While their statement claimed to be “listening” to Duke students, the Group of 88 has shown little regard for what their school’s students think about the lacrosse case.
Take, for instance, Cathy Davidson’s recent Group of 88 apologia. She defended the Group’s statement by attacking students who made “racist and sexist remarks . . . on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house.” The ad’s gestation period lasted from March 29 through April 6. Just who were these unnamed Duke students issuing “racist and sexist remarks”? Davidson doesn’t say.
The Duke Chronicle recounted what the campus climate really was like during this period:
Surrounded on the quad in the middle of Duke’s West Campus, lacrosse player [Bo Carrington] wanted to convince protesters that neither he nor any of his teammates were rapists. But Carrington, a sophomore, couldn’t muster a word.
“You know what happened that night!” shouted one member of the crowd. “Why aren’t you saying anything?” . . . During those weeks in early April, Carrington and his teammates encountered pictures of themselves plastered around campus like WANTED posters. Posters that, in their minds, conveyed a predetermined judgment: guilty.
Davidson’s apologia also blamed unnamed “right-wing ‘blog hooligans’” for calling attention to the ad. No one noticed the ad, she suggested in follow-up e-mails posted on Liestoppers and elsewhere, until sometime in May—when the unnamed “blog hooligans” started writing about it.
In fact, the ad was noticed immediately, on her own campus, by the students to whom Davidson and her fellow signatories claimed to be listening. When the Group of 88 statement appeared, Bo Carrington told the Chronicle, “I think that all of us [these were Duke students he was talking about, lest Davidson not notice] kind of checked over our teachers to make sure they weren’t on that list.”
People on campus unaffiliated with the lacrosse players also were “listening” to their professors. On April 13, the Chronicle editorialized:
Campus groups, in attempting to respond to these issues, face a difficult balance between constructive dialogue and one-sided dogma. In many cases, they cross that line. An advertisement for a forum sponsored by the African-American Studies department proposes the idea that Duke is a “social disaster.”
This is but one example of the instances of radical, inflammatory discourse that obscures what should be our true aim: reasonable discussion.
The day before, Stephen Miller was even more direct, in a prescient Chronicle column:
Apparently, the lack of evidence was not a factor.
Friday, a full-page ad ran in the paper repeating the charge that the situation would be handled differently were the accused not a bunch of white lacrosse players. This absurd ad, which levied the untrue and indefensible charge that Duke is filled with racists, was officially endorsed by 20 of our academic departments and institutes and about 90 individual professors . . .
It is the hope of many activists, protesters and condemners to make a case not only for the excoriation of the lacrosse team, but also for sweeping social reform to address what they see as profound racial inequity.
Instead, they make a very different case—one for protecting, at all costs, our system of justice from the passions and prejudices of the people.
Miller went on from this column to defend due process and the players’ presumption of innocence in several national media appearances over the spring.
In contrast to Davidson’s claim of a vast-right wing conspiracy to use the ad to “make academics and liberals look ridiculous and uncaring,” I discovered the statement by “listening” to Duke students.
At the time, I knew no one on the Duke lacrosse team. Nor did I know any family member of a lacrosse player, or friend of a lacrosse player. I was reading the Chronicle every day to get a sense of campus attitudes; and after seeing Miller’s column and the follow-up editorial, I found the ad on the African-American Studies website and encountered its rush-to-judgment language myself.
In yesterday’s Chronicle, 293 days after he first wrote about the Group of 88, Miller returned to the topic.
He lamented how the lacrosse scandal has exposed a “shameful reality” that “while there are many good, decent and commendable professors on our campus, there are also a number of professors that are unethical, unbalanced and out of control.”
Miller cited the deeply disturbing case of Kim Curtis—who last spring “signed the abominable 'social disaster' ad, which pointed the finger of guilt at the lacrosse team, praised the protesters who rushed to judgment and slandered our student body as racist.” Moreover, of course, Curtis penned a March 29 e-mail suggesting Dowd and the other lacrosse player in her class were complicit in covering up a rape.
After taking these actions, Curtis suddenly started downgrading both Dowd and the other player—first to grades of C- on their second paper, then to an F on their final paper. Even though, Miller argued, “it’s clear to any objective observer that Dowd’s performance merits the P that he and his attorneys are demanding,” the University rebuffed the private pleas of Dowd’s lawyer and has elected to fight a suit in court.
While Curtis appears to have violated professional ethics, Miller argued that other Duke professors embarrassed themselves and their institution with their public commentary. He traced the actions of several other Group of 88 members, while recalling the springtime public letter of Houston Baker. On March 29, the former professor wrote that the team “may well feel they can claim innocence and sport their disgraced jerseys on campus, safe under the cover of silent whiteness. But where is the black woman who their violence and raucous witness injured for life? Will she ever sleep well again?”
Baker—like Davidson and each and every other member of the Group of 88—has refused to apologize for having rushed to judgment. He also has been more defiant than most, as Miller pointed out when quoting a December 31 e-mail Baker sent to Kyle Dowd’s mother:
LIES! You are just a provacateur [sic] on a happy New Years Eve trying to get credit for a scummy bunch of white males! You know you are in search of sympaathy [sic] for young white guys who beat up a gay man in Georgetown, get drunk in Durham, and lived like ‘a bunch of farm animals’ near campus.Over the past ten months, both Stephen Miller and Cathy Davidson have claimed that a desire to stand up for Duke’s undergraduates has motivated their actions. One demanded due process last spring; the other rushed to publicly denounce. One demands accountability now; the other dissembles. Who do you think has better served Duke’s students?
I really hope whoever sent this stupid farce of an email rots in.... umhappy [sic] new year to you ... and forgive me if your [sic] really are, quite sadly, mother of a ‘farm animal.’