[W]hy take my word for it? Scholars more learned than I have been saying the same thing for decades. In 1974, Thomas Sowell wrote that from the beginnings of the discipline, "the demands for black studies differed from demands for other forms of new academic studies in that they . . . restricted the philosophical and political positions acceptable, even from black scholars in such programs." Thirty-five years later in a piece for the Minding the Campus website, former Berkeley Prof. John McWhorter noted that little had changed: "Too often the curriculum of African-American Studies departments gives the impression that racism and disadvantage are the most important things to note and study about being black." My critics have suggested that I do not believe the black experience in America is worthy of study. That is not true. It's just that the best of this work rarely comes out of black studies departments.
In response, Brian Leiter makes the case for Riley's dismissal on grounds unrelated to race:
Making fun of doctoral dissertations by recent PhDs based on their titles and a few lines of an abstract? That's all she did, nothing more.
If she'd posted it on www.naomischaeferrileyblowhard.com no one would have noticed. But she was given a forum by CHE that she was supposed to share with adults and scholars, and that's what stunned people. The allegations of racism arise from the fact that one could have undertaken the same exercise with dissertation titles in most fields, even philosophy. (Think how much fun a malevolent fool like Schaefer Riley could have with recent dissertation titles from Princeton!) But Schaefer Riley chose a field rich with "hot button" issues…her failing is not really moral, but intellectual.
Riley addressed that charge in her op-ed: "Scores of critics on the site complained that I had not read the dissertations in full before daring to write about them—an absurd standard for a 500-word blog post." But a reader notes:
Her first post, even more comically, was entitled "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations!" … which she hadn't.
And another reader makes a good point:
I know blogging is all about real time / quick response etc. But when you get something wrong because you responded too fast, you admit that. She had a chance to say she screwed up, and she didn't say she screwed up, she said, "There are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery." So basically she is saying, I refuse to become informed enough about this to decide if it is a waste of time. Which is absolutely the opposite of what is supposed to go on in higher education.