The Chronicle of Higher Education has fired Naomi Schaefer Riley, a conservative academic and writer, because of a blog post she wrote that criticized dissertations in black studies departments. It began:
You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.
Riley noted the example of L Tasha B. Levy, a black studies student who linked black conservatism to racism, and accused Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly, and Thomas Sowell of assaulting black civil rights. To this point, Riley said:
Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?
Chronicle editor Liz McMillen responded:
We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog. …
I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers. …
I sincerely apologize for the distress these incidents have caused our readers and appreciate that so many of you have made your sentiments known to us.
One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.
You told us we can do better, and we agree.
The firing has already sparked outrage from conservatives and free speech groups in academia. FIRE’s Adam Kissel tweeted:
“Good luck to chronicle bloggers! Whoever is left, that is, after the necessary purge to restore quality. Only “fair” opinions henceforward.”
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative gave a good reason for why the accusations of racism against Riley don’t really hold up:
Thousands of people wrote to the Chronicle to protest the racial insensitivity, etc., in Schaefer Riley’s essay. Gosh. I don’t know how she manages to keep up her racist chops, given that she’s been married for some time to a black man. Anyway, shoot one, teach future bloggers that they can never make fun of ”scholarship” if the scholars are part of an official victim class.
John J. Miller, a National Review correspondent and executive director of the Student Free Press Association, called the firing an “utter disgrace:”
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s decision to fire Naomi Schaefer Riley following a controversial post — i.e., controversial among left-wing campus activists — shows that the Chronicle doesn’t believe its own writers should enjoy something akin to basic academic freedom, in which people can speak their minds without fear of professional retribution. Shame, shame, shame.