Attack on Black Studies Gets Writer Dismissed from Higher Education Blog

A blog post attacking Black studies as an academic discipline has led to the dismissal of author Naomi Schaefer Riley from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Brainstorm” blog at Chronicle.com. Billed as a blogging platform for ‘Ideas and Culture,’ Brainstorm had included Riley along with 12 other writers on the blogger roster.

Riley’s post, “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations,” ran April 30. Her post, which was a response to a recent Chronicle story entitled “A New Generation of Black-Studies PhD.’s”, sparked an outcry among readers and led to more than 6,500 people signing on to an online petition seeking Riley’s ouster from the Chronicle.

Riley had concluded her blog with the following paragraph:

“Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates. But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments. 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. Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man.”

Readers had taken issue with a number of elements they deemed demeaning and insulting in Riley’s blog. Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr., writing in the TheRoot.com, proclaimed that in “a rather mindless blog (Riley) dismissed the entire field, based on a cursory glance at the dissertation titles of four graduate students mentioned in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.”

On Monday evening, Chronicle.com published a ‘Note to Readers’ by editor Liz McMillen writing that Chronicle staff members “now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the ‘Brainstorm’ blog.”

In journalist Craig Silverman’s blog on the Poynter Institute website, Riley says that she didn’t anticipate her blog would provoke the reaction that it has among readers.

“This will sound so naive, but I didn’t” anticipate the reaction, Riley told Silverman. “I’ve been writing about higher education for a long time … but I had no sense this was going to cause this much of a backlash, let alone my firing.”