Divinity and Diversity

Author note: This is the first installment in a short documentary series on the latest controversy at Duke University. Several more installment will follow.

Dear Professor Portier-Young (apyoung@div.duke.edu):

It is my understanding that on Monday, February 6, 2017, you sent an email to the entire faculty of Duke Divinity School, in which you urged them to attend a two-day 8:30 am to 5 p.m. “Racial Equity Institute” training program. I also understand that your email started an exchange that has resulted in harassment charges against – and, ultimately, the resignation of – a faculty member. As one who writes about free speech and diversity issues in higher education, I have taken great interest in that exchange. I have reproduced the lead paragraph of your February email below. Following that paragraph, I have listed some questions, to which I hope you will take the time to respond:

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

On behalf of the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Standing Committee, I strongly urge you to participate in the Racial Equity Institute Phase I Training planned for March 4 and 5. We have secured funding from the Provost to provide this training free to our community and we hope that this will be a first step in a longer process of working to ensure that DDS is an institution that is both equitable and anti-racist in its practices and culture. While a number of DDS faculty, staff, and students have been able to participate in REI training in recent years, we have never before hosted a training at DDS. Those who have participated in the training have described it as transformative, powerful, and life-changing. We recognize that it is a significant commitment of time; we also believe it will have great dividends for our community. Please find the registration link below. Details about room location will be announced soon.

1. Could you list some specific details concerning the “transformative” nature of racial equity training? In other words, exactly how were the lives of members of the DDS community “transformed” by the training?
2. In what ways were these “transformations” similar to their conversions to Christianity? In what ways were they different?
3. What exactly are the “great dividends” you expect the racial equity training to provide to your divinity school?

That is all I have. I look forward to your responses.

Mike S. Adams

Columnist, TownHall.com

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