The Bob Steel-led Board of Trustees has just concluded its regularly scheduled meeting. The Board offered no comment on the serious conflict of interest allegations leveled against Steel by a left-to-right coalition of good-government groups in yesterday’s Washington Post. But the Board did make two moves—one by action, one by inaction—that made perfectly clear where the Board stands on Duke’s future.
In its final meeting before the deadline to apply to Duke’s Class of 2011, the Board remained silent about Mike Nifong’s “separate-but-equal” system of justice for Duke students.
Parents considering spending the more than $40,000 annual tuition to send their son or daughter to Duke should, therefore, have no doubt that the institution will remain silent in face of a prosecutor who employs a different set of procedures for Duke students than those used for all other Durham residents. Prospective parents also now can be assured that the BOT has no complaints with the Durham PD’s official policy of meting out greater punishment to Duke students than to all other
Many might argue that with this silence, Duke’s trustees have failed in their fiduciary duty to the institution. But Steel, obviously, has a different vision of his proper role.
The Board formally elevated the African and African American Studies (AAAS) Program from a program to an academic department. The student-to-professor ratio in the new department is stunningly low: with 15 core faculty members, the program has a mere 33 majors. With the decision, AAAS can set up a Ph.D. program, to start formally training the next generation of graduate students.
The Board ratified a recommendation from the university’s Academic Programs Committee, which passed a resolution stating The AAAS faculty, including those with joint and secondary appointments, have demonstrated an admirable commitment to advanced research, teaching and outreach activities that deserves recognition.” [emphasis added]
What type of “outreach activities” have AAAS faculty, 80 percent of whom signed the Group of 88’s statement, conducted in the last eight months?
- Houston Baker, in late March, issued a public letter denouncing the “abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us” and lamenting the “college and university blind-eying of male athletes, veritably given license to rape, maraud, deploy hate speech, and feel proud of themselves in the bargain.” To act against “violent, white, male, athletic privilege,” he urged the “immediate dismissals” of “the team itself and its players.”
- Thavolia Glymph, in mid-April, expressed sorrow when fretted that the DNA tests came back showing no match to the lacrosse players, thereby (by Nifong’s then-stated standards) suggesting their innocence. Such an outcome, she fretted, could result in the Group of 88’s crusade to transform the campus “moving backwards.”
- Wahneema Lubiano, in early May, penned an op-ed for the N&O demanding that Duke institute “targeted teaching” to demonstrate to students “the structures of racism and the not-so-hidden injuries of class entitlement in place at Duke and everywhere in this country.” She only wished that such a move had come sooner, since “we don’t have to wait for working class or poorer students to be targeted by fraternity ’theme’ parties or cross burnings on the quad or in dorm halls, or for sexual assaults to be attested by perfectly placed witnesses and indisputable evidence.”
- Karla Holloway, over the summer, published an article interpreting the lacrosse case thusly: “White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt.” The logical extension of this argument: the only alternative to condemning black women is to find the lacrosse players guilty, regardless of the lack of evidence against them. Since “justice,” she added, “inevitably has an attendant social construction,” judgments about the case “cannot be left to the courtroom.”
This is the type of “outreach” the Board commended with its decision earlier today.
With its actions and non-actions today, the Board responded to those who have been urging Duke to take a clearer stand on the case. Not only is the Board unwilling to challenge Nifong’s “separate-but-equal” system for Duke students, but it went out of its way to reward the faculty who have acted as Nifong’s campus cheerleaders.