Tag Archives: Duke

Double Jeopardy for the Accused at Duke

Some colleges seem so eager to find males culpable of sexual offenses that they insert a provision in campus student-discipline rules allowing a form of double jeopardy. Ron Gronberg reported yesterday in the Durham Herald-Sun that Duke University changed the  wording in the Duke Community Standard in Practice (P.47).  Gone is the right of the  appeals panel to throw out a case against the accused on appeal. Now such a case will revert to the Office of Student Conduct, which can opt to continue the case, despite the finding in favor of the accused.

Gronberg reports: “On its face, the wording sets up the theoretical possibility a student could be accused of misconduct, be found responsible, appeal, win on appeal and then face a never-ending string of new hearings, new findings, and new appeals.”

At Duke, “Intolerance” Can Cost You Tenure

Befitting its vision as one of the nation’s great universities, Duke declares that it grants tenure only to the best. Tenure at Duke, according to the university’s official policy, “should be reserved for those who have clearly demonstrated through their performance as scholars and teachers that their work has been widely perceived among their peers as outstanding,” with “good teaching and university service” expected but not in and of themselves sufficient.

Duke lists no other criteria for tenure. Until now.

Last week, the anti-campus free speech movement migrated from Yale, Missouri, and Amherst to Duke. This is, of course, a university with a record of indifference to student civil liberties: in the lacrosse case, dozens of faculty members unequivocally declared that something “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum; and after the collapse of this case to which they had attached their public reputations, dozens signed a statement affirming they’d never apologize. (They didn’t; instead, Duke spent millions in settlements and legal fees to, in part, shield the faculty from liability.)

In response to Yale/Missouri/Amherst-like student protests, Duke President Richard Brodhead joined, at a campus forum, the new dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University, Valerie Ashby. (Ashby started at Duke this past July.) Brodhead, to his credit, openly opposed censorship, and cautioned that suppressing speech could eventually justify the silencing of the student protesters. At the same time, he neutralized this commitment by suggesting that Duke could institute a policy addressing “hate speech” (whose parameters remained undefined) modeled on the school’s due process-unfriendly sexual assault policy.

In the event, Brodhead didn’t have the last word on this issue. After he made his statement against censorship, Dean Ashby jumped in. She revealed a previously non-public university policy, announcing that untenured faculty is subjected to continuous evaluation for a university-approved level of tolerance. A video of Ashby’s remarks is here. Her key line: “You can’t be a great scholar and be intolerant. You have to go.” Chillingly, the assembled audience then burst into applause.

Nothing in Duke’s written tenure policy suggests that a “great” scholar’s failing to fulfill a definition of “tolerance” offered by Brodhead and Ashby constitutes grounds for denying tenure. Indeed, Ashby’s emotional concluding line—“you have to go”—suggests that the dean considers it possible to immediately dismiss those untenured professors who fail her tolerance test.

The academy’s recent debates about “tolerance” revolve around questions of race and gender. While Duke has now made clear that the “intolerant” can be fired, in her public statement, Ashby provided no clarity as to what specific views constitute dismissible offenses. For instance, would a junior professor who publicly opposed racial preferences be deemed “intolerant,” especially given Brodhead’s earlier criticism of tenured Duke professors whose research raised questions about the effects of racial preferences? Would a junior professor who urged the university to change course and provide due process to students accused of sexual assault be deemed “intolerant,” and thus worthy of dismissal under the new standards? If the Ashby principles had existed during the lacrosse case, could they have been used to terminate untenured Duke professors who criticized the Group of 88?

I asked two Duke spokespersons whether this new tenure evaluation policy had been provided in written form to untenured faculty; neither spokesperson replied. (Duke’s website contains no indication of a written policy, and Ashby defined the new standard only as “this is what’s tolerable here, this is what’s not,” without providing any degree of specificity.) At the very least, then since Duke’s new “tolerance” criterion remains appears to be wholly arbitrary, any junior professor who wants to stay employed needs to self-censor.

To date, Duke seems to be the only elite university that has abandoned all pretense that excellent scholarship, teaching, and service is sufficient for tenure, and held instead that these accomplishments can be trumped by a “tolerance” test imposed by the senior administration. Will other universities follow course?

Wendy Murphy Comes to the University of Virginia

The Office of Civil Rights’ mandated procedures for
investigating sexual assault are tilted heavily against the accused party. The
institution can
hire “neutral fact-finders” who produce the equivalent of a
grand jury presentment, deny the accused an advisor of his choice, add
witnesses that the accused student does not request, forbid the students from
cross-examining his witnesses, and judge the student according to a 50.00001
percent preponderance of evidence standard, an approach that mocks even the
pretense of due process.

It is remarkable, then, that one such accused student at
the University of Virginia was exonerated of the charges brought against him.
Unfortunately, what happened next was unsurprising.

The accuser hired an outside attorney–none other than controversial
victims’ rights lawyer Wendy Murphy–and filed a complaint with the Office of
Civil Rights. Murphy’s argument, as expressed to c-ville.com, comes close to
saying that a failure to convict amounts to an OCR violation. “The preponderance standard is simple,”
she told the newspaper. “When her accusations are deemed credible, and his
denials are not described with the same glowing terminology, she wins.” But
under the UVA system, the investigators (serving as the equivalent of a grand
jury) have the authority to deem an accuser’s claims “credible.”
For the
OCR even to consider such an absurd claim would be highly problematic.

The second disturbing element of this story comes from
the article itself. Penned by Graelyn Brashear, the article often appears as
little more than a press release for Murphy. Even though the accuser publicly
reiterated her allegations through a posting on Murphy’s facebook page–which
Brashear notes, was “widely
circulated among students,” c-ville.com kept her identity secret.

Nor does Brashear
inform her readers about what the UVA procedure actually entails. Beyond
referencing the shift toward a preponderance of evidence standard (which the
reporter comes close to celebrating, describing universities lacking the
standard as “holdout schools,” even as she notes concerns from FIRE and the
AAUP), Brashear doesn’t reveal that accused students can’t have an attorney
cross-examining witnesses, that the university considers the equivalent of a
grand jury or the police as “neutral,” or that the university is willing to
abandon even a circumscribed right to cross examine regarding some witness
statements. Given that most people outside the academy (indeed, most academics)
have little knowledge about the details of campus due process, it seems likely
that readers of Brashear’s article came away with the belief that the campus
judicial system resembles not the Kafka-like system envisioned by the OCR but
instead the Law and Order rules that
most citizens at least somewhat understand.

Most troubling, here’s how
Brashear described Murphy: “Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New
England School of Law and a frequent media commentator on issues of women’s
rights, has a reputation as a firebrand. ‘I’m an activist with my feet in the
courts,’ she said. Her battle cry is blunt: ‘The law is designed to facilitate
and perpetuate violence against women and children,’ she said.”

Virginia is a member of the ACC, and, of course, Murphy
has some experience with handling allegations of sexual assault at an ACC
school. In the Duke lacrosse case, the ubiquitous media commentator repeatedly
made false statements of fact about the case (nearly 20 of them in 2006 alone)
coupled with myriad unsubstantiated claims and bizarre interpretations of law.
These statements weren’t made in secret–and they received widespread attention,
including from the American Journalism
Review
.

Yet Brashear mentions none of this, and instead treats
Murphy as a wholly credible figure. Imagine, for instance, if the intro
paragraph had at least acknowledged that Murphy had a record of playing fast
and loose with the truth on claims of campus sexual assault: “Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the
New England School of Law and a frequent media commentator on issues of women’s
rights, has a reputation as a firebrand, although in at least one high-profile
campus matter, the Duke lacrosse case, she repeatedly misstated both factual
items and questions of law, always in such a way that favored the accuser in
that case.”

Such a portrayal, it seems,
isn’t what cville.com thinks its readers should receive.

Duke Goes After a Critic in the Lacrosse Case

Six years ago, Duke University suffered a high-profile humiliation from which it is still struggling to recover. Students on Duke’s lacrosse team were accused of a brutal sexual assault on a local stripper who had been hired to perform at a party.

The charges were false. But in the interval between the initial headlines and the students’ eventual vindication, credulous faculty and others in the university community applied a presumption of guilt, denouncing the students as rapists.

A university steeped in traditions of free speech and the pursuit of truth was exposed as blinded by its own dogma, unwilling to acknowledge inconvenient facts that undercut the credibility of the students’ accuser, and indifferent to the students’ civil liberties.

Given this sordid history, one would expect Duke to be taking steps to demonstrate its renewed commitment to due process and first amendment principles. On the contrary, the university, which has been sued by the former lacrosse team players and their parents, recently served a subpoena on Robert “KC” Johnson, an outspoken critic of Duke’s handling of the (non-)rape scandal and co-author of the leading book on the subject.

Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, is co-author (with journalist and legal scholar Stuart Taylor) of “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustice of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.” (Disclosure: Taylor is a friend of mine). Duke’s subpoena demands Johnson’s disclosure of confidential information he received from sources for the book, including the former Duke students and their lawyers.

Duke’s subpoena, which is being contested in federal district court in Maine, is an offense to journalistic independence and academic freedom. Historians and journalists can’t perform their truth-telling function if their sources have reason to fear that their role, and the information they agree to provide, will later be exposed and scrutinized in court.

This is obviously true if the sources’ identity or information are confidential. This is also true in the fairly common situation in which a source, although named in a book as a source for one statement or fact, provides additional information to the authors, on a confidential basis, for still other statements or facts that are published unattributed. The process of conducting original research for a journalistic or historical work is crippled if lawyers are free to depose authors about these matters.

The legal privilege protecting the work of historians and journalists is not absolute, to be sure. The university’s claim to the subpoenaed information would be more convincing if Duke had exhausted all alternative sources and the information were truly essential to its ability to defend itself in litigation. But Duke hasn’t come close to meeting these standards.

Duke’s leaders should think hard about how much the school is willing to lose. If they insist on enforcing their subpoena, what will they say the next time a Duke professor receives an intrusive court order to turn over confidential research or communications?

­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________________________________________________________

Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in California. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Coalitions Board of Directors.

Yale’s New Low and the Sad Saga of Wendy Murphy

Few figures involved in the Duke lacrosse case behaved more disgracefully than Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law. A  frequent TV commentator on the case, she  earned a reputation for defending Mike Nifong’s prosecution through myriad errors of fact, misstatements of the law, and deeply offensive statements such as her betting that “one or more of the players was, you know, molested or something as a child.” To Murphy, there are no false accusers of rape–so as soon as an accusation is made, a “victim” exists. The presumption of innocence, she has maintained, is no more than a presumption that the “victim” isn’t telling the truth.

That bizarre conception of due process is right at home at Yale. The university’s troubling new policies toward sexual assault allegations reached public attention through the New York Times‘s attempt to smear former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt, who was caught up in the university’s Kafka-like “informal complaint” system. (In this procedure, designed to give the accuser maximum control of how the process plays out, the accused student doesn’t even have the right to present evidence of his actual innocence, much less cross-examine the accuser or have legal representation.)

The Witt affair turned out to be the tip of the iceberg regarding due process–an internal report revealed that the “informal complaint” policy allowed Yale to set up a monitoring program for at least one faculty member without even telling him he’s under investigation. The allegation of sexual harassment alone was sufficient for the finding of guilt.

Now these sorts of arrangements will be the norm. Yale has entered into a consent decree with the Office of Civil Rights, ensuring the “use of the preponderance of evidence standard in determining whether sexual misconduct occurred”; promising an informal complaint procedure in the future in which no accuser has to face cross-examination from the person she accused; and creating a double jeopardy system in which the rare accuser who doesn’t get her way at the lower level can appeal a not-guilty finding.  So it’s almost fitting to see the commentator renowned for denigrating due process and the university that celebrated its own denigration of due process paired up in a race to the bottom.

The triggering event was a Title IX lawsuit–generated, Murphy claimed, by the Yale-OCR settlement–filed by her and another attorney, John Williams, on behalf Susan Burhans, who formerly served as security education coordinator for the Yale Police Department. The filing’s basic thesis: over the course of a decade, Burhans recommended a variety of policies which, if adopted, would have ensured that the OCR had no grounds for acting against Yale. But instead of Yale accepting her wise counsel, Burhans was fired.

 

A Connecticut Superior Court already appears to have dismissed Burhans’s case, for reasons that aren’t hard to discern, given some of the claims the lawsuit offers. Murphy and her co-counsel maintain that Burhans discovered that Yale accusers were “revictimized during sexual assault grievance procedures,” and demanded that her supervisors institute new procedures. (The complaint doesn’t reveal what these new procedures were.)

 

Burhans “experienced an increasing number of colleagues avoiding her,” which Murphy and her co-counsel suggest constitutes evidence that Yale violated Title IX. And the complaint wants to hold Yale liable for posting a $129,000 job in the security department requiring “qualifications Burhans did not possess.” Finally, the complaint reveals that Burhans applied for around 50 other jobs at Yale and didn’t get any. Again, it’s not clear how this is evidence of a Title IX violation.

 

Continue reading Yale’s New Low and the Sad Saga of Wendy Murphy

Duke Didn’t Come Clean, Penn State Did

In 2006,
the Duke lacrosse case featured an extraordinarily high-profile intersection of
college athletics, academic culture, and the criminal justice system. Six years later, the tragedy at Penn State far
surpassed events in Durham in the annals of campus scandal. There were clear
differences between the two cases (chiefly, of course, that at Penn State,
horrifying crimes occurred, while in the Duke lacrosse case the only criminals
were rogue DA Nifong, who spent a day in jail for contempt, and accuser Crystal
Mangum, currently awaiting trial on a murder charge). But both instances were
characterized by a massive administrative breakdown–in Penn State’s case, based
on an unhealthy degree of power held by the football program; in Duke’s case,
based on the administration’s apparent fear of alienating race/class/gender
faculty on campus.

Continue reading Duke Didn’t Come Clean, Penn State Did

Two Commencement Talks That Got Attention

David McCullough and Fareed Zakaria.jpgThe Boston Globe recently reported that the journalist Fareed Zakaria delivered very similar if not identical addresses this commencement season at Harvard and at Duke. Zakaria was perfectly within his rights to imitate himself on the podiums of higher learning. He did nothing wrong. The article reporting his “sin” was intended, however opaquely, to rap him across the knuckles for lack of consideration that even if his speech was not unique for each occasion, his audience was. And there is the rub. In his defense, Zakaria noted that “These are students from two very similar institutions graduating within two weeks of each other. I don’t see how I could have come up with two completely different speeches without giving one group a second-rate talk. I’d rather come up with the same important message I think they need to hear.”

Continue reading Two Commencement Talks That Got Attention

More Double Standards at Duke

In a move widely anticipated after President Richard Brodhead engaged in a public self-criticism about his not appointing any African-Americans to senior leadership positions, Duke recently elevated political science professor–and prominent Group of 88 member–Paula McClain to graduate dean. (The Group of 88 statement, issued in early April 2006, asserted as fact that something “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum; signatories also thanked protesters for “not waiting” shortly after the most prominent protest had included a sign urging the lacrosse captain’s castration.) The announcement confirmed Duke’s policy of complete non-accountability for Group members, several of whom had already been named to lower-level deans’ positions, and none of whom had been punished for the statement’s improperly using Duke funds to finance the advertisement or for the false claim of official departmental endorsement for the Group’s crusade.

Continue reading More Double Standards at Duke

The Latest Sad Protests at Duke

As KC Johnson explained here a study by social scientists at Duke found that African American students
“disproportionately migrate from science and engineering majors to less
challenging majors in the humanities,” thus questioning the benefits of
preferential admissions. In response,
faculty members and student groups protested. It’s important to examine
the actual content of those protest statements, if only to realize fully how
biased, anti-scientific, and politically-motivated they are.

Continue reading The Latest Sad Protests at Duke

More Depressing News from Duke

For insight into
the corruption of the modern academy, look no further than Heather MacDonald’s extraordinary article on the
recent controversy at Duke. Two Duke professors, Peter
Arcidiacono and Ken Spenner,
and a graduate student, Esteban Aucejo, produced a paper showing that
African-American students at Duke disproportionately migrate from science and
engineering majors to less challenging majors in the humanities. (Now that the
Supreme Court has granted cert to the Fisher
case, evidence that racial preferences in admissions harms even those who
receive the preferential slots will likely be receiving much more attention.)
The reaction was sadly predictable: outraged “activist” students rallied around
identity politics; race-baiting faculty members displayed their indifference to
the truth; and cowardly administrators seemed terrified of being labeled a
racist. Also unsurprising was the fact that none of these critics challenged
the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.

Continue reading More Depressing News from Duke

Duke’s Brodhead Under Attack

Duke president Richard Brodhead has presided over what could charitably be termed a checkered administration. His botched handling of the lacrosse case led to a reported $18 million settlement with the falsely accused players, as well as millions of dollars in legal fees to fight off (thus far unsuccessfully) a civil rights lawsuit filed by many of the unindicted players. The university experienced a major case of academic fraud after revelations that a member of the medical faculty, Anil Potti, had exaggerated his credentials and fudged his research, prompting him to withdraw four published papers. Potti eventually resigned, and Duke belatedly halted his clinical trials. Whether Duke will suffer legal liability from any patients in Potti’s clinical trials remains unclear.

Now, reports the Duke Chronicle, Brodhead is facing faculty pressure regarding Duke Kunshan University (DKU), a proposal to create a new university, jointly funded by Duke and the city of Kunshan, in China.

Creating overseas branches of U.S. universities is always a complicated task, with the possibility of long-term financial benefits for the home institution balanced against the short-term financial risks. Faculty members complain about exclusion from the process, even though there’s no way such a venture ever could be launched with professors running things. Moreover–as perhaps was most clearly seen in NYU’s venture in the United Arab Emirates–such proposals risk compromising academic values in diplomatic negotiations with the host nation.

Some of the reaction against DKU appears to be little more than the complaints of professional complainers. For instance, Group of 88 extremist Paula McClain, who opened her tenure as chair of Duke’s Academic Council by positioning herself as a leader in “healing” the institution and offering quotes from Nelson Mandela in the process, lobbed attacks on the administration for its allegedly not soliciting sufficient faculty input.

Continue reading Duke’s Brodhead Under Attack

A Brown Cover-Up

Duke—which is defending a civil suit filed by most of the unindicted lacrosse players and their families—isn’t the only university being sued, in part, for bowing to politically correct winds on campus. Brown, a prominent donor, and the donor’s daughter are facing a civil suit, for allegedly conspiring to drive out of school a former Brown student after the donor’s daughter accused him of sexual assault.
The basic facts of the case: In 2006, William McCormick was a Brown freshman and member of the university’s wrestling team. Very early in the academic year, he seemingly had a series of unpleasant encounters with another first-year student, Marcela Dresdale, who lived in his dorm. Dresdale complained to her dorm RA about McCormick’s untoward advances, and the RA reached out to the Brown administration. Then, six days later, Dresdale for the first time asserted that a week before, and after several discussions with the RA in which she had made no such claim, McCormick had raped her.
Sexual assault policies of most universities are wildly tilted in favor the accuser. But Marcela Dresdale had another advantage—her father, Richard Dresdale, is a Brown alumnus of some influence, as well as a major Democratic donor. (Full disclosure: I have donated to two candidates on Dresdale’s list—Obama and Tom Allen, a 2008 Senate nominee in my home state of Maine—though my donations didn’t quite reach Dresdale’s six-figure level.) Internal Brown documents obtained by the AP indicated that Richard Dresdale was in contact with Brown administrators, and McCormick was immediately suspended and sent back to his home in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the person who served as McCormick’s de facto advocate, an assistant wrestling coach, wasn’t allowed to see any evidence of the alleged crime. The three sides eventually worked out an agreement: McCormick would withdraw from Brown and not return to Providence until the accuser graduated; Dresdale wouldn’t file criminal charges; and Brown would terminate its investigation—an inquiry in which McCormick’s advocate wasn’t allowed to see what evidence, if any, Brown actually possessed.

Continue reading A Brown Cover-Up

Honoring One of the Perpetrators at Duke

What if all college professors were forced to be higher-education entrepreneurs, with salaries pegged to the number of students they attract to their classes? That’s the model recently proposed by a Texas professor who styled himself “Publius Audax” on a Pajamas Media blog. Publius launched his proposal, he wrote, as the solution to a projected $25 billion budget shortfall over the next two years that is likely to hit the Texas higher education hard. Publius’ argument is that his “entrepreneurial professor model,” when coupled with other reforms would “harness the power and efficiency of the market” to make public higher education cheaper and better. The other reforms include abolishing tenure, eliminating state subsidies to public campuses, getting rid of “core curricula” (which nowadays are nothing more than pointless distribution requirements, and allowing private “charter colleges” (both nonprofit and for-profit) onto public campuses in order to provide more competition.

Hmm, my own undergraduate alma mater was founded by a highly successful entrepreneur, the railroad baron Leland Stanford. What if college professors were more like Leland Stanford and less like the brilliant but economically illiterate head-in-the-clouds types who taught at Stanford when I went there?

Here is how Publius’ entrepreneurial professor model would work: All professors and lecturers would receive a base “living wage” of $30,000 plus benefits. Beyond that it would be up to the professors themselves to generate a “tuition-based bonus” for themselves consisting of 50 percent of the tuition income generated by students enrolled in their classes, “up to a maximum of 320 students (960 student hours).” All instructors would be allowed to teach up to eight classes a year. In order to gin up the price competition further, professors, department heads, and even entire colleges could offer tuition rebates to students, the money to come out of the professors’ salary bonuses. Professors with ultra-large classes could hire teaching assistants—but the money would again have to come out of their salary bonuses. And to ensure that professors wouldn’t game the system by handing out easy A’s to all comers, there would be a strict grading curve. No more than 15 percent of students in any given class could receive an A-grade, and another 15 percent would have to either flunk or receive a D. Professors whose grades deviated from the curve would lose their bonus for every student whose grade exceeded the curve. This would not only keep the professors in line, Publius argues, but would “transform the campus culture, replacing partying with studying” as students scrambled to stay out of the bottom of the class.

Continue reading Honoring One of the Perpetrators at Duke

Whatever Happened to the Group of 88?

A few years ago, Cornell University spokesperson Thomas W. Bruce rejoiced that the Ivy League school had brought to Ithaca a man whose “distinguished background in contemporary global cultural studies,” and whose “unique perspectives and talents” would “add to the range of reasoned intellectual discourse at Cornell.”
The professor about whom Bruce gushed was Grant Farred, whose latest contribution to “intellectual discourse at Cornell” came when he labeled two graduate students “black bitches.” One of the most extreme members of the Group of 88 (the Duke faculty members who issued a guilt-presuming public statement two weeks into the lacrosse case), Farred had denounced as “racist” those Duke students who registered to vote in Durham; and had wildly charged that unnamed lacrosse players had committed perjury. Duke’s settlement with the three falsely accused players shielded him from civil liability for the latter remarks. Cornell knew this record of contempt for the students he taught when it not only awarded Farred a tenured position, but promoted him to full professor, with a median salary of $154,300.
Farred’s experience typifies the Group of 88’s rebounding from their rush to judgment in the lacrosse case. Indeed, at least three Group members moved on from Duke to endowed chairs at other institutions. Charles Payne, who violated Duke rules by authorizing departmental funds to pay for the Group of 88’s ad, is now Frank Hixon Professor at the University of Chicago. He has moved on from presuming the guilt of his own school’s students to receiving fellowships to fund his work on urban schools. Payne’s most recent book, Teach Freedom: Education for Liberation in the African-American Tradition, is an edited volume published by Columbia Teachers’ College Press; it features contributions from self-described “educator-activists” on how principles of African-American “liberation” education remain relevant today.
Rom Coles, who denounced an early 2007 from Duke economics professors that affirmed that the economics professors would welcome all Duke students, even student-athletes, into their classes, is now McAllister Chair in Community, Culture & Environment at Northern Arizona University. He’s involved himself in a host of pedagogically predictable causes, ranging from learning communities to “sustainability” initiatives.

Continue reading Whatever Happened to the Group of 88?

Duke’s Mixed News

In the past few days, Duke announced resolutions of two disputes that had bedeviled the university. First, in response to a protest from FIRE, the university overruled the Women’s Center’s refusal to host an exhibition sponsored by a Duke pro-life organization. In a perfect irony, announcement of the reversal came from Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory, last heard from hypothesizing about the danger that Duke’s female students face because they go to school with smart male students: “The higher IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are . . . imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop.”
Then, Duke settled a lawsuit filed by former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. Pressler was an early victim of Duke’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the lacrosse case—he was fired, and only then did the university conduct an investigation of his conduct. (That investigation concluded he had done nothing wrong, and had responded appropriately every time an administrator raised the issue with him of behavior by his players.) Even then, Pressler sued only when—days before AG Roy Cooper declared the falsely accused players innocent—he was attacked, in print, by Duke’s then-director of public relations.
Duke tried to have Pressler’s lawsuit thrown out on technical grounds, but lost that argument—meaning that depositions would have to go forward, and then the case would go to trial. Perhaps the University would have won at trial, perhaps not. But regardless of the verdict, subjecting key Duke administrators to cross-examination under oath would have risked a public relations nightmare for Duke.

Continue reading Duke’s Mixed News

Duke’s Mixed News

In the past few days, Duke announced resolutions of two disputes that had bedeviled the university. First, in response to a protest from FIRE, the university overruled the Women’s Center’s refusal to host an exhibition sponsored by a Duke pro-life organization. In a perfect irony, announcement of the reversal came from Women’s Center Director Ada Gregory, last heard from hypothesizing about the danger that Duke’s female students face because they go to school with smart male students: “The higher IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are . . . imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop.”
Then, Duke settled a lawsuit filed by former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler. Pressler was an early victim of Duke’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the lacrosse case—he was fired, and only then did the university conduct an investigation of his conduct. (That investigation concluded he had done nothing wrong, and had responded appropriately every time an administrator raised the issue with him of behavior by his players.) Even then, Pressler sued only when—days before AG Roy Cooper declared the falsely accused players innocent—he was attacked, in print, by Duke’s then-director of public relations.
Duke tried to have Pressler’s lawsuit thrown out on technical grounds, but lost that argument—meaning that depositions would have to go forward, and then the case would go to trial. Perhaps the University would have won at trial, perhaps not. But regardless of the verdict, subjecting key Duke administrators to cross-examination under oath would have risked a public relations nightmare for Duke.
The settlement of the Pressler lawsuit doubtless previews how the University might handle the far more serious lawsuit that Duke faces—the civil motion filed by 38 members of the 2006 men’s lacrosse team, along with several of their parents.
As in the Pressler lawsuit, Duke has aggressively sought to have the suit dismissed before the discovery phase, employing some creative legal arguments in the process. My favorites: (1) the assertion that the university doesn’t consider itself legally bound by the terms of the Student Handbook, which among other things precludes discrimination; and (2) these “anti-harassment policies must be balanced against principles of academic freedom” (or when race/class/gender professors choose to go after their own students to advance their pedagogical agenda, such actions should fall under the definition of “academic freedom”).
Neither claim, I should note, appear in Duke’s promotional materials or on its admissions department webpage. Apparently Duke isn’t eager to inform prospective parents that the University’s promises that faculty will treat students with respect aren’t worth the scrap of paper on which they’re printed.
Duke’s motion for summary judgment remains pending. If the University loses, it will face a highly unappealing choice—settle before trial; or allow many of its key administrators from 2006 not only to be deposed, but to hand over internal administration e-mails from spring 2006. The public relations damage from such a move would be horrifying for any institution, much less one eager to remain among the nation’s elite.
By the way, I noted there was mixed news for Duke: on the “good news” front, benefiting from a quite easy draw, the men’s basketball team reached the Final Four.

Heckler’s Veto in Texas and an Apology at Duke

A heckler’s veto at Tarleton State University in Texas has stopped a class production of an excerpt of the Terence McNally play, Corpus Christi, which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals. Canceling the presentation was a mistake. It was made by a professor running his own class, not the university administration, which muddles the free-speech issue slightly. Still, it was an act of censorship made in response to threats. When a speaker or staged event draws threats, the job of an administration is to provide security, not to stand by and let a menacing crowd get its way. One of the protesters’ slogans was “Blasphemy is not free speech,” but of course it is. Sadly, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst took the side of censorship, saying, “Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.” So the only plays allowed to be staged would be those morally approved by large numbers of Americans.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram got it right editorially: “Yes, the play’s premise is as offensive to some Christians as representing the prophet Muhammad as a dog is to some Muslims. But people in this country don’t have a constitutional right not to be offended.”
In an open letter, the president of Tarleton State, F. Dominic Tattovio, sounded the same note: “Like every citizen of the country, the student who chose to direct excerpts from the play enjoys his right to free speech. This right is protected by law even if the speech is offensive to others.”
On another censorship front, the Duke women’s center apologized today for cancelling a discussion on student motherhood on grounds that the sponsor of the event was holding a pro-life event elsewhere on campus. A representative of the center said, “I have taken steps to ensure that such an incident will not happen again.”

Duke Prints What Yale Won’t

Some happy news via Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy – Duke University’s Voltair Press is not only printing a book on the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy that features the cartoons (imagine that!) but also includes a Statement of Principle that decries Yale University’s censorship of the cartoons in their own volume on the matter. Here’s a sample:

The incident at Yale provides an opportunity to re-examine our commitment to free expression. When an academic institution of such standing asserts the need to suppress scholarly work because of a theoretical possibility of violence somewhere in the world, it grants legitimacy to censorship and casts serious doubt on their, and our, commitment to freedom of expression in general, and academic freedom in particular.
The failure to stand up for free expression emboldens those who would attack and undermine it. It is time for colleges and universities in particular to exercise moral and intellectual leadership. It is incumbent on those responsible for the education of the next generation of leaders to stand up for certain basic principles: that the free exchange of ideas is essential to liberal democracy; that each person is entitled to hold and express his or her own views without fear of bodily harm; and that the suppression of ideas is a form of repression used by authoritarian regimes around the world to control and dehumanize their citizens and squelch opposition.

The Group Of 88 In The News

One reason the academic side of the lacrosse case was so important is that the Group of 88—the Duke arts and sciences faculty members who, two weeks into the case, declared that something had “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum and thanked protesters who had carried ‘CASTRATE’ signs for “not waiting and for making yourselves heard”—includes some of the more prominent humanities and social sciences professors at Duke. In that respect, the lacrosse case provided a unique window into the mindset of contemporary academia.
Take Cathy Davidson, a high-profile former dean and English professor at Duke who recently was the subject of a glowing review in the Chronicle of Higher Education for her pedagogical innovation. (Davidson no longer does her own grading, having ceded that basic professional responsibility to the students in her class.) Davidson also is the professor who bizarrely asserted that the Group of 88’s ad was justified because in the first two weeks of the case—when virtually everyone in the media was presuming guilt—“rampant” racist insults were “swirling around in the media” from the reporters and commentators who defended the lacrosse players. Just who these media members were Davidson never revealed.
Last week, Mark Bauerlein revealed that Prof. Davidson, in a letter that Bauerlein uncovered in the Fish Papers, was well aware of late 1980s discussions at Duke to bar members of the NAS from serving on personnel committees. Yet this same Cathy Davidson had asserted in 2004 that “either as a department member or a member of the APT [appointments, promotions, and tenure] committee, I’ve not encountered any Duke faculty member being harassed or discriminated against because he or she is conservative.”

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Was Nan Keohane Worse Than Brodhead?

In October 2006, 60 Minutes offered a searing examination of the Duke lacrosse case. Reported by the late Ed Bradley, the broadcast exposed then-Durham D.A. Mike Nifong for what he was: an unethical prosecutor advancing a non-existent case to secure the votes of African-Americans he needed to win an upcoming Democratic primary. The broadcast also represented a public relations low point for the Duke administration. Speaking to Bradley, Duke president Richard Brodhead declined to condemn Nifong’s behavior. Nor did he question the dubious and in some cases unprofessional conduct by his own university’s “activist” faculty members.
Brodhead, instead, targeted the victims of the prosecutor’s and his faculty’s misconduct: his own students. With a pronounced smirk, he defended Duke’s actions by accusing the lacrosse players of having engaged in “highly unacceptable behavior.”
More than two years after Brodhead’s ill-fated introduction to the national media, Duke has made a reported eight-figure settlement with the three falsely accused lacrosse players. The university also settled lawsuits with former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and the family of a lacrosse player who suffered grade retaliation from an anti-lacrosse Duke professor. Duke still faces a civil rights lawsuit filed by the unindicted lacrosse players, and the university recently learned that its insurance carrier is refusing to cover any defense or settlement costs arising from the lacrosse case.

Continue reading Was Nan Keohane Worse Than Brodhead?

Freshmen Orientation: Is It Over Yet?

“Parents asking, ‘Where’s the trash?’ were promptly corrected by event staff and volunteers, who proudly provided composting crash courses to the thousands of students and family members.”
The “event”—described in an online news release–was the Second Annual Zero-Waste Freshman Orientation Picnic at Duke University on Aug. 19, a campus event for entering Duke students and their families that featured “local and organic foods,” biodegradable cornstarch drinking cups, and a taboo against anything plastic—all part of the latest college-administration fad, aggressive recycling in the name of “minimizing our campus footprint.”
Some of the parents of the 1,600 or so Duke freshmen who attended the picnic might have wondered why they had to undergo being “corrected” by Duke employees and student volunteers for using the politically incorrect word “trash,” or to receive “composting crash courses” from youngsters when they were already coughing up or going into hock for the nearly $50,000 a year it costs to send one of one’s offspring to Duke. Duke allows students from households with annual incomes of less than $60,000 to attend the university for free, but everybody else—and that includes the modestly upper-middle-class—has to come up with cash, mortgage the family home, or take out loans in order to pay for a Duke education. Still, Duke’s administrators seemed confident that they were teaching both parents and incoming students a welcome lesson. Boasting of the 95 percent waste-diversion rate the university had achieved at both freshman picnics by sending 5,000 pounds of organic food scraps and cornstarch cups to the compost heap instead of the dumpster, the Duke web page prophesied, “In two short years, styrofoam plates, plastic napkins and cups will be unfamiliar artifacts to all of Duke’s students.”

Continue reading Freshmen Orientation: Is It Over Yet?

The Group Of 88: What They’re Up To

KC Johnson continues to pay indefatigable attention to the Group of 88 at Durham-in-Wonderland. We missed a post two weeks ago, but it’s certainly worth a look:

Waheena Lubiano, the famously prolific Duke professor, recently co-authored a piece in Social Text (along with fellow group member Michael Hardt, and another professor) on the trials of the Group of 88. What’s the issue? They were victimized by bloggers and outsiders.

According to the Lubiano Trio, “the most extreme marginalization was reserved for the faculty whose professional expertise made them most competent to engage the discourses on race and gender unleashed by the inaugurating incident – scholars of African American and women’s studies. Instead, administrators, like the bloggers themselves, operated under the assumption that everyone was an expert on matters of race and gender, while actually existing academic expertise was recast as either bias or a commitment to preconceived notions about the legal case. Some faculty thus found themselves in the unenviable position of being the targets of public discourse (and disparaged for their expertise on race and gender) without being legitimate participants in it.

Horrors. What other indignities did these innocents (speaking truth to power) go through? KC reports:

Blogs, according to the Lubiano Trio, used “powerful tactics of harassment” against members of the Group. “Typically we [Group members] should… work as maids for the players’ families [or] return to the slave quarters.” Group members “have also been found guilty of numerous crimes, including treason, sedition, and tax evasion(!).”

Although the Lubiano Trio’s article does contain footnotes, the Group members elected to supply not even one citation for any of these outlandish claims. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out why.

What does the inclusion of these unsourced ramblings say about the editorial policies of the Duke University Press journal Social Text?

Oh come now, we all know the Social Text editorial policies are ironclad!

It’s an astonishingly risible piece. Read more.

A “Wildly Misleading” Self-Defense

Selena Roberts, a former New York Times sports columnist, now with Sports Illustrated , is still trying to justify her garbled coverage of the Duke lacrosse case. A Roberts column of March 31, 2006, devoted to pre-judging the lacrosse players, said they had been forced to provide DNA (untrue, they provided DNA and hair samples voluntarily), reported that “According to reported court documents, the accuser in the case has been raped robbed, strangled and made the victim of a hate crime” (there were no such “reported court documents” – Roberts was mistakenly referring to search warrants) and said the victim “was also reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape” (the hospital records said nothing about “trauma in the victim’s vaginal area” and contained no evidence of rape). Roberts was so certain that the boys were guilty that she complained about the code of silence under which players protected one another (there was no code of silence – the accused talked freely and honestly about what really happened – no attack, no rape). She even suggested that the players were subhuman (“a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their status as human beings. Whatever the root, there is a common thread: a desire for teammates to exploit the vulnerable without heeding a conscience.”)

In a recent interview on the sports site, The Big Lead, Roberts offered this cleaned-up version of what she wrote in 2006:

“Basically, I wrote that a crime didn’t have to occur for us to inspect the irrefutable evidence of misogyny and race baiting that went on that night. Not a popular stand. I received lots of hate mail, some of it threatening. I think the intense response came from Duke-player supporters who felt threatened when someone, whether it was me or another columnist, started poking at the culture of affluence and entitlement. We’re always dissecting the African-American and Hispanic communities – is it gangs? is it the rap lyrics? – when trouble strikes minority athletes. Obviously, some segments of the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world.”

These remarks are “wildly misleading,” according to K C Johnson, the Brooklyn college professor whose site, Durham-in-Wonderland provided daily accounts, detailed and accurate, for the length of the Duke lacrosse case. The problem wasn’t that “the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world.” It was that the scrutiny by Roberts got almost everything wrong. Johnson, co-author with Stuart Taylor, Jr., of the definitive book on the Duke case, Until Proven Innocent, wrote that “for anyone who followed the lacrosse case closely (Roberts) sacrificed her journalistic credibility in an attempt to advance a preconceived ideological agenda.”

Bad News – Brodhead Keeps His Job

The Alice-in-Wonderland view of Duke University received yet another boost: a committee of the board of trustees has affirmed President Richard Brodhead’s “compelling vision” for Duke and found “general support, overwhelming support, for the leadership that the president is providing.”

The obvious question here is “What leadership?” Brodhead’s performance during the Duke non-rape crisis was surely a disgrace large enough to get him fired immediately on any moderately alert campus.

Let’s review Brodhead’s dismal handling of the case. He fired the lacrosse coach without any hearing or finding that the coach had done anything wrong. He took no action and made no relevant statement when some of the hard-left professors harassed lacrosse players in class, and when one professor punitively reduced the marks of one player. (Imagine how he would have sprung into action if a gay person or a woman had been treated this way.) He refused to look at the overwhelming evidence, offered to him by defense counsel, that the boys were innocent. He made no comment when the racist black professor Houston Baker bitterly and falsely denounced the three white players. He said nothing and did nothing when death threats were made against the three. Instead of offering protection, he and his administration appointed a committee to examine “persistent problems involving the men’s lacrosse team, including racist language and a pattern of alcohol abuse and disorderly behavior,” a statement clearly implying that the players were racists while an out-of-control prosecutor was issuing the same untruths to voters and jurors.

Still Brodhead knows how the game is played and he surely judged his strategy by what happened to President Lawrence Summers at Harvard. Summers told many unwelcome truths and leftist professors forced him out. Brodhead told some welcome untruths and therefore kept his job. Brodhead ‘s performance was “a moral meltdown” of a cowardly man, in the words of Stuart Taylor Jr. and K C Johnson in their book, Until Proven Innocent. But given the moral climate of the modern university, cowardice was probably his safest course.