Thursday, August 17, 2006

"Really, Really Well"

Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva, under fire because of unrelated personal matters, decided to shift the focus away from himself in an AP interview published yesterday. Heaping praise on his superiors—who have, after all, decided to ignore public pressure and keep him on the job—the athletic director gave his opinion of the lacrosse case: “I think that Duke has handled it really, really well.”

If Duke’s performance constitutes the University’s handling events “really, really well,” I wonder how Alleva would have defined a “really, really poor" response.

Perhaps such a response would have featured 89 Duke faculty members, rather than 88, signing a rush-to-judgment statement thanking the campus protesters who branded the lacrosse players as rapists. Or a “really, really poor” response might have seen zero Duke professors, rather than one (the law school’s James Coleman), publicly criticizing the myriad procedural improprieties of D.A. Mike Nifong. Maybe a “really, really poor” response would have entailed Duke president Richard Brodhead devoting two paragraphs in his April 5 statement, rather than one, to the horrors of rape—at a time when the lacrosse players unequivocally denied the allegations and the only proof that a rape occurred were the fulminations of campus protesters and Nifong’s procedurally improper public remarks. Or, perhaps, a “really, really poor” Duke response would have featured Brodhead, rather than declining comment about the matter, holding open the doors to Edens Hall as Nifong sent police to campus, where they tried to question Duke students outside the presence of their attorneys—in apparent violation of Rule 4.2, Comment 6, of the North Carolina Code of Professional Responsibility.

What Alleva celebrated as Duke’s having handled matters “really, really well” has included a consistent minimizing of the lacrosse team’s academic accomplishments—part of the University’s broader pattern to paint the worst possible public picture of the team. Take, for instance, Brodhead’s June 5 remarks about the Coleman Committee report, where he avoided any mention of the lacrosse team’s stellar academic record. Instead, Brodhead described the report in the following way:

Though it did not confirm the worst allegations against this team, the Coleman Committee documented a history of irresponsible conduct that this university cannot allow to continue.

Brodhead’s first public concession that, indeed, the Coleman Committee report contained much positive to say about the lacrosse players came 50 days later, in his response to the Friends of Duke University open letter.

Brodhead has not commented upon last week’s release of the ACC Academic Honor Roll. Nor does the Duke lacrosse site—or any Duke site, as far as I can tell—mention the ACC honors.

I wonder what accounts for this silence, since Duke led all conference schools with 362 student-athletes named to the Honor Roll. Could the inconveniently high number of lacrosse players on the honor roll explain the university’s reticence?

Twenty-seven members of this year’s men’s lacrosse team were named to the Honor Roll. This achievement, of course, took place amidst Nifong’s using the team members as pawns for his re-election campaign. More remarkably, it occurred despite a troubling pattern of unprofessional behavior toward the players from many Duke faculty members—of which the experiences of George Jennison and Honor Roll member John Walsh seem to be only the tip of the iceberg.

The lacrosse team’s 27 Honor Roll members is the highest number in the ACC, easily outdistancing the numbers earned by UNC (16), Virginia (16), and Maryland (14).

This result ran true to form: over the last five years, the lacrosse team has had 173 members make the Academic Honor Roll, more than twice as many as the next closest school. The Coleman Committee highlighted this point, but the Duke administration has never publicly referenced it. And of this year’s recipients, five made the Honor Roll in each of their four years at Duke: Dave Evans, Erik Henkelman, Glenn Nick, Bruce Thompson, and Matt Zash. No other Duke team had as many four-year winners.

The 27 lacrosse players who made the Academic Honor Roll also surpassed the total of any other men’s team at Duke except for football (34, of a roster of 80-plus). The lacrosse team had more Honor Roll members than baseball (15), basketball (5), cross country (13), golf (3), indoor track (17), soccer (15), swimming (13), tennis (8), or wrestling (17).

Perhaps Duke could couple its publication of these figures with Professor Paul Haagen explaining his theories about how athletes who play “helmet sports” are more likely to engage in violent crime. Alas, as blogger John in Carolina has revealed, Haagen, after his infamous March 25 comments to the N&O, no longer seems to be commenting on the case.

A few months ago, in an interview with National Journal’s Stuart Taylor, women’s lacrosse coach Kerstin Kimel became the first person at Duke who publicly challenged the institution’s stultifying atmosphere of groupthink. “Being at an elite university where every side of every issue is debated,” she noted, her players “were shocked, disillusioned, and disappointed that their professors and the university community were so one-sided in their condemnation of the lacrosse players.”

What kind of players has Kimel recruited? To Taylor, she described them as “smart, savvy young women.” The ACC figures confirmed her observation: the Academic Honor Roll contained 23 of their names, more than any other women’s lacrosse team in the conference. As their own professors remained silent, or rushed to judgment with public denunciations of the men’s lacrosse players, at the women’s lacrosse Final Four, Kimel’s players publicly expressed their solidarity with the three members of the men’s team targeted by Nifong.

Given the reaction of Duke faculty to date, I doubt we’ll see any expression of professorial pride regarding the academic achievements of both the men’s and the women’s lacrosse teams. I’m sure, however, if he were asked, Joe Alleva would say that they performed “really, really well.” But his standards seem to be quite a bit below those of the ACC Academic Honor Roll.


Anonymous said...

Others who I'm sure would have rated their own performace (other than a few minor flaws) as "really, really well" :

The German people while watching Jews being arrested in their midst;
Onlookers at the Kitty Genovese murder;

People yelling "Jump!" to a man perched on a ledge

People who departed the Titanic with half-full lifeboats;

Air watchers at Pearl Harbor;

Secret Service men guarding JFK;

The prosecution team in the Scottsboro case;

The townfolk in High Noon;

and the staff of Duke Univ.'s
athletic dept. (and administration in general)

Anonymous said...

I am very proud of all the ACC Honor Roll athletes. I am especially proud of those members of the Duke Lacrosse Men's Team who obviously have taken this whole horrible situation as a challenge, and have risen to it admirably. I am very gratified that the underclassmen are returning to Duke with the goal of excelling on the field and in the classroom. I wish them the best. And yes, why do I read this only here? Thanks for the report.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what good grades have to do with private behavior. Ask around campus, the lacrosse team had a reputation as jerks.