The unintentionally revealing comments keep coming from the Group of 88.
Here is Group member Lee Baker, on the suffering Group members have endured:
Our syllabi are getting scrutinized. There are a couple Web sites that instruct people to go to ratemyprofessor.com and give negative comments. The white supremacists sites have our names and e-mails.
It’s unclear precisely what sites Baker is talking about in his second and third sentences; I certainly haven’t run across such examples.
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that what he says is true. A college professor has compared having fraudulent evaluations and being targeted by hate groups to having his syllabi “scrutinized.”
Most professors do not consider their syllabi to be secret documents, to be shielded from public view. (I put all of mine on line, and have for years.) Can Baker seriously maintain that having outsiders examine what, exactly, Duke professors teach is out of bounds?
A quick glance through Baker’s list of offerings suggests that he would be a prime beneficiary of the proposed Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative.
Take, for instance, his “Life in America”—an offering that focuses on . . . race. (Who could have guessed—a Group of 88 class oriented around race, class, and gender?) [Note: After this post appeared, the syllabus vanished from the Duke University website. A cached version of the syllabus is, however, still available.]
Assignments include such readings as,
- “We’re Here, We’re Queer—And We’re Better Than You: Representational Superiority of Gay Men to Heterosexuals on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”;
- “The Politics of Labeling: Latino/a Cultural Identities of Self and Other”;
- “The Great American Football Ritual: Reproducing Race, Class, and Gender Inequity”;
- “Morphing Race into Ethnicity: Asian-Americans and Critical Transformation of Whiteness”;
- “Cyborg Violence: Busting Bodies and Borders with Queer Machines.”
This is the sort of class that the Campus Culture Initiative wants to require for all Duke students.
[Update, 11.41am: Prof. Baker e-mailed to provide a link to a white supremacist site called stormfront.org. In a 51-page comment thread, the site had one (anonymous) comment listing the membership of the Group of 88, with links to their webpages (but not e-mails) and to their ratemyprofessors.com site. The same site had one (anonymous) comment in the same 51 pages attacking Reade Seligmann's Jewish ancestry.
I should point out, as a caveat, that ratemyprofessors.com is a site of little usefulness. In my experience, after I took a position on a campus issue relating to the Brooklyn Education Department, I noticed that I had a number of quite negative ratings from students, complaining about the in-class bias I exhibited in my classes in Political Science and Core 9. There was only one problem: I'm a History professor, and so don't teach any Political Science classes, nor have I ever taught Core 9. The moral: anyone can post on ratemyprofessors.com, and the site has no vetting process to determine whether the poster actually is a student who took a class from the professor. So anything in the site about the Group of 88 is of little value.]
[Update, II, 12.26pm: An excellent response in the comment thread:
Here is the obvious perspective on the whole "white supremacists have my email address"/"people have made death threats against the G88"/"somebody, somewhere has been discriminated against".
What does that have to do with rational criticism of your position and actions?
I'm sure that the President of the United States gets death threats from all manner of nutjobs and enemies. That doesn't mean that we should allow him/her to implement whatever economic or social policies he/she wishes without scrutiny.
No reasonable person wants anyone to feel physically intimidated or in mortal danger. However, rational analysis of a person or position necessitates a level of compartmentalization that allows for heavy criticism of one element of a situation as well as deep sympathy for another element.]