Dear Dean Heath (email@example.com):
I am writing to express my grave concern over some remarks you recently made during the course of an exchange among faculty members at Duke Divinity School (DDS). I have reproduced all three paragraphs of your email to DDS below. Following each paragraph, I have listed several questions. I hope you will take the time to respond to each one of them.
First, I am looking forward to participating in the REI training, and I am proud that we are hosting it at Duke Divinity School. Thea, thank you for your part in helping us to offer this important event. I am deeply committed to increasing our school’s intellectual strength, spiritual vitality, and moral authority, and this training event will help with all three.
1. What do you mean by intellectual strength, spiritual vitality, and moral authority? Could you offer concise definitions of each of these terms?
2. How did you arrive at the conclusion that Racial Equity Institute (REI) training “will help with all three” of the concepts I just asked you to define?
3. Have you ever considered that racial identity politics (e.g., the Duke lacrosse travesty) has contributed to the diminished reputation of Duke University?
4. Have you ever considered adding a component to REI training that would educate faculty about the harmful effects of making false allegations of racism against students and faculty at Duke University?
On another matter: It is certainly appropriate to use mass emails to share announcements or information that is helpful to the larger community, such as information about the REI training opportunity. It is inappropriate and unprofessional to use mass emails to make disparaging statements–including arguments ad hominem–in order to humiliate or undermine individual colleagues or groups of colleagues with whom we disagree. The use of mass emails to express racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution.
1. Could you please define the following terms: ad hominem, racism, sexism, and bigotry?
2. How did you arrive at the conclusion that Professor Griffiths was making an ad hominem attack or otherwise engaging in racist, sexist, and bigoted speech?
3. Have you ever considered the possibility that your use of mass email to characterize Professor Griffiths’ speech as expressions of his “racism,” “sexism,” and “bigotry” would be seen as an ad hominem attack?
4. Are false accusations of racism, sexism, and bigotry acceptable in a Christian institution?
5. As a Dean at DDS is it your job to encourage the free exchange of ideas or to discourage the free exchange of ideas by making disparaging statements against those with whom you disagree?
As St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, regardless of how exquisite our gifts are, if we do not exercise them with love our words are just noise.
Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Missional and Pastoral Theology
Duke Divinity School
1.Was your recent mass email attack on Paul Griffiths an act of love?
2. Do you understand the meaning of the words you use or are you just making noise?
That’s all I have for now. I look forward to your responses.
Mike S. Adams