In a recent Duke Chronicle article, Group of 88 member Ronen Plesser maintained that the new “clarifying” statement would form a “basis for a conversation on campus . . . a conversation that will eventually lead to some understanding.”
In that light, ten questions for the (Rump) Group of 88:
1.) In your new statement, you decried an atmosphere that allowed “sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus.” What statistical evidence do you have to substantiate that assertion?
2.) Given your claim that Duke has an atmosphere that allows “sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus,” would you recommend that female students accepted to the Class of 2011 attend Duke? If so, how could you support their entering an environment that you have publicly described as so dangerous?
3.) To what specific acts/cases of “racism and sexual violence” that occurred on the Duke campus before the lacrosse team incident does your statement refer? Could you spell out what individual or collective action you took in those cases?
4.) In your statement, you wrote, “We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time.” Could you say which demonstrations you did not support, and why you did not support them? Why did you not spell this matter out in your statement?
5.) Do you agree with the late March assertion of your colleague and fellow signatory, Bill Chafe, that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provided an appropriate historical context through which to interpret the actions of the lacrosse players?
6.) Do you agree with the claim of your colleague and fellow signatory, Wahneema Lubiano, who told the N&O that “people can’t imagine that the woman could have made a false rape allegation”?
7.) Do you agree with the claim of your colleague and fellow signatory, Karla Holloway, that the lacrosse case could only be “assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt”? And do you think Professor Holloway acted properly when she passed on fifth-hand unsubstantiated gossip about Duke students--gossip that appeared in the press, coincidentally, just hours before your "clarifying" statement saw the light of day?
8.) In your statement, you wrote, “The ad has been read as a comment on the alleged rape.” Since the ad discussed “what happened to this young woman” and contained several quotes from alleged Duke students discussing the alleged rape, did the ad’s primary author, Professor Lubiano, misinterpret your sentiments in the language she used and the quotations she selected?
9.) In your statement, you wrote, “We think the ad’s authors were right to give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real.” Could you spell out what individual or collective action you took in the cases of other Duke students “whose suffering is real”—such as, for example, Duke lacrosse players who were harassed on campus last spring, or Duke students whose voter registration effort outside the football stadium was improperly shut down this fall? Is the “suffering” of some Duke students more important to you than that of others?
10.) Do you believe that Mike Nifong acted properly when he went to the grand jury on April 17 to seek indictments against Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty?
In addition to commenting, I invite readers to ask their own questions of the (rump) Group of 88 in the comment section. I'll be amending this post throughout the day to include the best additional questions in the main text.
Some added questions, from the comment section, with more to come:
1.) Does race and class require automatic judgements or are we to be judged as individuals?
2.) Do you believe the initial statement has caused harm to Duke?
3.) Will you document the methodology used to obtain a representative cross section of campus opinion for the listening statement?
4.) If you believe that exculpatory DNA results should have had no impact on how professors viewed the lacrosse case, what is your attitude toward the release from prison of numerous Black inmates based on similar results (Project Innocence)?
5.) With respect to the Listening Ad quotation that “I can’t help but think about the different attention given to what has happened from what it would have been if the guys had been not just black but participating in a different sport, like football, something that’s not so upscale,” what impact do you think the January 2006 Virginia Union University/University of Richmond rape case, detailed here, has on that view?
6.) You have just been transported back to April 2006, and you have been handed the original Group of 88 statement in draft form, with a chance to revise it so that it will avoid generating accusations of prejudgment or other misperceptions. Please re-issue the statement in its entirety, reflecting all such revisions.
7.) Would you be willing to sign a statement, such as that of the Econ Professors, that all students, including lacrosse players and other student athletes are welcome in your classes?
8.) Do you agree with John Kenneth Galbraith's opinion that "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof"?
9.) The lacrosse case revealed the students and paying parents have a significant lack of protection of their interests as both customers and new members of the Duke community. News that Duke supported police singling out Duke students for arrests they would not make on Durham residents. News of alleged grade retaliation on accused students or other forms of in-class harassment. News that one prominent professor, Houston Baker, demanded summary expulsion from school based on group membership. In response to such problems, do you favor a stronger student union and council, so that the student body may be better able to defend itself?
10.) If you, as educators, wrote a statement which was as you claim misunderstood by every person who read it, does this fact not pose significant questions as to your competence in guiding young minds? Have a similar proportion of your students left your classes also totally misunderstanding what you taught them?
11.) Do you believe that professors have an obligation to speak out on behalf of due process, as defined by the Constitution and subsequent jurisprudence, when you see due process rights publicly abridged?
12.) Are there certain groups or individuals who stand accused of crime against whom it is appropriate to lend your voice in heightening public condemnation?
13.) In your statement, you contended that sexual violence is “prevalent” on the Duke campus. Are you familiar with the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word PREVALENT as “most extensively used or practiced; generally accepted; of frequent occurrence; extensively existing; in general use”?
14.) Could you spell out what individual or collective action you have undertaken since issuing the first statement to rectify the sexist and racist culture on campus, other than issusing another statement?
15.) Since you are college professors and some teach English, are you embarrassed that your first statement was so widely misinterpreted?
16.) Regarding one of the anonymous statements from an alleged Duke student in your first ad, have any of you approached the Duke police force to ask if they have a policy of slowing down when they see a Black man on campus? Have any of you experienced or observed this phenomenon?
17.) Does the racist culture on the Duke campus extend to religious views? For example, are Muslims, Jews, or other religious groups treated unfairly?
18.) Many of you have been at Duke for many years; some of you have been or are in positions of administrative authority. When did you first notice the sexist and racist culture on campus, and what actions did you take to remedy it?
19.) In your original statement, you explicitly thanked people for not waiting. The fundamental question is what was not worthy of being awaited. Time for reason to assist emotion? Time for evidence to be gathered and assessed? Time for a defense to be made? If you were so attuned to due process, why did you fail to mention it in your April 6 statement?
20.) In addition to Cathy Davidson, who and how many of the ad's signatories have been advised by legal counsel of the potential civil liability they each face for the publication of the Ad based on the content that they pretend has been misread?
21.) If you believe this alleged white on black rape is symptomatic of a larger culture of racism and sexual violence on campus, how do you reconcile this with the fact that the vast majority of interracial rapes involving whites and blacks are black on white?
22.) In your statement you claim to "stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence." What then did you expect readers of the ad to infer from your reference to "what happened to this young woman"? Given that she had accused members of the Duke lacrosse team of rape, isn't that the obvious inference, carrying with it implied guilt of some members of the lacrosse team?
23.) Do you agree with the claim of your colleague and fellow signatory, Karla Holloway, that "sports reinforces exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those 'othered' by their sports' history of membership"? Please state your view of the relative threat of abuse toward women posed by team sports compared with the threat posed by rap music.
24.) Have you ever taught any of the 46 lacrosse players who were targeted by Mike Nifong? Did their behavior in your class conform to the stereotype that Nifong and the media offered last spring? If not, why did you not speak out publicly to set the record straight about their character; or just to demand that the be treated according to the same procedures accorded to all other Durham residents, and spelled out by the ethics canons of the North Carolina State Bar?
25.) Your recent statement makes no reference whatsoever to departments or programs at Duke University. Department affiliations of the signers of this statement are not even given. This is in striking contrast to the original ad/listening statement specifically listing 15 Duke University Departments and programs that had signed on. Why are there no departments or programs signing onto this statement? Has the original ad, with its apparent sanction by 15 Duke departments and programs, possibly implicated the university in making prejudicial statement against defendants -- who are incidentally its own students?
And, the extra credit question, for amusement:
If a stripper is coming at you from NCCU at 40mph, and Defendant Nifong is coming at you from downtown Durham at 80mph, and you have already done the Elmostafa to Wachovia to Burger joint to Dorm room time-travel-while-talking-on-your-cellphone race, how many lies will it take for you to continue to remain under suspicion of rape/sexual assault/kidnapping?
Alas, the two Math professors from the Group of 88 did not sign the "clarifying" statement.