Continuing a pattern evident for several weeks, the best case-related opinion page commentary comes not from the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the N&O, or (of course) the Herald-Sun—but the Duke Chronicle.
Last week featured two more outstanding articles. In a passionately argued column, David Kleban asked readers to put themselves in the position of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans: “What’s a more frightening concept: being railroaded by an overzealous, obstinate, politically ambitious district attorney; or having members of your own community applaud him despite overwhelming evidence of both his malfeasance and your innocence?”
As Kleban noted, “These three are being condemned by professors and other students, not based on factual evidence or even individual character, but on nebulous accounts of an entire team’s history of being less than ‘angels’,” while becoming “the scapegoats of a radical segment of academia.”
Highlighting several of the most outrageous comments about the case, Kleban reasoned that Duke has witnessed “a malicious and irrational desire to get even with an entire class of white male oppressors through three individuals who may be ‘innocent’ (quotations, I gather, are used to represent the apparent irrelevance of the term).”
Kristin Butler, meanwhile, turned her attention this week to the Duke-Durham relationship. She looked at a boondoggle proposal for
Butler cited former president Nan Keohane, who cautioned against Duke being “seen as a money bags, as a rich uncle that can solve all of Durham’s problems”—and who added, correctly, that “donors and parents give money to Duke for projects and tuition, not to support the city.”
“Even some Duke professors,”
have jumped on the bribe-and-let-bribe bandwagon. My favorite among them has to be Joe Dibona, an associate professor in the education department, whose Nov. 8 letter to the Herald-Sun suggested a $3-million payoff in the lacrosse case. Although he doesn’t specify who’s paying, Dibona did note that $1.5 million should go to the alleged victim and $1.5 million to the attorneys, which would “serve the interests of any parties concerned.”Duke administrators aren’t the only ones who need to be held to a higher standard. With the exception of Ruth Sheehan, neither the N&O nor the H-S appear capable of providing quality commentary on the lacrosse case and its broader effects. Perhaps, therefore, one of the papers should offer guest columnist positions to Butler and Kleban. At least then Triangle readers could consider some sophisticated commentary on the case.
According to Dibona, the payoff would avert more “senseless and bombastic rhetoric in the lacrosse case.” He also assured me in an e-mail that if the “complainaince [sic] withdrew all charges, the students would be free of any lingering doubt over what happened.” This is presumably why Dibona thinks $3 million would be “a small price to pay for the solution of this painful affair.”
Decide for yourself whether or not you find Dibona’s suggestions credible; for my part, I found the proposal to be as classless as it is misinformed. But the point is that Dibona’s proposal is not so different from what passes for institutional policy these days, and I think it’s about time we held administrators—and ourselves—to a higher standard.
In the past week,
Secondly, various civil rights protesters have decried the case as an instance of police misconduct. Al Sharpton has been the loudest such voice, telling the New York Times, “We prefer talking than not talking, but the object is not a conversation, the object is fairness and justice . . . And that will happen when police are held as accountable as anyone else.”
The facts of the
A transparently fraudulent “after-the-fact” report from Sgt. Mark Gottlieb? An official
No demand for police accountability from Sharpton or the North Carolina NAACP on these and other case-related matters. If anything, we’ve seen the
During the early months of this case, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt performed critical service with her posts at TalkLeft blog: as someone with impeccable credentials as a legal liberal, she saw through the “minister of justice” almost from the start. A few months ago, TalkLeft extended into a discussion forum, which until recently hosted the most sophisticated give-and-take on the case.
Unfortunately, in the last month, a handful of Nifong enablers, one or two of whom migrated from the equally affected CourtTV board, have drowned out nearly all other voices on the TL board. While the general TL site continues to offer important commentary on the case, the forum now consists of little more than peculiar conspiracy theories reflecting a mentality of guilty until proved innocent; vitriolic denunciations of the motives and effects of Nifong’s critics; and bizarre assertions that city regulations are merely advisory for police and district attorneys.
Fortunately, Liestoppers has an up-and-running discussion forum, and most of TL’s quality commenters migrated to the Liestoppers board. I’ve added a link in the sidebar.
Those inclined toward dark humor are invited to visit the Duke lacrosse website. Upon arrival, you’ll see an enormous screencap of . . . Richard (“If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough”) Brodhead.
The screencap is not of that statement, of course, but rather from outtakes of the president’s 60 Minutes interview, where he struggled to rationalize his administration’s acceptance of the “separate-but-equal” system of justice established by Nifong.
Before coming to
But the college successfully competes for students against the Ivies by emphasizing the quality of instruction and faculty-student interaction. Class sizes range from 10 to a maximum of 30-35, with an average class size of 14. “The commitment of the faculty,” states the admissions homepage, shapes the college, where every class “is taught by a professor—a professor passionate about teaching . . . More than teachers, our faculty members are role models, advisors and advocates.”
As we move into a critical period for admissions—the deadline at most colleges and universities is just after January 1—how would the similar line on Duke’s admissions homepage read? Based on what we’ve all witnessed over the last eight months, an accurate portrayal would read something like this:
More than teachers, our faculty members are willing to publicly denounce their own students to an ethically challenged prosecutor when doing so serves their pedagogical or ideological self-interest.
That’s not the message, I suspect, that prospective parents planning to spend more than $40,000 annually want to hear.
Along these lines, is a concern with negative publicity in the run-up to the application deadline the rationale for the secrecy behind the Campus Culture Initiative’s preliminary recommendations? The CCI, of course, is ostentatiously one-sided, with Group of 88 members Karla Holloway and Anne Allison co-chairing two of its subgroups and serial denouncer Peter Wood overseeing a third.
I can understand why the University would not want prospective parents to know specifically how Holloway, Allison, and Wood intend to use the lacrosse case to transform Duke.
Duke chaplain Sam Wells, meanwhile, continued his uninterrupted record of approaching the lacrosse affair from an angle that would make even extreme advocates of political correctness blush. “The most difficult thing about this process,” said he, “is that it’s assumed in some quarters that to say this is a good time for Duke to think about its own culture is inherently to be making some kind of statement about the guilt or innocence of the three students arrested. It’s felt in some quarters that the best way to stand by the three students arrested and the team in general is to say there’s nothing to talk about. That’s difficult.”
It seems to me that most of those who have criticized the CCI have not claimed that Duke should not address real or perceived problems. Instead, they have questioned the CCI’s transparently one-sided nature.
How, for example, can any serious examination of “campus culture” not address the question of why, facing a McCarthyite prosecutor, 88 Duke professors signed a statement denouncing their own students, while months passed before the first faculty members publicly challenged Nifong’s legal misconduct (Coleman) or publicly defended the players’ character (Baldwin). And how could Duke appoint to prominent positions within the CCI faculty such as Holloway and Wood, whose behavior over the last several months has been indefensible?
To paraphrase Wells, the most difficult thing about this process is that it’s assumed in some quarters that to say this is a good time, as part of an overall examination of campus culture, for Duke to think about how the faculty rushed to judgment is inherently to be making some kind of statement about the quality of the institution. It’s felt in some quarters that the best way to stand by the Group of 88 and the Brodhead administration in general is to say there’s nothing to talk about—at least not regarding the faculty.
Having grown accustomed to carrying water for Mike Nifong, the Herald-Sun has now decided it will perform the same task for embattled BOT chairman Bob Steel. Today’s paper carries an article reassuring all that Steel’s serving two masters (the federal government and Duke) will not constitute a conflict of interest.
Why? Because Steel and four unnamed government agencies say so. The H-S makes sure not to solicit comments from any of the good-government groups that criticized Steel to the Washington Post: far be it from Bob Ashley’s minions to present readers with information contradicting the editor’s preferences.
A few weeks ago, local lawyer Kerry Sutton embarrassed herself by expressing her glee at Mike Nifong’s election, a sentiment highlighted in a Herald-Sun article that falsely implied that Sutton was involved in Dave Evans’ defense.
A H-S piece from last week offers a glimpse into the rationale for Sutton’s comments: she’s interviewing for a newly created
In virtually every jurisdiction in the state, this new policy sounds like an improvement over the current situation. In the Wonderland that is contemporary
First, the police now can make arrests for underage alcohol consumption not only when someone under 21 attempts to purchase alcohol or is spotted with an open container, but if, the N&O reports, “a pocket-size gadget finds alcohol on the breath of anyone under 21.” Expect members of the DPD to spend their Saturday nights prowling the fringes of the Duke campus to expose more Duke students to the “separate-but-equal” system established by
Second, in making a DWI arrest, police can use a test called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. To quote the N&O, “An officer holds a pen or flashlight before the driver’s eyes and moves it back and forth. Most people can track the object smoothly. If the driver is impaired, the eyes twitch and jerk—an involuntary movement called nystagmus.” Of course, this test assumes the officer conducting it has integrity. Will we start seeing Sgt. Mark Gottlieb suddenly “discovering” that drivers of cars with Duke stickers are unable to pass the test?
In most cases, giving common-sense discretion to law enforcement officers is a good thing. In a “separate-but-equal” system, such discretion is a recipe for disaster.
Hat tip: M.G.