SWNID works in the "church-related" end of American higher education. Our institution is "confessional"; that is, one must adhere to a specific confession of religious faith to teach at our joint. If one departs from that confession, in the judgment of faculty colleagues and the trustees, then one no longer teaches there.
Many in the rest of American higher education sneer that confessionalism has no place in higher education, which is all about free inquiry and other highmindedness. Real higher education takes place in institutions that would never and could never exclude someone from the university community because of aberrant beliefs.
Enter Naomi Schaeffer Riley, WSJ columnist and part-time, paid (how does one get paid for doing this?) blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Our Republic's premier publication for news and opinion about higher education. Or at least she was a blogger for the Chronicle. Until yesterday.
Ms. Riley recently posted brief remarks questioning the academic significance of certain dissertation titles featured in a Chronicle article. Per her description of the aftermath, she immediately and overwhelmingly was savaged by commenters, and the Chronicle's editors finally handed her over to the pitchfork-and-torch-wielding mob, ending her occasional employment.
Had Riley questioned whether theological dissertations were worthy of academic attention, her post would have yielded gentle protests from the small band of academic theologians who monitor such remarks. But mostly she would have gained approval. But instead, she questioned the legitimacy of certain dissertations from departments of Black Studies. So, you know, she's a racist.
There are many points that could be made about this affair, but we'll make the one that hits the SWNIDish self most directly. It's high time that the American academic community owned up honestly to its unwritten creeds and quit posturing about academic freedom. Those of us who write our creeds down deserve some credit for a margin of honestly that the rest of academe could learn from.