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
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.