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SHORT TAKES


May 9, 2012

The Chronicle's Firing of Naomi Schaefer Riley:
Excerpts from Commentary, Pro and Con


Mona Charen, The Corner

This is a test of integrity. Naomi Schaefer Riley has been fired by the Chronicle of Higher Education for expressing views that some liberals find uncongenial. That's it. Just uncongenial (she critiqued the doctoral theses of candidates in black studies). Not "offensive." Not even that weasel word "insensitive" -- far less "racist." This represents a profound corruption of the principles that should animate academia and a free society generally. Where are the liberals protesting this assault on liberty and civility? Waiting . . .

Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

I just spent half an hour reviewing NSR's postings on the CHE blog going back a year. Have you seen them? Look for yourself. They are generally quite good -- cogent, varied, and not at all the conservative hackery many of her critics claim she writes (in fact, in one post she denounced Dinesh D'Souza for taking the NYC Evangelical school The King's College down a narrow, right-wing political path). One thing she comes back to a lot is how much college costs, how much debt students pile up to get their degrees, and whether or not it's worth it. This is the context in which her controversial post condemning Black Studies should be read. I have said it was not a well-written post, but given the quality of her work over time, it should have absolutely been forgivable by the CHE editors. They could have slapped her wrist and told her to do better next time. Considering the breadth and quality of her blog postings at CHE's Brainstorm blog, it's hard to believe that she was thrown out for anything other than political correctness run amok.

Alan Jacobs, WordPress

There is absolutely no reason why Naomi should read any of those dissertations. But if you don't read them, you cannot make any comment about their value. Period.

Mike Fossum, Web Pro News

... Schaefer Riley essentially wants to eliminate black-studies. This is somewhat of a profound stance to be covered in 520 words, and some people got predictably mad.... Still, perhaps Schaefer Riley was having a bad day when deciding to attack the work of grad students in such a obvious, button-pushy and sensational way. As with all things to do with hatred, mood typically comes into play. Apparently, a heart disease drug called Propranolol was suggested to calm implicit racial bias in a study of avid racists conducted at Oxford University. The racists were shown to not be so racial after taking these chill pills....

Roger Kimball, PJ Media

Everyone knows, though few have the temerity to say, that "Black Studies" is an awful confidence game: an exercise in racial grievance mongering utterly without scholarly merit. In this, I hasten to add, it resembles many other pseudo-disciplines invented since the late 1960s to provide a home for intellectually challenged but politically fermenting denizens of our universities: Women's Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Transgender Studies, etc. etc. (Naomi Schaefer Riley's) chief sin seems to have been to shine a bit of daylight on the shadowy academic racket.

Hamilton Nolan, Gawker

So, to Naomi Schaefer Riley, I offer this bit of qualified support: we stand with any writers who were fired purely for taking a principled and well-argued yet unpopular stand that their weak employers could not endure. However, we also cannot think of any better reason for a writer to lose their job than the fact that they are a hack who makes poorly thought out arguments. I mean, being dumb is essentially the only good reason to fire a writer. ...Riley may have been a victim of a mob. But the mob had a point.

Jonathan V. Last, The Weekly Standard

If Naomi's post was self-evidently egregious, she would have been fired immediately. Instead, on May 3, McMillen defended the post as being part of the blog's intellectual ferment and encouraged readers to debate it. Which makes it obvious that the reason they gave Naomi the boot wasn't because of anything she wrote, but rather the effect her writing had on their readers, who generally reacted as though they were suffering from a case of the vapors. One of her fellow Chronicle bloggers accused Naomi of committing "hate speech" and an online petition called for Naomi's firing. In fact, McMillen admits as much, saying that Naomi's post "distressed" readers and made them feel "betrayed."

Kirsten West Savali, Clutch online magazine

In a piece reeking with condescension and low-rent bigotry, Schaefer makes the argument that Black Studies is a superficial academic pursuit that hinges on "left-wing victimization claptrap" as demonstrated in dissertations by up-and-coming Black scholars in the field. ...

It is not surprising that Ms. Riley is so oblivious to "the white man's" role in the prison industrial complex. Apparently she doesn't realize that disparities in sentencing, especially as it pertains to cocaine vs. crack -- which flooded our communities in the '80s under the Reagan administration -- has played an integral role in the devastation that has plowed through Black America....

Maybe she is so oblivious to both the blatant and nuanced intersectionality of racism, oppression and education, that -- in her mind -- that baseless tirade she embarked upon made sense.

Or maybe she was puffing the Magic Dragon while she was writing -- which is also completely believable -- and forgot to pass.


Mytheos Holt, The Blaze

Academia's outsized love of political correctness is, by this point, infamous. But did you know that journalism pertaining to academia is now being expected to follow similar standards?

No? Neither did Naomi Schaefer Riley, a higher education reporter with 15 years experience who was recently fired from the Chronicle of Higher Education for criticizing several black PhD students for giving their discipline a bad name by writing about unserious topics.

Wall Street Journal, Editorial

As best we can make out, the Chronicle's editor, Liz McMillen, fired Naomi Riley for doing what she was hired to do--provide a conservative point of view about current events in academe alongside the paper's roster of mostly non-conservative bloggers...As such things go, the McMillen apologia will enter the higher-ed Hall of Fame for Cravenness.

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