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Ron Radosh

If you want to know what is wrong with academia and its devotion to political correctness, look no further than the scandal brewing over a recent action of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the important weekly newspaper of the entire higher education establishment.

The Chronicle has a regular blog by various contributors, all of whom are supposed to use their contributions to discuss their take on issues considered by the academy. One of their regular bloggers was the conservative writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of a book about the failures of higher education. It was because of her critical outspoken views that she was obviously chosen to be one of the paper’s opinion bloggers.

But this time, Riley supposedly overstepped the boundaries of permissible opinion. Last week, she wrote an entry opposed to the institution of black studies in the university curriculum. Here is Riley’s judgment about black studies departments:

If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.

Riley went on to point out some of the absurdities appearing in the field of black studies. They include such gems as a thesis about the omission in studies of natural childbirth of black women’s experience giving birth, of the horrors of the federal government supporting single family homes for blacks in the 1970s, and a thesis about how conservative African Americans attack civil rights even though the role they have attained in society is due to the very programs they criticize. Riley wrote the following comment about the latter:

The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?

Noting that there were legitimate problems to address about the plight facing the black community today, Riley argued that they were not being addressed in black studies departments. Instead, she argued, all they want to do is engage in arguments that blame everything on the white man.

The result of Riley’s article — again, her opinion — was an avalanche of protest to the Chronicle’s letters section. The editors told readers that they received “thousands” of protests. That means, of course, that Riley hit a real sore spot. In a note to readers, editor Liz McMillen announced that the article “did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us,” and that Riley’s piece did not meet the “basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.”

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