Operating under the moniker Concerned (of Being Sued) Duke Faculty, the 88 is now 87. Though losing more than two dozen of its members, Group leaders somehow rounded up an almost equal number of faculty members who hadn’t signed the original ad. That such a cohort would, after the fact, affiliate with a widely discredited and discreditable statement might be the most amazing thing we’ve witnessed from the Duke arts and sciences faculty over the past 10 months.
It was fitting that the Group of 88 made its re-appearance on the same day that one of its most prominent members, Karla Holloway, released scurrilous fifth-hand gossip to the local media.
The rump Group contains many familiar names. Alex Rosenberg again signs on (even though the new statement, just like its predecessor, contains no mention of his favorite issue, alcohol). Bill Chafe (who contended that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provide the appropriate historical context through which to interpret the lacrosse players’ actions) is back. So too is CCI gender co-chair Anne Allison and Mark (“thugniggaintellectual”) Neal.
In April, the original statement’s author, Wahneema Lubiano, wrote, “Regardless of the ‘truth’ established in whatever period of time about the incident at the house on N. Buchanan Blvd., the engine of outcry in this moment has been fueled by the difficult and mundane reality that pre-existed this incident.”
In other words, why should the Group of 88 have to worry about inconvenient facts, or even seeking the “truth,” if doing so might frustrate their ideological crusades?
Lubiano’s thesis permeates the rump Group’s statement: though the case upon which their original ad was built has collapsed, the signatories show no repentance. They categorically “reject” all “public calls to the authors to retract the ad or apologize for it.” The Group, in short, did no wrong—as Karla Holloway said last fall, they’d do it over again, in a “heartbeat.”
The signatories do concede that “pain” was “generated” by events surrounding the Group of 88’s original ad. The culprit? Not Mike Nifong, whose conduct receives no mention. The Group still can’t bring themselves to condemn the prosecutor who targeted their own institution’s students, or to issue a public demand that Duke students be treated according to the same procedures as all other residents of Durham. Instead, in the Group’s eyes, the real culprits in this affair were those who have “intentionally” misread the ad.
Intriguingly, the rump Group’s statement links to a Google archive of their own ad posted by one of the blogosphere critics they so vigorously denounce. While the critics have regularly quoted from the text of the ad itself, Group members have acted (for good reason) as if they were ashamed of their springtime statement. After they started receiving strong criticism last fall, the original ad suddenly vanished from the Duke website.
The new statement echoes the line of Bob Ashley’s Herald-Sun and the transparently pro-prosecution NAACP: “We reject all attempts to try the case outside the courts, and stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence.”
It’s ironic that a statement signed by more than 70 percent the African-American Studies Department would implicitly rebuke the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s, in which activists recognized the need to mobilize the public, “outside the courts,” to protest rigged local procedures in the Deep South.
Continuing one of the most troubling aspects of this case—the sense that some Duke professors just don’t like many of their own school’s students—the rump Group portrays the Duke campus as beset by problems of sexism, racism, and sexual assault. Without citing evidence, the authors decry the “atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus.”
Many of the new statement’s signatories have worked at Duke for decades—Chafe, for instance was dean of faculty, others have served as department chairs or in important administrative posts. And yet a prospective parent who reads the statement might seriously believe that Duke is awash in “sexual violence.” If true, this claim raises serious questions about the performance of the institution’s faculty in mentoring its students. If false, the claim raises serious questions about the willingness of some faculty members to make reckless, unsubstantiated assertions about the students they teach.
The new statement also contends that the original signatories merely wanted to “give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real.” Yet neither the original Group nor its new, rump form has demonstrated any interest in trying to “give voice” to Duke students since March 29, when Lubiano came up with the idea for the original statement. Indeed, signatories Karla Holloway and Grant Farred have explicitly attacked Duke students, while a third signatory, Kim Curtis, went so far as to suggest that students in her own class were accomplices to rape.
In the end, however, the Concerned (of Being Sued) Duke Faculty seem most “concerned” with trying to limit their liability for the most indefensible element of the Group of 88’s statement—the decision of its signatories to say “thank you” to the “the students speaking individually and . . . protesters making collective noise.”
The new statement’s signatories state the following:
We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time. We appreciate the efforts of those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.
Does this assertion mean that the Concerned (of Being Sued) Duke Faculty approve of the potbangers’ protests? It would seem so. While they make no attempt to describe the demonstrations of which they disapproved, they are clear in what they appreciated—“those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.”
Manju Rajendran, an organizer of the potbangers’ protest, was explicit on her stated intention: “We are here to break the silence around sexual assault and violence.” A few days later, she described the effort (which, of course, included signs stating “Time to confess” and “Castrate”) as a fight against “institutionalized racism and a whole culture of sexual violence.”
Just what the Concerned (of Being Sued) Duke Faculty expressed their appreciation for in their most recent statement. At least no one need doubt any longer where they stand.