A Tale of Two Professors
By David DemingIn the Fall 2018 issue of the Oklahoma Constitution, I related the persecution of OU law professor Brian McCall (“Conservative Christians Unwelcome at OU”). I have never met or spoken with professor McCall, but he is, by all accounts, as close to a saint as any of us are likely to meet in our lifetime. This respected teacher and scholar was pressured into resigning from his position as associate dean for academic affairs. Why? Not because he did anything wrong. He was deemed unworthy of holding an administrative position because he held conservative views. I’m not the only person to reach that conclusion. The Editorial Board at the Oklahoman (“Intolerance Wins Again on Campus,” Oct. 8), concluded “there’s zero evidence McCall imposed his beliefs on others...McCall was targeted for being conservative and religiously devout.”
And thereby hangs the tale of one professor. Which brings us to another OU professor and administrator, Dean Suzette Grillot. Last December 18, Dean Grillot tweeted “for me, distancing myself from those who are dishonest – who don’t believe in social justice – who aren’t empathetic. These are non-negotiable!!” Breathtaking. So much said and implied in so few words. I applaud Dean Grillot’s brevity.
Before I go any further with this, I should make a disclaimer. I have never met Dean Grillot, and have no intention of questioning her integrity or impugning her professional competence. I’m sure she’s a fine person and decent human being. This is not about her character, but what she wrote. When someone makes a public statement on Twitter, it’s fair game to discuss and criticize that communication. What I write below is an interpretation of what Dean Grillot’s tweet means and implies. It’s my opinion.
Note how Dean Grillot linked the moral qualities of honesty and empathy with belief in social justice. The implication is that if you do not believe in social justice, it’s not because you have a different viewpoint or different political orientation. It’s because you are dishonest and cannot show empathy. Simply put, you’re a bad person. Or, as Hillary Clinton put it so elegantly, you’re “deplorable,” and “irredeemable.” Think about the literal implications of those words. If a person is truly irredeemable, there is no point in talking to them. Bad people have to be marginalized and silenced. There is no point in engaging them with the hope of changing their mind. Deplorables must be gotten rid of. They must be driven off campus and out of our entire society. It’s not hyperbole to state that this is the type of thinking that leads to genocide. Indeed, leftists regard intolerance for conservatives as a measure of their virtue. Thus we have Dean Grillot’s use of two exclamation marks. She’s boasting of her virtue.
And what, exactly, is “social justice,” anyway? When Plato wrote the Republic in the fifth century BC, he demonstrated that it’s impossible to derive any objective definition of justice. Everyone defines justice as what they perceive to be their own self-interest. Which is exactly why the political left loves this term: it’s intellectually vacuous. Reduced to its simplest terms, leftism is nothing more than the desire to obtain something for nothing. Call it what you will, socialism, communism, or social justice, it always amounts to taking away other people’s property and freedom. Leftists can’t admit that what they really want is to hit people over the head with a club and steal their stuff, so they conceal their intentions with ambiguous euphemisms like “social justice.”
And here, in Dean Grillot’s little tweet that says so much, we have a sterling example of political correctness. According to President Trump, political correctness “is killing our country.” But what is “political correctness?” It has always been the case that everyone who holds political convictions believes them to be correct. That’s not political correctness. Political correctness is when a person’s individual political views come to override every other social norm, including civility, ethics and the rule of law. For the politically correct, leftist ideologies are a religion that guides their lives and informs their actions. Thus the ethical duty of a scholar to engage with people who have different beliefs is outweighed by the religious conviction that these people must be marginalized.
You might think that an academic dean at a public university, of all people, would have a duty to engage and treat with people from a variety of different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. Ironically, last April, Dean Grillot spearheaded a faculty letter to the University President James Gallogly, lecturing him as to how “diversity” and “inclusion” were “critical to the OU community.” But professed campus values of “inclusion” and “diversity” have always been a fraud. The only people who are worthy of inclusion are those who have either a shared belief in leftist ideology or those who are members of ethnic groups counted in identity politics. Inclusion means exclusion, and diversity means uniformity.
If Dean Grillot’s tweet expressed not her professional policy as an administrator at a public university, but her personal convictions, then I support her right to express her views. I support her right to hold and express any viewpoint protected by the First Amendment, no matter how extreme or offensive.
But here’s the thing. The University of Oklahoma conducted a secret investigation of professor McCall and found no evidence that he ever let his personal viewpoints influence his professional duties. Yet professor McCall’s religious and political convictions were deemed to be incompatible with his holding an administrative position at the University of Oklahoma. This begs the question. If professor McCall’s personal convictions were pertinent to his administrative duties, does the same standard apply to Dean Grillot? The University of Oklahoma “does not discriminate on the basis of...political beliefs” (http://www.ou.edu/eoo/policies-procedures). If a person not only admits, but boasts of discriminating on that very basis, can they continue to serve as an administrator? Where is the justice in this tale of two professors?
Dr. Deming is professor of arts and sciences at the University of Oklahoma.