Chronicle of Higher Education Fires Naomi Schaefer Riley

    May 9, 2012

Naomi Schaefer Riley, an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values, was fired late last night from the Chronicle of Higher Education after posting an article entitled The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations. The post ruffled some feathers, to say the least, and Schaefer Riley was let go roughly a week and 500 comments later.

Here is an excerpt of the article in question, to get a basic idea of the ‘civil tone’ of the piece:

“I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. 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.”

So, 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. Some got happy. The Chronicle got nervous. Editor Liz McMillen explained the decision to let Schaefer Riley go:

“Several thousand of you spoke out in outrage and disappointment that The Chronicle had published an article that did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us. We’ve heard you, and we have taken to heart what you said. 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.”

Maintaining courage in one’s convictions, regardless of what they might be, can very easily become a sort of 1st world problem in the realm of maintaining a job, as soon as whatever content one espouses hits the internet. And, if one were to look at the vast majority of story comments featured on the bigger news sites online, the world can be very, casually racist – and no one will likely ever be fully satisfied in regards to the internet’s generalized racial taint. Ashton Kutcher was recently vilified for his racist acting in a Popchips ad that was quickly pulled, after the media deemed it was unfunny, regardless of its actual entertainment quality – which some may see as being a bit iffy – card-carrying non-racist racial watchdogs might’ve been reaching a bit in this instance. It’s not clear if critics of the ad disliked Kutcher’s portrayal of a Bollywood producer in India, a position of power in that country which a lot of people in the Western World likely can’t comprehend, or if they were displeased with the portrayal of the southern American hayseed timebomb with prison tats, a non-racial play on a stereotype, though still easily flippable.

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, and self-destructive idiocy was shown to be quelled for a while. Surely Schaefer Riley will receive some job offers from outlets who are more aligned with the views described in her article, but the ‘civil tone’ of her career has likely changed forever.