by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Evan Charney documents for Martin Center readers the end of his service as a professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.
Why did I lose my job on the basis of my purportedly having a tendency to harm students, when there was no evidence of such a tendency, either in my student evaluations or any other feedback I received from students and faculty?
The answer, I believe, is twofold: First, the complaint of a handful of students concerning the events of a single class in which we discussed racism at Duke; second, an administration willing to give this complaint absolute credence and greater weight than a record of 20 years as an outstanding teacher, and to distort that record to ensure a negative vote of the faculty.
It is extremely troubling that the complaint of a handful of students proved dispositive, inasmuch as most students who were in the very same class had very different reactions to my teaching. Here is one representative example:
“As a woman of color, I write to bring attention to an aspect of Charney’s teaching that will be as missed as much as it is needed in today’s political climate…The climate at Duke reflects the polarization of the country at large. Conversations are halted before they can even begin. Instead of listening, instead of understanding or trying to understand, people on both sides are combative and dismissive…Charney taught us how to have those conversations, how to navigate race relations, how to empathize.”
To be sure, I am a provocative professor. I challenge students’ deeply held beliefs and expose them to material some would find shocking and offensive. Far from having a tendency to provoke negative reactions, harm, and polarization, it is precisely my method of teaching that has made me such a popular teacher and has led student after student to assert that my class changed her life.