It appears as if few of the N&O’s readership were persuaded by Cathy Davidson’s recent apologia for the Group of 88’s rush to judgment. Today’s Sunday forum published six responses to the Davidson op-ed; five letter-writers were critical.
Chapel Hill’s John Chambers notes that the reasoning behind her op-ed, not the words of Davidson’s critics, “shows the hypocrisy and tunnel vision which many would say 'make(s) academics and liberals look ridiculous.' In fact, it is exactly the mirror equal of Rush Limbaugh at his one-sided worst.”
Chyambers detects a “social disaster” from this event—the fact that a false allegation of rape will make it harder for true victims to be taken seriously. “Will the 88 distinguished and anguished professors of the Duke Chronicle ad,” he wonders, “now provide a second one, denouncing the real disaster for all women? Any bets?”
Raleigh’s Mark Esposito notes that while “it’s comforting to know the faculty at Duke are concerned enough with the side effects of the controversy to write about it some 10 months later . . . one can’t help wonder why there was no such concern for the accused three players.”
Chapel Hill’s Diane Goldstein Block takes apart Davidson’s absurd claim that in the early days of the affair, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans “were being elevated to the status of martyrs.” Instead, Block correctly observes, “It is these young men who have had their names and faces splashed across the media, had their lives put on hold, lost careers that they had earned, not to mention the emotional and financial strain they and their families have been put through.”
For Block, “the social disaster is that Davidson and other faculty members who signed that ad still do not understand the harm they have done to the university itself and to society at large.”
Raleigh’s David Kelsey brings his own personal experience to bear: “Having once served as jury foreman in a volatile federal District Court case on sexual harassment, I witnessed first-hand what happens when people deliberately ignore facts—especially unpleasant ones—and stick to their personal agendas.” Group of 88 members, he notes, obviously are entitled to free speech, but he questions “their timing and their means of disseminating these views. An educator’s job is to help students learn how to think critically,” not engage in “sacrificing individuals”—in this case three of their own students—”for the sake of a debatable social good.”
Finally, a superb letter from Michael Gustafson, which I quote in full.
One problem with Duke professor Cathy N. Davidson’s Jan. 5 Point of View article was her statement that “I am positive I am not the only professor who was and continues to be adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade while also being dismayed by the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13.” Such adamance would require some form of public expression. To my knowledge, none has taken place.
police entered a dorm to “interview” lacrosse players without their legal representation present? Silence. When our students were threatened with taunts of “You’ll get yours, rapist” and “Dead man walking!” Silence. When the committee tasked to examine the lacrosse team’s behavior concluded that “The committee has not heard evidence that the cohesiveness of this group is either racist or sexist” and “The current as well as former African American members of the team have been extremely positive about the support the team provided them”? Silence. Durham
When Professor James Coleman stated “the line-up ordered by the D.A. for the Duke lacrosse case violated local, state and federal guidelines”? Silence. When Moezeldin Elmostafa was arrested in connection with a crime he helped police to solve, shortly after coming forward with evidence of innocence for one of the students? Silence. When Mike Nifong refused to hear evidence from David, Collin, or Reade? Silence. When DNA evidence demonstrated just how fictional the district attorney’s story was? Silence. Adamant silence.
In the groupthink atmosphere in which Davidson operates, I have no doubt that colleagues are celebrating her op-ed. It seems as if most others continue to ask—now that the case upon which the ad was based has utterly collapsed—how not even one member of the Group of 88 could express any concerns about the timing or content of the ad, or make a definitive statement that three Duke students have been wronged.