May 9, 2012Print This Post
The Chronicle of Higher Education has been accused of giving in to an “academic mob” after they fired a well-known blogger who wrote a post questioning the value of black studies program, calling them “a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap.”
Naomi Schaefer Riley’s commentary, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations,” was published April 30 on The Chronicle’s Brainstorm blog. It provoked a significant outcry from the academic community.
Thousands signed a petition calling for her dismissal. She was subjected to personal attacks — called a racist.
The Chronicle initially stood by Riley’s blog, but on Monday the nation’s leading academic news service editor had a change of heart and she was fired.
The Chronicle’s editor issued an apology for the “distress” that Riley’s blog allegedly caused.
“We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles,” wrote editor Liz McMillen. “As a result, we have asked ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.”
Riley, a former Wall Street Journal editor, and the author of “The Faculty Lounges,” told Fox News she was caving in to pressure from their constituency. And it appears she is the latest victim of the politically correct movement sweeping across the academic world.
“It reinforces the idea that the ivory tower is intolerant,” she said. “It can’t take criticism. The people who are inside are so delicate they can’t take criticism.”
Riley’s blog posting was written in response to a front page story posted by The Chronicle that profiled a “New Generation of Black-Studies Ph.D.’s”
The reporter alluded to the fact that there were some people who did not believe black studies are a legitimate discipline, Riley said. However, there were none quoted in the story.
“It’s not like I went out into the vast world of academia and randomly picked on obscure graduate students,” Riley said. “The Chronicle itself had highlighted these people.”
And that raised the question – why is it okay for The Chronicle to publish a positive profile of black studies programs – but not a blog critical of the programs?
“You’re allowed to write about them but only if you’re praising them,” Riley told Fox News. “Part of the job of a blogger is to look at what other people are writing and say, ‘does this stand up?’”
Riley’s blog explored the world of black studies programs on university campuses – specifically offering commentary on three of the graduate students profiled by The Chronicle.
“If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America,” Riley wrote in her blog. “Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man.”
Riley has since been accused of being a racist and picking on the graduate students without reading their entire dissertations – an accusation she calls absurd.
“If the new standard is that in order to write a 500-word blog post about a dissertation topic, I need to have read the dissertation in its entirety – that’s quite a standard,” she said, noting that to her knowledge, The Chronicle’s reporter did not read the dissertations.
The Chronicle did not return calls seeking comment.
Riley said The Chronicle knew exactly what kind of a blogger they were getting when she was hired.
“I had criticized black studies in the books that I published before I started blogging for The Chronicle,” she said. “The idea that these opinions took them by surprise is amazing.”
Riley said the black studies discipline is “often lacking in academic rigor because it’s a discipline that doesn’t ask questions. It already has predetermined answers.”
“You would be hard-pressed in a black studies department to acknowledge that there has been much social and economic progress for blacks in the last 40 years,” she said. “These are the truths of the discipline.”
Fox News reached out to all of the graduate students profiled by The Chronicle. Only two replied via email and both declined to comment.