed. These maladies have no presenting symptoms; they are covert, not explicit. Tests exist to measure “implicit bias” but they are not scientifically valid, and the idea of “institutional racism” seems almost to be defined by the absence of individual racism. If an institution is accused of racism, it is in a quandary. How should it defend itself? It may have the condition or it may not. Best to “vaccinate” against it.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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