I’ve been watching for a couple weeks now the saga of Paul Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology at Duke University.
For those unfamiliar, in February, Griffiths, an esteemed scholar who has taught at Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and numerous other colleges, sent an email to colleagues urging them to not accept the invitation of another professor, Anathea Portier-Young, to attend diversity training, predicting it would be “intellectually flaccid” and a waste of time.
“This training is a waste,” Griffiths wrote. “Please, ignore it. Keep your eyes on the prize.”
Griffiths’ email was impolite, in my opinion. Even if one agrees with these sentiments, we keep such thoughts to ourselves. People (other people, not me of course) may share a wink or eye roll with a colleague, but that’s about all.
Griffiths’ email was also a brave act. He was openly pushing back against a powerful idea that has become embedded in America’s most powerful institutions. It’s an unspoken rule: One simply does not question the merits of (racial and sexual) diversity in 21st-century America.