Duke Divinity Professor allegedly quits after being disciplined for refusing to attend diversity training

(Wikimedia Commons/Bjoertvedt)Duke Chapel, at Duke University western campus.

A divinity professor at Duke University has allegedly resigned from his post after he received disciplinary action for refusing to attend an anti-racism workshop for members of the faculty.

Paul Griffiths, a professor of Catholic theology, has reportedly refused to attend a two-day workshop titled "Racial Equity Institute Training Phase 1" for Duke Divinity School faculty on March 4–5. He reportedly questioned the validity of the diversity training and urged his colleagues not to attend the seminar.

In February, Anathea Portier-Young, associate professor of Old Testament, sent a mass invitation for the workshop, saying those who previously participated in the training described it as "transformative, powerful, and life-changing."

In response, Griffiths copied all the faculty on the email and discouraged them from attending the workshop.

"I exhort you not to attend this training," the professor wrote, according to the email published on The American Conservative website.

"Don't lay waste your time by doing so. It'll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there'll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual," he continued.

Duke Divinity School's dean, Elaine A. Heath, responded to the email chain saying she was looking forward to the training. She also condemned the "use of mass emails to express racism sexism, and other forms of bigotry" without specifically mentioning Griffiths.

The emails indicated that Heath had tried to set up a meeting with Griffiths, but it never happened because they could not agree on the conditions of the meeting.

Griffiths said that Portier-Young filed a harassment complaint against him to the Duke's Office for Institutional Equity. Heath also banned him from faculty meetings and threatened to withhold travel and research funds if he continued to refuse to attend the workshop.

The professor contended that the actions against him were "reprisals" designed not to challenge his views but to discipline him for having expressed them.

Thomas Pfau, a professor of English and German who also teaches in the divinity school, came to Griffiths' defense, saying in an email that the professor was only questioning the fact that the faculty members were being asked to give up their own time for the seminar.

"Having reviewed Paul Griffiths' note several times, I find nothing in it that could even remotely be said to 'express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry,'" Pfau wrote.

"To suggest anything of the sort strikes me as either gravely imperceptive or as intellectually dishonest," he added.

Pfau said that, as far as he knew, Griffiths' decision to resign was not pressured by the university.

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