2016-17 was a banner year for campus insanity. American college students keep outdoing themselves when it comes to demonstrations, sit-ins, protests and other nonsense hijinx. It is hard to narrow down these exploits to the most bizarre and ridiculous among them.
Over at the Federalist, Peter Wood has attempted to do just that, writing about the five “most telling campus outbreaks” of the past school year. Comparing American colleges to the recently-retired Barnum & Bailey Circus, Wood writes: “Higher education is not about to send its clowns to the unemployment lines or retire its lions to wildlife sanctuaries, but it is showing some fragility. Here are five cases from the past school year that epitomize the current life and times of American higher education.”
Among the events Wood highlights is the Duke Divinity School diversity training controversy (previously reported on by The College Fix):
Here are the basics. On February 6, Duke Divinity School faculty member Anathea Portier-Young sent an email on behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee urging all Divinity School faculty members to attend a two-day Racial Equity Institute training session aimed at making the school more “equitable and anti-racist.”
The same day, Griffiths responded reply-all to Portier-Young’s email, saying, “I exhort you not to attend this training.” He predicted the training would be “intellectually flaccid” and characterized it as part of “a long and ignoble history” of bureaucratic interventions at odds with the mission of the college.
Still the same day, the dean of Duke’s Divinity School, Elaine Heath, responded to Griffiths’ email by urging faculty members to attend the training and chastising as “inappropriate and unprofessional” the sending of “mass emails to make disparaging statements […] in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree.” Heath did not mention Griffiths by name, but at that point no one else had responded to Portier-Young’s email.
An exchange involving other faculty members ensued. So did an exchange between Heath and Griffiths, culminating in a letter from the dean to the professor on March 10, barring Griffiths from faculty and committee meetings. From the documents so far made public, a picture emerges of the usual entanglements and complications. Heath asserts that Griffiths violated some procedural rules; Portier-Young asserts that Griffiths engaged in behavior she considers to be harassment.
“Despite what [these colleges] do,” Wood writes, “they still care to be known as colleges and universities that uphold academic and intellectual freedom. Actually upholding those freedoms in an age when significant numbers of students, faculty members, and administrators no longer believe in them as fundamental values—or believe in them only half-heartedly—is proving difficult.”