Friends of Duke has started a petition endorsing the Economics Department’s open letter backing President Brodhead’s demand for an examination of Mike Nifong’s conduct and welcoming all students, including student-athletes, into their classes.
More than 600 people have signed the petition to date. Here are some of the most thoughtful comments, beginning with one from a Duke professor.
Please do not assume that faculty who have been (or still are) silent have not formed reasoned and sensible opinions about the events of the last ten months. Nor should their silence be construed as supportive of the 88 signatories of the “listening” ad in the Duke Chronicle (or of any other position); as a general rule, the most strident and extreme voices are not universal, nor rarely even widely held (or so I would like to believe). I am a Professor at Duke, a Duke alumnus, and a resident of
. I have constantly updated my position on the lacrosse case as new evidence has come to light and will continue to do so as new evidence comes to light. Durham
I am signing this petition because at this point in time, based on the evidence of which I am aware (which is quite extensive, after devoting much time to reading motions, affidavits, sworn statements, news articles, and multiple blogs), I believe: 1) the three lacrosse players, Reade Seligmann, David Evans, and Collin Finnerty, are completely innocent of the charges they face, 2) the DA Mike Nifong is corrupt to a level that merits censure or disbarment; I believe this will eventually happen since the charge that he already faces (making inflammatory prejudicial statements) is the least compelling of those he will probably later have to face (willfully violating accepted lineup procedures, and withholding and conspiring to withhold exculpatory evidence), 3) because of her claims, which appear at this time to be baseless, the accuser has done significant harm not only to the accused, to Duke, to NCCU, and to the city of Durham, but also to herself (by exposing to public examination her character and her past) and to all true victims of rape and sexual assault who are now less likely to be as readily believed, 4) the group of 88 signatories of the “listening” ad is not monolithic in its beliefs; while many of the signatories will likely not change their minds regardless of what evidence is revealed (which is extremely disconcerting given that we uphold scholars as people who ponder carefully, think critically, and consider dispassionately), I believe other signatories to be fine colleagues who are seeking the truth and willing to eventually change their positions in the light of new evidence (even though they may not be willing to do so in public), and 5) the Duke administration is trying to walk a fine line since it needs to please many constituencies; I believe the administration is committed to the truth, but as with all large institutions, this is a slow process because it takes more time to change the course of a large ship than a small one (recall that in the earliest days, some criticized the administration for not moving swiftly enough to condemn the players); this is especially true of academic institutions where the administration serves at the pleasure of so many competing constituencies (although stronger leaders might not seek to please all constituencies equally and the response time might then be faster).
While no university is perfect, and Duke is certainly not an exception to this rule, Duke is truly a wonderful institution with great faculty, students, employees, alumni, fans, and friends. I thank each of you for your support of Duke!
Caroline Dooley welcomed the Economics Department’s statement.
It was about time that the voice of teachers at Duke be heard. Discussion of this case has been dominated by a few (and often times irresponsible few) and the result has been that Duke as an institution looks out of touch with reality. Even more terrible, however, is that some of the statements by teachers appeared directed at attacking a Duke sports teams in general and even the specific defendants in some cases—without evidence to support the attacks or regard for the context of a developing rape case. I think this letter says what I have been waiting to hear from Duke (and am still waiting to hear from most of the university). Please don’t dismiss my input as that of an “outsider.” I am a 1995 Trinity grad, I am a liberal, I am a feminist and I am an attorney. I have no loyalty to college sports, I was not involved in greek life, I have been involved in rape crisis volunteering.
Not until this fiasco has anyone at Duke ever suggested that alums were outsiders or that they should be “moved along or left behind.” I have always loved Duke and will continue to do so—but this experience has undermined my confidence in the legal system and most surprisingly in feminist scholars and some of my former teachers. It appears that these defendants were unjustly targeted, and while it is inconvenient to admit, part of the reason they were targeted and so many people went along for so long is that Duke and its students are resented by many—even by some of its own professors.
Winford Kent Bishop, a 1961 Trinity graduate, wrote, “I applaud the Economics faculty. I am proud to say that I majored in Economics, played lacrosse, and have defended the lacrosse team from the beginning. As Dave Evans said, the accusations are ‘fantastic lies,’ and have been transparently so.”
Carl A. Johnson stated,
I strongly endorse the sentiments of the  faculty members of the Economics Department. I also applaud President Brodhead’s stance regarding the irregular and illegal manner in which prosecution has handled the case.
But much more needs to happen to make Duke whole again. While liability concerns may mitigate against publicly acknowledging mistakes made early on by the administration and certain members of the faculty, it is in Duke’s best interest to admit to those mistakes that continue to be unjustly harmful to the accused students and by extension to the entire Duke family. Tolerance and forgiveness were very much a part of the Duke culture during the more than eight years that I studied at Duke (BS and PhD).
We need now to start the process of forgiveness and healing. This can only happen if leadership and faculty step forward and admit to mistakes where they have happened and assert resolutely that protection of individual rights of Duke’s citizens is fundamental in its code of ethics.
Karen Donnelly noted,
I am a proud Duke alumna saddened by the events of last March. I am most disappointed in 88 members of the faculty who were more interested in fanning the flames of racism than in the presumption of innocence and the pursuit of truth. All students need to know that they have our support.
Evan Skowronski signed on, noting,
I am writing in support of the authors in this petition and any Duke faculty member, staff, or student who supports a fair, legal, and ethical treatment of its students. I would implore the administration to finally investigate and reprimand anyone associated with the university who has inappropriately and maliciously treated the young men in question who should benefit form a presumption of innocence and the support of their community.
Finally, from Todd H. Eveson:
I am an attorney and a Trinity ‘97 graduate. As a member of the NC State Bar, Mr. Nifong’s conduct and prejudice in this matter pain me greatly. So too, does the public statement of the ‘Gang of 88.’ They made a rash decision based on too few facts and now hide behind Duke’s tradition of free discourse and tolerance of intellectual diversity. True intellectuals value the truth and would not hesitate to publicly retract prior statements in the event that such statements were shown to be unfounded.
If there is one silver lining to this matter, it is that I have been proud of the manner in which the three defendants, President Brodhead and certain members of the administration, including the athletics department and now faculty of the economics department have conducted themselves. THAT is the University I know and love.
The petition itself is a welcome idea—as, of course, is the Economics Department letter upon which it is based. I hope that more Duke students, faculty, and alumni sign onto it in coming days.