Today seemed like a good day for a questions-and-answers post, which I haven’t done in awhile. The blog has now had readers from at least 116 countries, with new readers from the
Q (via e-mail): In yesterday’s Herald-Sun, Nifong said, “I don’t represent the people who write in from elsewhere. I do represent the people of
A: This question is an excellent one. Yesterday, I e-mailed Nifong’s lawyer, David Freedman, to ask whether the D.A. has decided to go on the “offensive” against the Bar. Given that the whole DA Appreciation Week affair was divorced from reality, it’s a little hard to determine what Nifong meant by his comments. I’d be curious to know, however, whether Nifong had cleared the event with Freedman before holding it. My guess is no.
Q: A two-part question:
If the G-88 had the wisdom at the outset to counsel restraint instead of promoting prejudice (purely hypothetical, so please play along):
1) Do you think that justice would still have been derailed the way it was, and
2) If so, would this case still have become a priority for you?
A: The answer to (2) is easy: I doubt very much that the case would have become a priority, in part because my initial interest (the first six or eight posts) all involved the faculty response. Only once I became involved did I start looking at Nifong’s actions more closely.
As to (1), I think the outcome would have been different had the Group of 88 issued a statement counseling restraint rather than rushing to judgment. I was puzzled by a recent discussion thread in the Chronicle where several commenters claimed I had blamed the Group for causing, rather than contributing to, the rush to judgment or for leading to Nifong’s actions. I have never made either claim.
I have, however, argued that the Group’s work facilitated Nifong’s efforts. Recall the context here: amidst a fluid legal and political situation, 88 Duke faculty issued a public statement that any fair-minded
Nifong defeated Freda Black by 883 votes in the primary. His behavior in the case got for him the anti-Duke, demagogue vote anyway. Had the public voice of the Duke faculty criticized Nifong, would such an action have caused 500
Q: Where are the Duke trustees? Are they sitting idly while the thin-skinned professors continue to embarrass the university? Are they happy with Brodhead’s performance?
A: All indications are that the Trustees remain content with Brodhead’s performance—keeping in mind that these are the Trustees who selected Brodhead.
The silence of the Trustees regarding the Group of 88 remains one of the real mysteries of the case.
Q: Do you suppose a Freedom of Information Act request would allow access to . . . the hiring practices? One has to shudder when one considers who didn’t get the jobs that the Gang of 88 hijacked.
A: A FOIA request would not apply to Duke, as a private institution.
The question raises an interesting issue, however. What other applicants were in the pool that produced the selection of Grant Farred? Or of Thavolia Glymph? Based on the quality of insights we have seen from such figures over the past several months, it’s worth considering whether Duke wound up with the best candidates in those searches.
Q: My great-nephew is athletic and extremely intelligent. He is being recruited by a number of schools across the country, both athletically and academically. He was leaning toward Duke. I pointed him to this case so he could consider whether a minority of irrational but vocal faculty had created a hostile environment for white male athletes. He is no longer considering Duke. Why take the chance of being hassled?
Q: As time drags on and with no resolution parents ponder and ask; why would I send my child to a university that demonstrate, so clearly, a pandering to extreme political position at the expense of protecting its students? As each day goes on the damage to Duke’s image grows. My business partner’s daughter is a very bright talented lacrosse player. Accepted and recruited to numerous colleges her final consideration was Duke and Yale. While she leaned to Duke her parents, after following this case, were adamantly against it. The final decision was Yale. All over
A: These two comments tie back to the question of the Trustees’ passivity. Obviously, the Group of 88 doesn’t speak for a majority of Duke’s arts and sciences faculty. Yet, as we have seen over the past 10 months, they possess considerable power to intimidate their opponents, and the administration has, to my knowledge, done nothing to indicate either publicly or privately any displeasure with their conduct.
Q: In direct contradiction to what Kim Curtis appears to hold true about middle class/upper middle class males, I knew in my bones that 40 college kids were not going to sit around and allow a crime to be committed while they were available and able to stop it. Sure, one, maybe two, bad apples might do harm and evil, acting in stealth and away from prying eyes. But 40 kids? 40 bad apples? 40 bad apples with enough brains and drive to make it into a good school? All 40 of them never hearing their mom’s or dad’s voice in their head saying, “Do the right thing?”
A: This point is a good one, and it has not received sufficient emphasis in commentary about the case.
Q: I am the one who asked Prof. Johnson to cite to his quotes. How do you know that he has kept notes and investigated the truthfulness of the cited quote? . . . I just think that he should practice what he preaches and either cite to the source or state why the person is remaining anonymous (just as I wish to remain anonymous).
A: Point well taken, and my apologies for not explaining my sources in the two potbangers posts.
Some of the comments in the post (those that were linked) came from publicly available sources. The others came from e-mails circulated among the potbangers. These e-mails were forwarded to me by a former potbanger who grew embittered by the movement’s behavior. The person agreed to forward the documents to me provided I not reveal his or her name publicly; since these were documents, I was willing to make the promise.
Q: I am a Duke student, and I am asking you NICELY, please please PLEASE, STOP IT! Stop sending my professors hate mail and death threats. Stop attributing 5 months of news media sensationalism to 88 professors. Stop your violent and vengeful comments on this blog.
A: Making death threats through e-mail is a criminal offense; if any have been leveled against the Group, they should go to the Durham Police Department and file charges. And, unless e-mails sent to Group members asking them to comment qualify as “hate mail,” I am innocent of the charge. We have already seen the curious way some Duke professors characterize e-mail, as when Alex Rosenberg stated that I sent him an e-mail accusing him of prejudging the case.
As for the “violent and vengeful comments” or “attributing 5 months of news media sensationalism to 88 professors,” the student, unfortunately, did not identify which of the blog’s more than 400 posts had committed such offenses.
Q: It would not surprise me to learn that most, if not all, of the “student quotes” in the April “Listening” ad were fabricated. Can anyone locate the “big black man” who supposedly said he was uncomfortable with the Duke police shadowing him on campus?
A: An excellent question. We know now that the ad was, effectively, “Listening to Lubiano”—that the “quotes” were not quotes at all, but paraphrases from her notes. To my knowledge, none of the Group members have responded to Friends of Duke’s questions on whether any of them had consulted with the Duke Police to determine whether the department had a policy of slowing down when officers saw a “big black man” on campus.
Q: How ironic would it be if the accuser, when facing the inevitable prospect of being charged with filing a false complaint, avers that she never made any of the statements Mr. Wilson claims that she made in an interview on December 21st? How could you be so silly so as not to interview this accuser without a witness and without a recording? This could be the first step in the waltz down witness tampering lane.
A: The Dec. 21 “frame” is one of the most troubling aspects of the case. It seems inconceivable that the accuser knew enough about the specific holes in Nifong’s case to have been able to come up with the appropriate answers to fill those holes.
Another procedural question. At this point, Himan was still on the case. Why did he not accompany
Q: Take a look at the mini-script at the bottom of the Group of 88 ad. It states in part: “We thank the following departments and programs for signing onto this ad with African & African American Studies: Romance Studies; Psychology; Social and Health Sciences; Franklin Humanities Institute; Critical U.S. Studies; Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; Classical Studies; Asian & African Languages &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Literature; Women’s Studies; Latino/a Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; European Studies; Program in Education; and the Center for Documentary Studies. Because of space limitations, the names of additional faculty and staff who signed on in support may be read at the AAAS website…” Does this mean these departments and programs approved of the ad? Was it the head of each department or program that gave assent? Was a vote taken among the faculty of each of these departments or programs approving of their support? Is the list simply reflective of the departments and programs of the 88 signatories? Have this ever been addressed? Let’s say I’m a member of the Post-Raphaelite Studies Department and strongly disapproved of a certain position. If I later saw an ad supporting that position and thanking the Post-Raphaelite Studies Department for signing onto it, I would have a thing or two to say about that.
A: In response to this question, I looked into the issue, and was deeply troubled at what I discovered.
I e-mailed all the professors in the Romance Studies; Psychology: Social and Health Sciences; Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; and Asian & African Languages & Literature departments who did not sign the Group of 88’s ad, and asked when their department formally endorsed the Group of 88’s statement. Many did not respond. Those who did, however, could not recall any formal departmental mechanism through which their department approved the ad.
For those outside of the academy, it is hard to overstate the significance of this point. Departments rarely speak as corporate bodies: in my 13 years as a professor at ASU, Williams,
When did the votes in these four departments occur? Why is there no record of the votes? I would have asked the ad’s author, Wahneema Lubiano, for an explanation, but she had responded to an earlier request from me in the following way: “Do not email me again. I am putting your name and email address in my filter.”