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Duke Professor Resigns After Facing Discipline for Challenging Diversity Training

Paul Griffiths, a professor of Catholic theology at Duke University, has resigned after facing discipline for his barbed criticisms of diversity training, a fellow faculty member confirmed.

Mr. Griffiths, who did not respond to emails seeking comment, has abruptly announced his decision to resign, effective in the spring of 2018, according to Thomas Pfau, a professor of English and fellow member of the Duke Divinity School’s faculty. The resignation followed months in which Mr. Griffiths clashed with administrators and faced possible discipline for his strongly worded opposition to diversity training, according to emails leaked to The American Conservative.

But Mr. Pfau, who says he has been in regular contact with Mr. Griffiths and has advised him throughout the episode, said in an email that, to the best of his knowledge, Mr. Griffiths had resigned “without anyone at Duke pressuring him to do so.”

“I profoundly regret his decision and, indeed, have conveyed to him that I regard it as a mistake,” Mr. Pfau said.

The Divinity School declined to comment directly on Mr. Griffiths’s case. In an emailed statement it said it is “committed to scholarly excellence and academic freedom, which includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion.” It added that “We believe that all faculty have a right to speak out as members of a civil academic community, and if all voices are to be heard, diverse perspectives must be valued and protected.”

The emails leaked to The American Conservative document a conflict that began in February, when Mr. Griffiths responded to a colleague’s email urging Divinity School faculty members to participate in voluntary diversity training with his own email urging them to skip it as a waste of time. “It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: There’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty,” he wrote. “When (if) it goes beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.” He argued that such training was “at best a distraction” from the school’s academic mission.

Elaine Heath, the Divinity School’s dean, subsequently responded with an email saying “it is inappropriate and unprofessional to use mass emails to make disparaging statements” to humiliate or undermine colleagues. “The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution,” she wrote.

Mr. Griffiths subsequently sent other faculty members an email saying that administrators had begun disciplinary proceedings against him, and that he and administrators had been unable to agree on the terms under which they would meet to discuss charges that he had engaged in harassment and unprofessional conduct.

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