The first two editions of DIW’s “March Madness” looked at the 10 worst op-eds and 10 worst “news” articles of the case. Today’s bracket features the 10 worst case-related publications of the Duke arts and sciences faculty. As with yesterday’s bracket, the worst of the worst ranked is #1. Reader nominations are welcome in the comment thread. Worst of the soundbites come tomorrow.
The most famous faculty publication of this case, the Group of 88 statement, deserves a category all to itself in a Hall of Shame. This bracket will be confined to single-person publication.
10.) Orin Starn, “A Grand Show of Arrogance by Duke Athletics,” Herald-Sun, Sept. 15, 2006. Starn spent most of 2006 exploiting the lacrosse case as part of his crusade to transform Duke into the Haverford of the Triangle, an institution with Division III or club athletics. Of course, he never quite explained how this case should promote his goal: presumably club or Division III athletes could also hold spring break parties with beer and strippers. In his op-ed, Starn suggested he would remain “vigilant in ensuring that both [the players] and their accuser receive fair treatment from the justice system.” Given his demand for a trial and his refusal to condemn Mike Nifong’s procedural violations, with friends like Starn, the players needed no enemies.
9.) Mark Anthony Neal, “(White) Male Privilege, Black Respectability, and Black Women’s Bodies,” NewBlackMan, 11 April 2006. The self-described “thugniggaintellectual” brought his unique insights to this mid-April post: “Regardless of what happened inside of
8.) William Chafe, “Opinion: What Next at Duke?,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 3, 2006. Having already condemned the lacrosse players locally, the former dean of faculty went national in this essay, comparing the “Duke lacrosse fiasco” to Hurricane Katrina(!), since, “In one horrific evening early this spring at Duke University, the tensions of race, sexuality, town-gown conflict, and class inequity came together in an explosion that laid bare the fault lines that threaten our capacity to act as a human community.” Chafe also offered a line that is better read as an indictment of the faculty as a whole: “The events that we know took place reflect underlying realities of student culture, at Duke and at American colleges and universities generally, that cry out for attention.” Agreed: the rush-to-judgment atmosphere among Duke’s arts and sciences faculty does reflect the situation at American colleges and universities generally; and, indeed, it cries out for attention.
7.) Elizabeth Chin, “Out of Their Worlds,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 26, 2006. In the spring 2006 semester, Chin was a visiting professor in (of course) the Cultural Anthropology Department. She published a memoir of her experience teaching a course called “Girl Culture/Power,” in which she used class time to have her students to go outside and listen to an anti-lacrosse player rally. “After a while,” she related, “I noticed that, one by one, the sorority girls were going back inside.” (Many of the sorority “girls” knew members of the lacrosse team.) Chin continues: “When I went after them, their pain and frustration were obvious. ‘It's just not fair being targeted as a group,’ wailed one woman.” Wailed? Imagine the appropriate condemnation from faculty members like Chin if a male professor had used this verb to describe an upset “girl” in his class. Chin’s response to the demonstration and its aftermath effectively assumed that the players were guilty, her view of the scandal was undeniably correct, and teaching diversity is the only conceivable approach in the classroom. Her view of an in-class “olive branch”? One of her favorite students, a “radical woman,” admitted that she had a common experience with a sorority “girl”: the “radical woman,” too, knew a man who “had raped someone.”
6.) Wahneema Lubiano, “Perfect Offenders, Perfect Victim: The Limitations of Spectacularity in the Aftermath of the Lacrosse Team Incident,” NewBlackMan, 13 April 2006. Lubiano took time away from preparing her two “forthcoming” manuscripts to pen this essay, which included a line that New York’s Kurt Andersen correctly dubbed a perfect example of the academy’s “loopy left”: “Regardless of the ‘truth’ established in whatever period of time about the incident at the house on N. Buchanan Blvd. . . . [and] whatever happens with the court case, what people are asking is that something changes.” Translation: facts be damned, and full speech ahead with exploiting the case for her own personal and pedagogical aims.
5.) Houston Baker, “Awaiting the Restoration of Confidence: A Letter to the Duke University Administration,” public letter, March 29, 2006. Without a doubt the most vile publication of any Duke professor during the affair, it would have rated higher but for its being so inappropriate as to provoke a well-reasoned public response, from Provost Peter Lange. Ten times in his letter Baker referred to the race of the lacrosse players in a derogatory fashion. As a thought experiment, re-read his letter, but substitute “black” for Baker’s use of “white” and “blackness” for his use of “whiteness.” Now imagine the (appropriate) outrage if any college professor, anywhere in the country, released such a letter.
4.) Cathy Davidson, “In the Aftermath of a Social Disaster,” N&O, January 5, 2007. An apologia for the Group of 88’s statement, Davidson led off her essay by making a transparently false claim: “The ad said that we faculty were listening to the anguish of students who felt demeaned by racist and sexist remarks swirling around in the media and on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house. The insults, at that time, were rampant. It was as if defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women.” Yet between March 29 and April 6, when the statement was produced, virtually no student or media support came for the lacrosse team in general or for Seligmann and Finnerty (who weren’t even targets of the investigation for most of this period) in particular. After lionizing the accuser, Davidson concluded by suggesting that the real victims in the affair were members of the Group of 88, victimized by unnamed “right-wing ‘blog hooligans’.”
3.) Karla Holloway, “Coda: Bodies of Evidence,” Scholar and Feminist Online, July 2006. In her distinctively opaque prose, Holloway revealed that the victim in the lacrosse affair was . . . Karla Holloway, because of her increased committee work. (She had made the same point in a Herald-Sun letter that appeared a few weeks before this summertime essay.) She also lashed out at the women’s lacrosse team, which had the audacity to take a public position (expressing sympathy with the three players targeted by Mike Nifong) that was at odds with the position taken by . . . Karla Holloway.
2.) William Chafe, “Sex and Race,” Chronicle, March 31, 2006. Since Chafe, through his “diversity” program as dean of faculty, played such a critical role in hiring many of the Group of 88, it seems fitting that he is the only professor to appear twice in this bracket. In this op-ed, he famously suggested that the whites who lynched Emmett Till provided the appropriate historical context through which to interpret the actions of the lacrosse players. If only to confirm the “groupthink” atmosphere prevalent among Duke’s arts and sciences faculty, visiting professor Tim Tyson penned an op-ed for the N&O only two days after Chafe’s piece. Tyson’s thesis? “The spirit of the lynch mob lived in that house on
1) Grant Farred, “Secret Racism Underlying Lacrosse Case,” Herald-Sun, October 29, 2006. In the final public statement by any member of the Duke arts and sciences faculty before the November 7 election, Group of 88 member Farred preposterously accused Duke students who wanted to exercise their right to vote of “secret racism.” The voter registration drive, he indicated, “does little more than obscure what is really at stake”—the battle against “historic white privilege” and an analysis of the team’s “reputed tendency toward arrogant sexual prowess” (he cited no evidence for this claim), among the “proclivities” that illuminated the “ongoing racism in the not-so-New South.” Farred accused Duke students of “closing ranks against
That a college professor could effectively slander hundreds of his school’s own students for their seeking to participate in the political process was enough to earn Farred the worst of the worst honors for publications by Duke arts and sciences faculty.