Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Dowd Case in Perspective

The Dowd suit settlement has received a good bit of attention, including a high-level critique in the Chronicle and some scurrilous criticism from a few others. I thought it might be useful to put the case in some perspective.

In general, grade retaliation lawsuits are extremely difficult to win. In the humanities and social sciences, grading is somewhat or entirely subjective. Judges, for understandable reasons, have little interest in substituting their evaluation for that of the professor. Most institutions (though not, before the Dowd case, at least, Duke) have internal procedures for handling complaints of improper grading. Courts tend to be very reluctant to second-guess academic procedures.

Finally, courts have afforded academic freedom some constitutional protection since the 1957 decision Sweezy v. New Hampshire. Though Sweezy dealt with speech by a professor on a public campus, courts have generally shied away from rulings that could be perceived as attacking academic freedom in general. This tendency only heightens judges’ unease with overturning grades assigned by professors.

All that said, the Dowd suit was about as strong a grade retaliation suit as could be imagined. Between March 27 and April 6, Kim Curtis attended rallies denouncing the players (background, in this photo); suggested, in writing, that the lacrosse players (including two students in her class) were protecting the real rapists; and signed onto the Group of 88’s statement.

The grades of the two players in Curtis’ class showed an identical plunge: both received C- on a paper due the day before the Group of 88’s statement appeared; both received an F on the final paper. In Dowd’s case, this grade seemed highly suspicious, since the third paper was pretty clearly the best of his three for the class.

In short, the Dowd suit could portray the allegation in an easy-to-understand fashion: a professor accused two of her students, in writing, of criminal acts and participated in various public protests against them; and then the grades of the same two students plummeted even though the quality of their work stayed the same or even improved.

All of the above information was in the public domain. And it stands to reason that the Dowds’ highly regarded lawyer, Joseph Zeszotarski (past chair of both the Criminal Law Section, North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Criminal Justice Section, North Carolina Bar Association), did not reveal all of his evidence in his initial filing, which requested monetary damages and also that Dowd’s grade be changed to a “P” (pass).

Duke, no doubt, recognized these problems as well. After a mediation effort, a settlement was reached. In an all-but-unprecedented development, a university resolved a grade retaliation suit before trial by not only agreeing to the student’s demand for the grade change, but by admitting publicly that the grade had been changed.

Moreover, the announcement of the grade change made clear that Curtis had been overruled: the statement indicated that the case was settled to the “mutual satisfaction of Kyle Dowd and his family and Duke University.” The name of Curtis, who was also a party to the suit, was conspicuously absent.

In theory, the Dowds could have rejected the mediation offer and sought to move forward legally. Yet the mediation changed the dynamics of the legal case: a court, properly, could ask whether the Dowds had a good-faith basis for continuing the lawsuit in light of Duke’s offer—especially since Duke already had agreed to their principal request (changing the grade to a “P”).

---------

Since the fall, the Talk Left discussion forum has been periodically hijacked by a handful of Nifong enablers who reveled in others’ misery and appeared to operate under the belief that an accused was guilty until proved innocent beyond all reasonable doubt. The Dowds’ willingness to do the obvious and settle the case generated faux outrage from two figures in this contingent, who in turn were quoted in an anti-Dowd e-mail missive that I received yesterday. Such criticisms are hard to take seriously, given that they came from people who have spent the last 12 months engaging in anonymous character assaults against the lacrosse players.

A more serious response came from the Chronicle, which greeted the resolution of the case with a thoughtful editorial. Noting that the settlement “carries a sweep-it-under-the-rug feel to it, and its details are still murky and need to be cleared up,” the editorial noted:

There are still a number of loose ends to a story that raises crucial questions of academic freedom and campus culture. Students want to know how the University will step in if a teacher crosses certain lines, and they also want to know whether they should still take a class with Kim Curtis-the major actor in this story, who the administration did not respond to in its settlement.

It’s unnerving that Duke hasn’t been transparent in this case. The administration’s handling of the Dowd suit sets a bad precedent for how Duke may handle other similar cases in the future and how it is moving on in the aftermath of the lacrosse case.

Closure is now in sight for a campus that has been rocked in a major way this past year, but closure will also be hard to come by if Duke opts to start cleaning up by sweeping crucial matters like the Dowd case under the rug.

Though the parties’ statement explicitly said that Duke admitted no legal liability, the exclusion of Curtis’ name and the fact that Duke settled at all certainly contained an implicit message. But the Chronicle’s call for transparency by Duke is compelling: few acts violate academic integrity more severely than grade retaliation. The Chronicle is correct that the University has an obligation to ensure that all of its professors grade students fairly—and the facts in the public domain raise grave doubts about Curtis in this regard.

The Dowds showed extraordinary courage by standing on principle and filing the suit. It is encouraging to see that they received justice.

86 comments:

Anonymous said...

happiness is winning and this is the first public loss for a signer of the group 88 manifesto

she has also been identified as someone who cant be trusted...and hopefully that will lead to even better developments for her career

she belongs at the university of havana or caracas where her conduct will be approved as normal propagandist

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that at a minimum, Duke should give Curtis the opportunity to respond in writing to these charges. If she doesn't have an adequate explanation she should be fired. I think grade retaliation should be a dischargeable offense, particularly for an adjunct.

God forbid they should suspend her pending investigation.

Mr. said...

http://abclocal.go.com/images/wtvd/pdf/dukecivillawsuit.pdf

here is the original complaint that Duke settled

Anonymous said...

JLS says...,

I did a quick check of Duke's fall schedule after the settlement was announced and did not find a course being taught by Curtis in the course listings for 2007. I check Women's studies and Political Science. I could have missed her name and did not see a way to do a search.

Anonymous said...

What do the majority of Duke professors think of these other embarrassing professors?

Anonymous said...

JLS says...,

Well just after posting I found a way to do a search. Duke is not letting her near a student in the fall 2007 term.

Kim Curtis in the Duke Fall Schedule of Classes

She along with everyone else in the department it seems is listed under:

POLSCI 189 - INTERNSHIP
POLSCI 191 - SOPH/JUNIOR INDEPENDENT STUDY
POLSCI 192 - SOPH/JUNIOR RESEARCH IND STUDY
POLSCI 193 - SENIOR INDEPENDENT STUDY
POLSCI 194 - SENIOR RESEARCH IND STUDY
POLSCI 308 - INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH
POLSCI 399 - SPECIAL READINGS

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

how nice would it be if the KIM CURTIS POLYSCI FALL 2007 INTERN could be working for the "NIFONG for Reelection" campaign and the NIFONG PROJECT at the NC NAACP...naturally all funded by the rainbow coalition

Anonymous said...

"Grade retaliation"?

Another euphemism. What Curtis did should be a felony as it is comparable to grand larceny.

I should have become a professor. Seems like a great job for a sleazeball.

Polanski

Anonymous said...

polaski...we have a nice office for you professor in havana...where youll get a good breeze off the ocean

Anonymous said...

I love this post from Mike Lee in the comments section of the story. If I was paying $45K/year tuition, you better believe I would get answers to these questions:


This article is on the right track but does not go nearly far enough. The students, alumni, and parents deserve to know if Kim Curtis is guilty of the offenses Dowd alleged. It's simple, either she did it or she didn't. The fact that the University quietly settled the case and Dowd received the P he requested means one of two things; either Curtis cannot calculate grades properly, or she is dishonest and guilty of one of the worst ethical violations possible.

So which is it, does Duke now tolerate Professors who are incompetent or dishonest? Either way, Kim Curtis is a disgrace. The fact that she remains employed by Duke is a black eye for the University.



Very insightful, Mike!

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

"Students want to know how the University will step in if a teacher crosses certain lines..."

As a teacher, Curtis crossed way over that line with Dowd and Duke did NOT step in. Which is why Dowd was forced to sue. Which means the students now know Duke does not defend its students.

Damn, what parent wants to pay $45K a year for THAT kind of 'knowledge'?

Anonymous said...

Polanski is right. Last I heard, Duke professors that murder are accused of civil rights violations.

H. Hatwater said...

Isn't "P" more like a one-legged metaphor?

How is a "P" numerically calculated regarding one's GPA? (i.e., 3.5 + 400?)

And what about the transcript, wouldn't a "P" stand out like a sore thumb? Or would it be accompanied by an asterisk: "Kim Curtis".

Vote For KC said...

Durham In Wonderland has been nominated for a Bloggers Choice Award in the 'blogitzer' catagory and it's only got one vote at the moment.

Sign up and vote people!

Anonymous said...

re: Vote For KC said... "Sign up and vote people!"

"Sign up"? What are they phishing for?

ubg said...

anonymous said...
"What are they phishing for?"

I've signed up and as far as I can see it's legit.

But I didn't submit all my *real* details and I used one of my throw away email accounts just in case.

mac said...

KC is right: greade retaliation
is about the worst that can be done
by a teacher.

Having a settlement made public,
having to settle for money of some
amount is humbling to Duke, as
well. I guess you could say they
got the message, and that they
did the best thing possible
for the Dowd case specifically.

I'm not sure, but I'd suspect that
the rest of the 88 are getting
a little nervous.

Maybe this signals the point where
schools look at their liabilities
before hiring, and begin to rewrite
tenure policies as well.

Someone will inevitably state that
tenure policies are sacrosanct,
and that there would be a
revolution in academia. Hmmm.
Frankly - (straw-man alert) -
I don't think there are a shortage
of PhDs looking for work.
Might even be helpful to toss
overboard the self-indulgent
types, and replace them with
teachers and professors who
care about their profession and
the students under their charge.

All that has to be done is to
have clear contractual obligations,
ones that the employees read
(presumably) and sign.

Schools like Duke have the
resources to hire the best.
But in order to do that, they
need leadership with some level
of comprehension, someone who
might understand Aristotle's
attempt to define what is "good"
in "Nichomachean Ethics."

Perhaps, these days, the best we
can hope for in a College President
is someone who might've read
Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance," an
Aristotelian effort effort to
define what is "quality" (using
the word quality as an adjective,
like Ford Motor company used it
as an advertising phrase:
"Quality is Job 1")

Come to think of it, places of
higher education could use that
phrase, too, if they sincerely
meant it.

Anonymous said...

It is true that grading in most humanities courses must be "subjective", but that is not to say it must be arbitrary. All sorts of evaluation is subjective--including the evaluation involved in arriving at legal decisions. The judges of beauty contests, Olympic events, concerto competitions, and many other such contested or competitive events naturally rely on the subjective. The presumably expert judges may and should have "objective" criteria, but as they are by definition individual subjects their judgment is bound to be subjective. It is nonetheless striking to me that in most instances of this sort there is a near unanimity of evaluation. Professors are supposed experts in a certain subject matter, and there is no obvious reasons why the pattern of academic evaluation should differ widely from other kinds of expert evaluation.

I am a humanities professor of long experience. I have always found grading to be the most troubling, least rewarding part of my job. It is not always easy to be sure of the differene between a B+ and a B. It is, however, quite easy to be sure of the difference between work that meets the minimum standard and work that is failing. In one place I taught for many years we had "double grading" for some important work, such as the senior thesis and the comprehensive exam. That is, two professors independently read and graded the work. The comprehensive exam, furthermore, was read "blind"--meaning that the reader did not know who had written the exam. Final grades were determined by negotiation between the two readers, provided that their grades were not far apart--"far apart" being defined as one whole grade category, as between a B and a C. Such instances were very rare. I think I encountered three over a twenty year period. The procedure in those cases was to have a third professorial reading. I never once experienced or even heard of an instance in which professors disagreed as to whether a piece of work was or was not of minimal passing quality.

I have no idea what process arrived at the settlement of the Dowd case, but if it had integrity it must have involved at least one additional expert reading of the failed paper. The Duke authorities mus have had some other basis for eventually declaring the work of "passing" quality than the mere fact that they were being sued. That would mean at the very least that Mr. Dowd's paper fell into that very rare category I just alluded to: a dispute among experts at the most fundamental level. Other ways of trying to adjudicate the fairness of Ms. Curtis's grading would be to compare the contested paper with other (passing) papers written by Dowd (Prof. Johnson seems to have been able to do this) or with a couple of other papers written for the course by other students who received comparatively low but passing grades. Since it is doubtful that the university's lawyers will allow an open discussion of these matters, it will not be easy to erase the suspicion that Ms. Curtis acted unfairly and unprofessionally.

Anonymous said...

In an all-but-unprecedented development, a university resolved a grade retaliation suit before trial by not only agreeing to the student’s demand for the grade change, but by admitting publicly that the grade had been changed.

I don't see how either party could have been expected to keep the grade private. Wouldn't this grade appear on Dowd's transcript? Dowd has a right to ask for the transcript and Duke has an obligation to provide it. To refuse would amount to additional retaliation. It seems a rather small concession by Duke, but an all-important one for Dowd for whom it represents public vindication.

gs said...

Someone correct me

Although Curtis, in my opinion did engage in unethical behavior, as I understand, the school had already determined that Dowd's final grade was arrived at with a mathematical error. He should have passed even with the marks that were recorded.

So even without bring Curtis actions into the equation, Dowd should have passed.

The real question is the 2nd player in her class. Did he get his grade changed?

Duke may have settled because even with just a calculator, Dowd could prove he should have passed.

Anonymous said...

KC, the trial court cannot consider the results of a mediation. Though, prior to trial, a judge typically has a pre-trial conference and twists arms pretty heavily, the mediation is not something a judge can hold over the heads of the litigants.

To be sure, this was a strong case and there was no chance this case would be tossed at the summary judgment stage, especially in state court. I believe the Plaintiff got what he wanted. My guess is his attorney fees were covered, his tuition (probably a year or so), and the grade change with public statement (which was approved by both sides before release). All-in-all, a good result.

Anonymous said...

Does this settlement mean that Curtis is off the hook for damages or can she still be sued individually? If so, is this going to happen?

Any chance the undisclosed terms included an agreement not to renew her contract?

Anonymous said...

...closure will also be hard to come by if Duke opts to start cleaning up by sweeping crucial matters like the Dowd case under the rug.

There are many facets in the LAX mess than are not within Duke's control to remedy. But clarifying Duke policy with respect to grade retaliation and appeals is totally within their control and would be welcomed by students and faculty, especially in the light of the Dowd suit and settlement. In addition, this is one tangible action that Duke can take to restore its reputation. I hope they don't fail to seize this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

8:37,

A litigator I talked to said Duke's attorneys surely would have settled all claims in the suit, including those involving Curtis, who was in their employ. As for Curtis, Dowd's suit didn't ask Duke to kick her off the faculty or anything. Curtis' continued employment at Duke is a seprate issue.

Anonymous said...

JLS--
I posted on Curtis' schedule in an earlier thread. Based on research back through 2005, Curtis never teaches classes in the fall semester. Her load seems to be one class in the spring semester and supervision of independent study students all semesters. Further research (by looking up registered students in previous semesters) showed that, since the fall 2005 semester, only one student (in spring 2006) has been registered for any of these independent studies.

So--on the one hand, there's no indication that her fall schedule is any different from her previous load. On the other hand, it appears she barely teaches at Duke in the first place--one course a year (usually with maximum seats around 30 students) and one independent study supervision in two years. Wonder what she gets paid for all that work.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? (Probably.) I don't see much that looks like outrage, "faux" or otherwise, in the Talk Left discussion. There are some snarky comments on all sides (including, admittedly, some sarcastic characterizations of the Dowds), but I don't see any significant debate over whether the Dowds should have settled. (As an aside, I do see a lot of confusion about the chain of events involving Kyle Dowd's grade and how and when it moved from F to D to P, as well as some semi-serious attempts to consider the implications for a university of litigation to challenge grade assignments.)

Of course, I don't know what was in the anti-Dowd e-mail K.C. received or how that may have influenced his reading of the Talk Left posts--and I don't follow Talk Left closely enough to know the posting history of the various participants, which could also change one's perspective here. I'm just saying, from the point of view of an observer who is reading only the posts on that thread, it doesn't seem all that inflammatory. Can someone explain?

Anonymous said...

Kim Curtis' husband is a professor in Duke's poli-sci department. Curtis was part of a spousal-hire deal. She probably is someone who not would be hired at any other university on the basis of her own scholastic merits.

Hopefully, one of the positives to result from this case will be Duke's willingness in the future to take a harder look at these spousal-hire deals before signing on.

Michael2 said...

I'm new to this blog, but I seem to remember something that kevin Dowd said, that relates to not only the actual grade , but the fact that a "D" would not allow him status on the ACC honor roll. With a "P" or passing grade it would not be included in the calculation of his final GPA and therefore he would make the ACC honor roll..
I may be wrong , but i think that since he had already graduated, using other courses for those credits, this was more for pride and the fact that he had made the honor roll before..We need to remember the Lacrosse team's GPA was one of , if not the highest of all the athletic teams at Duke, or the whole conference for that matter...

scott said...

8:55 AM said --

"As for Curtis, Dowd's suit didn't ask Duke to kick her off the faculty or anything. Curtis' continued employment at Duke is a seprate issue."

Dowd's suit wisely avoided the issue of Curtis' continued employment. He sought redress for the specific injury to himself -- an unfair grade.

That he did not complicate matters by bringing in a condition for a proposed settlement (Curtis' employment) that is vested in Duke to control and would not affect him personally in the future made the settlement easier. He thought he got an unfair grade, a methodology was constructed that proved he got an unfair grade, and the grade was changed. Period, end of discussion except maybe Duke was ordered to kick in some cash as a punitive measure for Dowd's pain and suffering.

The second sentence in 8:55s statement is the real issue here. Duke itself must come to the realization that as long as it employs someone of Curtis' character that its reputation is suspect. They and Curtis can claim forever that the situation with Dowd was the result of a miscalculation. Anyone who does must believe that Curtis is cursed with unbelievably bad luck to have miscalculated only the grade of a lacrosse player. People with an IQ above room temperature know differently. This was a flat out case of grade retaliation: Duke knew it, Curtis knew it, Dowd knew it, and with the announced settlement, now the world knows it.

Grade retaliation isn't a legal crime, only an ethical one. But in my mind, Duke continuing to employ Curtis is the equivalent of a bank continuing to employ a person who embezzled money.

John Bruce said...

Anonymous 9:29 is raising the right issue: Curtis, without tenure, is nevertheless married to a tenured prof, with some expectation that she will continue to teach at Duke for as long as her husband does. It's possible she's going to get some kind of non-class related job for a while until the ruckus dies down. But this is an indication of the overall corruption in the academy -- this is, after all, a nearly official endoresement of nepotism.

A question worth asking: all these superstar profs for whom the university can't justify paying a "market based" salary, and thus must hire their wives to conceal what they're actually paying the superstar -- are these bozos (e.g., Stanley Fish) actually worth the money?

Seems like if a department wants to hire a major figure, they ought to be able to justify the whole deal in a single package and not play games over hiring the guy's wife.

Again, the highly venerated figure of Michael Munger, PoliSci chair, is involved in this dirty little deal in some way.

No justice, no peace said...

I just posted this above and it should have been posted here.

The Duke parallel-universe, race-crime against humanity, truth, justice, and all that is good and right, was referenced on CSPAN this a.m. Evan Coyne Maloney, the producer of the new documentary "Indoctrinate U" was the guest. "Indoctrinate U" is about campus speech codes and the stifling of dissent and free speech. Maloney mentioned the Gang of 88 as a recent example.

One can request a screening by registering via zip code. Maybe the Duke Student body will request the film be screened on Campus? There's also a trailer on the web site.

Indoctrinate U documentary

Of interest were his comments about the cowardice of ANY administrators anywhere to be interviewed. Maloney also mentioned the lack of accountability and transparency where it should flourish; the college campus.

It's past time to dismantle speech codes, not renew the contracts of those frauds that stifle free speech, and bring some balance into the mix. At $60k per year consumers of education should demand something so simple.

Anonymous said...

Question for Scott at 3:04

"People with an IQ above room temperature know differently."

Fahrenheit or Celcius?

LOL,

Bill Alexander

Gary Packwood said...

Faculty and staff members have been put on notice that Duke will protect itself.

Should faculty and staff wish to use their position at Duke to make personal political statements, they are free to do at their own risk.

You never know, Duke may offer to purchase the homes of their faculty and staff members who are on the loosing end of a law suit from students.

The proceeds of the sale of course, will be credited to the tuition account of the student who is aggrieved.

Perhaps I will go over to Durham and build a boarding house for homeless Duke faculty and staff.

Rooms would include free cable hookup, a continental breakfast and first class janitorial service for shared bathrooms.

I am open to suggestion for the name of my boarding house ...but Little Havana...would seem to be an appropriate name for my renters from Duke's loopy left.
::
GP

Anonymous said...

"How is a "P" numerically calculated regarding one's GPA? (i.e., 3.5 + 400?)"


From a GPA standpoint a grade of “P” does not enter into the calculation. It is like you never took the course although you received the credit toward graduation. It is sometimes used by students in selecting courses in which they have a limited amount of time to devote to the course and a grade of “C” or “D” would have a negative impact on there GPA.

becket03 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Cutis has been exposed for what she is a person who will resort to grade relation. If this is acceptable behavior for Duke then she will continue to teach there. If this is unacceptable behavior then Duke will not let her teach in the future.

Personally I would not take a course for such a teacher and would be hesitant to go to a University where this behavior is tolerated.

becket03 said...

Curtis, after 10 years as a low ranking visiting professor, quite obviously has not been thought of highly enough to be offered a permanent position, but her husband has been thought of well enough that administrators allow him the perk of having a wifey on faculty with a barely there job.

So firebrand radical Kim Curtis, scourge of injustices perpetrated by the oppressive patriarchy, especially if that patriarchy consists of 20 year old male athletes neanderthal enough to drink beer and oggle undulating female flesh, owes her full belly to the talent, prestige and clout of the senior partner in her personal life, her pater familias hubby.

beckett

Anonymous said...

One can only imagine the glee in Curtis' eyes when she willfully inflicted damage on Mr. Dowd.

This is symptomatic of a larger problem within academia. Many professors, whether tenured of not, believe they can run roughshod over their students, without any concerns regarding accountability.

The Duke faculty handbook may say that faculty members are to treat students with respect, and many undoubtedly do, but to many others, like Curtis, the "Faculty" are the true possessors of the University, while students are only so much cannon-fodder in the idealogical wars.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like if a department wants to hire a major figure, they ought to be able to justify the whole deal in a single package and not play games over hiring the guy's wife."

Is Mr. Curtis a "major figure" anyway? They should fire Ms. Curtis and the Curtises can decide if they want to hang around or not sans her ill-gotten salary. I think Mr. Curtis teaches continental "thought" and Po-Mo stuff so he could be replaced easily -- plenty of wannabes dabbling in that stuff who are looking for a job. They could go to Univ. of Colorado which appears to have no problem keeping the ethically challenged on their payroll (i.e. Ward Churchill).

Having said all that, does anyone else appreciate the great irony of this hard core feminist owing her job to her husband? Apparently, Ms. Curtis needs a man much, much more than a fish needs a bicycle.

Anonymous said...

"students are only so much cannon-fodder in the idealogical wars."

Well, some students anyway.

The above statement really captures the true evil of identity politics and where it has led us. Because identity politics allows us to make blanket assumptions about people and hate them for their genetics alone, 19-year olds are fair targets in the ideological war.

My guess is that Leftists see these children as future "little Eichmanns" that deserve preemptive punishment for something. Might as well take them out before they become investment bankers.

Anonymous said...

What sane parent would let their student go to a university where this sort of thing goes unpunished?

What sane student would want to go to such a university?

If Duke doesn't clean house, they deserve to have people go elsewhere. It's hardly like there are no other choices....

Anonymous said...

There is so much we don't know bout the Dowd case, it is difficult to draw conclusions. While Curtis may indeed have graded Dowd unfairly, it is also poosible that Dowd's absenses for the entire last month of class dramatically affected his grade by 1) giving him a failing class participation grade and 2) leaving him without a clear understanding of the rubrics that would be used to grade the final paper. While KC felt the paper was at least as good as Dowd's earlier paper, we do not know what specific instructions Curtis gave the class (e.g., "if you don't provide citations you will receive a failing grade.") His failure to attend classes for the entire last month of school always bothered me--I cannot believe that an unindicted player had that many meetings with his attorney that ALL conflicted with one particular class, and that he couldn't reschedule the meetings if they did conflict. Is it possible that he didn't feel like going to class after the lax season was canceled?

Regardless of the actual facts, it is good that Duke raised the grade to a "P" because it seems like the fair thing to do, all things considered. But I do not think we can draw further conclusions at this point that this means that Curtis clearly was guilty of grade retaliation, nor that there was a further monetary settlement.

Finally, I wonder how the existence of the suit will affect Dowd's employment options in the future. Will companies consider his willingness to bring past lawsuits a risk?

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

"Although Curtis, in my opinion did engage in unethical behavior, as I understand, the school had already determined that Dowd's final grade was arrived at with a mathematical error."

Hmm, not to my recollection. The original F grade was bumped to a D by some sort of backroom committee which met in secret and used 'mathematical error' as a tortured explanation. It was clear that Curtis's intent was to do dirt to Dowd so transparently that even a committee of her peers, before the lawsuit, stretched the normal grading rules to get that F off the record before someone was held accountable.

Moneyrunner said...

Anon 12:46

There is a great deal we know about the Dowd case.

We know that the only two students who failed Kim Curtis’ class were lacrosse players.

We know that Kim Curtis believed that members of the lacrosse team may have been covering for each other:

"in the statement issued yesterday by the team that they will be exonerated by the results of the DNA testing makes me wonder if we’ve gotten the full story about who was at the house that night. Were there others present who in fact carried out the rape and who are being protected by everyone else who was there? How do we know who was there?"

We know that the period Dowd was missing class was a time when “every member of the lacrosse team had been publicly named by the prosecutor as a target of the investigation” (see the complaint). Now perhaps “anonymous 12:46” would not seek legal advice about a possible indictment that could send him to jail for the next 40 years, but Dowd decide not to take that chance.

“ Regardless of the actual facts, it is good that Duke raised the grade to a "P" because it seems like the fair thing to do, all things considered.”

Sorry, no. Duke did not raise the grade to a “P” because it was “the fair thing to do.” They raised it to a “P” because they were sued and they were going to lose an open-and-shut case unless they settled.

But I do not think we can draw further conclusions at this point that this means that Curtis clearly was guilty of grade retaliation, nor that there was a further monetary settlement.

Yes we can conclude exactly that for two reasons: (1) it is totally unreasonable to assume that that the only two people to fail Curtis’ course would also happen to be members of the lacrosse team accused by Curtis of raping the stripper, and (2) if Duke changed Dowd’s grade without his deserving the change, it would be acting unjustly ( and we know that Duke’s faculty is a stickler for justice).

"Finally, I wonder how the existence of the suit will affect Dowd's employment options in the future. Will companies consider his willingness to bring past lawsuits a risk?"

If that is a possibility, I believe that Dowd may have another cause of action against the University.

I believe that Dowd may actually be helped by this action because, in the real world, the kind of slimy actions that prompted this suit and the attempt by members of the Duke faculty to engage in a modern day high-tech lynching – and surviving - is considered a badge of honor.

Honor is a term that the Duke faculty will not be familiar with while the present generation still remains.

Anonymous said...

The grade was changed last May - and he graduated, Long before any law suits. There is enough real stuff in the case without making stuff up for consumer consumption,

mac said...

Gary Packwood,

How do we know that Duke will
protect itself? I hope you're
right.

Looking at how corporations
and other organizations protect
themselves and their reputations,
it would make sense.

Lefties, on the other hand, do
things that are destructive
to their own interests - (such
as to mandate 32 hour work-weeks.)

Hiring brilliant people who don't
punish students for being on a
track for success would be a start;
hiring teachers who've punished
students for the "offense" of being
on a track for success is the way
it's been lately.

Unless Duke shows that it won't
punish the successful, and that it
won't reward the punishers, you
can't say that they'll be capable
of protecting themselves,
institutionally.

mac said...

2:21

You make a case for something
else happening - (that is,
a payout for unprofessional
behavior on the part of the
Duke faculty) - if the grade
issue was settled last May.

If the suit was the issue,
and it was successfully
resolved then, why did the
Dowd family sue?

H. Hatwater said...

re: "From a GPA standpoint a grade of “P” does not enter into the calculation. It is like you never took the course although you received the credit toward graduation. It is sometimes used by students in selecting courses in which they have a limited amount of time to devote to the course and a grade of “C” or “D” would have a negative impact on there GPA." - 10:38:00 AM

Many thanks for your answer.

Anonymous said...

re "Are 'academic superstars' worth it?"

Yes, genius scholars of the Kittredge or BF Skinner variety are worth every nickel you pay them. They attract other serious-minded academics, and enhance the overall university environment.

Unfortunately, the term "academic superstar" has been dumbed down to mean any punk that can get booked on a TV talk show. Stanley Fish, eg, is a second-rate thinker who has never written on anything original. He used his pomo provenance to advance his radical agenda (sound familiar?).

The most ridiculous examlpe of lightweights dressed as "academic superstars" is black studies. One such "superstar," Houston Baker, has produced work that indicates he lacks a 3-digit IQ. Cornel West is Princeton's version of Baker.

"Quality" has become a racist/sexist word, so it has become difficult to reward the Kittredges and Skinners without also "respecting" the Bakers and Wests.

Yes, there is quality in the humanities and arts. The real question is: Do we have the courage to make the distinctions.

Polanski

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Anon. at 12:46:

"Finally, I wonder how the existence of the suit will affect Dowd's employment options in the future. Will companies consider his willingness to bring past lawsuits a risk?"

Now, now, Curtis - let's not post 'anonymous' threats against Dowd on this website. Just be quiet and go back to hiding behind your husband's pant legs.

Speaking of which - if I were you, I would learn to iron those pants. After all, your husband is going to have to look his best when he fills out HIS future job application once he gets fired from his current one due to the fact he's married to an idiot who just made Duke pay big bucks because she was dumb ass enough to flunk two of her own students because of their sex and race.

Oh, and a bit of advice, Curtis. This obviously will surprise you but it is so NOT a liability to one's 'employment options' to possess integrity and honor - and the courage to demand that your professors do so as well.

Gary Packwood said...

mac 2:22 said...

Gary Packwood,

...How do we know that Duke will
protect itself? I hope you're
right.
...Unless Duke shows that it won't
punish the successful, and that it
won't reward the punishers, you
can't say that they'll be capable
of protecting themselves,
institutionally.
::
You are correct. They can't protect themselves under those conditions.

That is why all universities have a board of trustees...who have a ficicuary responsibility to the students and other stakeholders to allocate resources wisely and effectively.

Time will tell if the members of the Duke University Board of Trustees ...are wise.
::
GP

Gary said...

KC> In the humanities and social sciences, grading is somewhat or entirely subjective.

I think many people's interest in the whole event is the potential for larger implications and needed changes. [for me, it's just a distraction from my real work :-) ]. In this case Duke has settled and belatedly instituted a grade protest procedure that doesn't just end on a Prof's whim. Beyond this we have local evidence that Curtis is a cad and maybe they ought to get the HR dept on it (you know the drill, 2 weeks in rehab and a sensitivity training course) but I don't see larger implications.

But I think KC, quoted above, has hit on to something global that I hadn't thought about before. There is a spectrum in academic subjectivity from almost none in math to almost total in say literary critique. This is almost directly correlated with departmental bias (not many engineers in the G88) and now I begin to see why: Let's say you do have a more conservative outlook in college and meet many shades of Curtis's on the way. Well, for one your grades will tend to be lower meaning less change for good graduate and postdoc positions, but long before that most people would get sick of it or disinterested and turn away. What ends up is implicit filtering for only certain types getting into the more subjective humanities!

I don't have a cure for that but even though I come from a hard nosed engineering/science background, I still think subjective areas of study are valid/important/potentially enlightening.

It's also interesting how over time one can inject more and more science. In KC's field, the simple fact that there is much more information recorded and increasingly searchable makes the "story" part of history more objective. History is really a recording of the response of an immensely complicated system to external and intenral events. Science isn't very good at complex systems but is getting better and better and so larger repeated patterns start to pop out. Already companies try to take note of "historical/economic" meta-stories such as technologies tending to overshoot their market leaving room at the bottom for simpler cheaper techniques to "steal the pie" (google Christensen effect or "disruptive technologies") and companies try to consciously respond.

As science grapples with larger and more complex systems, gets more information in usable searchable form the subjective side is narrowed but will never disappear -- I happen to think creating a good song or story is a large contribution to humanity, but since experience itself is subjective such contributions will remain subjective.

Gary Packwood said...

Carolyn 2:41 Said...

...Oh, and a bit of advice, Curtis. This obviously will surprise you but it is so NOT a liability to one's 'employment options' to possess integrity and honor - and the courage to demand that your professors do so as well.
::
EXCELLENT!
::
GP

Anonymous said...

Moneyrunner and Carolyn--
I hope you are right that future employers might see the Dowd suit as honorable rather than a potential problem. And because it was not against an employer, they might. Like it or not, though, many employers avoid hiring people who have been involved in litigation, (especially litigation against previous employers, which is why that might make a difference), even when they won the lawsuits hands down because they were clearly in the right.

Gary Packwood said...

Gary 2:57 said...

...What ends up is implicit filtering for only certain types getting into the more subjective humanities!
::
That is a great observation. So true.

As time marches on, the course syllabus is taking on more importance and is seen as a contract...a contract that throws a wrench into the filtering system you are talking about.

During the early 1990's I began to change my entire course to include a syllabus on the first day of class with the examinations for the mid-term and final and all quizzes ....actually attached to the syllabus.

All tests and quizzes were short answer.

What you see is what you get!

I began to see quantitative people showing up for my advanced management courses. Financial Accountants and Operations Research people ...no less!

There is a way to adjust that filter but ...you just have to think differently.

The hard core H/R students were not please with ...What you see is what you get!
::
GP

Gary said...

Does this settlement mean that Curtis is off the hook for damages or can she still be sued individually?
May 19, 2007 8:37:00 AM


I vote for her taking a year of sensitivity training classes -- it won't take more than a few weeks before she's begging to be sent to jail instead. :-)

Anonymous said...

The behavior of Kim Curtis is a clear cut violation of academic ethics which would not be accepted at any of our junior colleges in this nation. Why is it being accepted at Duke ? Why is Brodhead protecting this breach of trust by his professors ? I think we all know why, but it's still not acceptable.

Cedarford said...

Scotts point about Dowd's lawsuit merits were obvious by Dukes settlement to any with IQs above room temperature was proven by Anonymous 12:46PM.

Anonymous 12:46PM's mantra of "We'll Never Know!" if Curtis engaged in grade retaliation reminds me that there are still Crusty defenders using the "we'll never know whether a rape happened or not in that house!"

*******************
Those who think involvement in a lawsuit "stains" one's career and employment possibilities are somehow are ignorant that access to the nations civil courts is a fundamental right that cannot be retaliated against unless a pattern of specious suits is found.
HR legal might be able to justify a manager asking an applicant about lawsuits against past employers or lawsuits directed against a past firm by the employee's actions -

But not private lawsuits in the class Dowd's is in. That of a dissatisfied customer or consumer done harm after paying funds out.
That is none of any employer's business.
*******************
The settlement is painful to Duke. They did so knowing that grade retaliation remains a nation-wide high fear in certain classes of students and always comes up as a discussed consequence of rebelling against PC on campus. That people can now point to "The Dowd Case" at Duke as an example for years to come does hurt Duke. That they settled showed they had no choice. That they signaled that the matter was solved to 2 of the 3 party's satisfaction - omitting 3rd Party Curtis - leaves no doubt they determined the lawsuit was at least partially worthy.

Anonymous said...

New Jersey Lawyer. My guess is that Prof. Curtis is "of the hook." Settlements of litigation generally involve mutual releases between all of the parties inolved. Duke certainly would have wanted releases from the Dowd family (both the plaintiff and his parents). Duke almost certainly would have insisted on a release of Curtis. Otherwise the suit could have continued against Curtis (with the complaint amended, if necessary to include a monetary claim against Curtis). Having the Dowds continue a suit against Curtis would have been an embarassment and public relations nightmare for Duke, not to mention Curtis' husband. Because Duke almost certainly insisted on a release of Curtis, the Dowds' attorneys almost certainly insisted on a release from Curtis. This would have prevented any suits by Curtis against the Dowds for malicious prosecution or defamation. The settlement agreement probably contained a provision that its terms (except for the award of a "P" grade to Dowd, but definitely including any payment terms) would be kept confidential. The change of the grade could not have been kept confidential. Hence, that is probably why it was included in the press release. That the press release does not mention Curtis being satisfied about the settlement is odd, but maybe true. I have to believe that the Dowds' attorneys made sure that she was bound by it.

Anonymous said...

I can invision Curtis's husband aat breakfast, WTF Kathy?

Anonymous said...

Mac - For the money. What else???In spite of the usual denials of "I am not doing it for the money, but to make sure this never happens again to anyone and bring attention to the event" This is BS - unless they give all the money to charity.

Anonymous said...


His failure to attend classes for the entire last month of school always bothered me


Can you say hostile environment? I knew you could.

Gary Packwood said...

Anonymous 5:16 said...

...His failure to attend classes for the entire last month of school always bothered me

...Can you say hostile environment? I knew you could.
::
Might be appropriate now to bump that up to hostile work environment harassment!
::
GP

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2:21 said...

"The grade was changed last May - and he graduated, Long before any law suits."

-------

Respectfully, do you have a cite for this?

The grade was previously changed to a "D", due to the undeniable mathematical "error" (yeah, that's what it was, right ....an "error").

It took a LAWSUIT to get it changed to a "P", because that change required going beyond mathematics to prove wrongdoing by Curtis. Which was proven to the satisfaction of the arbitrator, and effectively admitted by Duke in accepting the decision.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! moneyrunner @ 1:57 PM

Anonymous said...

I though a D was a passing grade, as oppossed to the original F. I don't think this was a pass/fail test. Anyone have any information on this?

Anonymous said...

"Finally, I wonder how the existence of the suit will affect Dowd's employment options in the future. Will companies consider his willingness to bring past lawsuits a risk?"

The answer...not at all, just in case the person that posted this was hoping for that result.
He's employed by a top financial firm doing extremely well, and just started his second season of pro lacrosse. His employers have been completely supportive of his efforts throughout this suit. There will be no issues with his future career with regard to this. If anything he has received positive kudos for standing up to Kim Curtis and Duke.


rds248

mac said...

4:24

For the satisfaction.
Not for the money.
Unless you know the terms
of the settlement - (right,
Kim/Mr. Curtis?)

If it were me, I'd sue for
the satisfaction of seeing
a teacher - (who betrayed her
charge and her profession) -
eating her misapplied grade.

For the satisfaction.
Not the money.

And I'd keep the money.
I'd keep it in a savings
account with the title:

"Duly earned from pain and
humilation."

Do you think that people who
sue for pain and suffering
should all donate their money
to someone else's causes?

Is that "for the money"
when they don't?

Anonymous said...

I read that "they" think the pay off was around $60,000 which hoepfully,covered lawyers expenses.

Anonymous said...

One train of thought on this blog concerns me. There is much advocacy of “someone” holding college faculty members to account. Who would that “someone” be? Do you guys realize (1) college administrators have quite immense power to select and reward or punish faculty already and (2) investing universally leftist administrators with more power would merely ensure the quick departure or marginalization of the few remaining conservative faculty and the occasional liberal heretic like your beloved Professor Johnson!

Stop trying to reform the Politburo. Just stop supporting them.

Jack said...

Anonymous @ 10:14

My point all exactly. Duke is free to do as it wishes, as is Harvard, Miami(Ohio), Carleton College, San Jose St. or Pomona College. If people would base their selection of a college for their children on something other than US News rankings, how the neighbors react or the rear window decal, put some substantive consideration into where you spend your money and how to value a degree and an education, then these schools would may be less inclined to invest in such fluffy curricula, radical faculty and wishy washy thinking. Rather than brow beat Duke, or yourselves, just write it off, take a pass, send your kids some where else. That so much energy is being expended to analyze, evaluate and condemn the internal workings of Duke University validates the school’s investment in an image campaign over the past 20 years.

Gary Packwood said...

Anonymous 10:14 said...
...Stop trying to reform the Politburo. Just stop supporting them.
::
The politburo was the executive committee of the old Soviet Communist party. 20 members.

I support higher education and not the memory of the old politburo.

Extremism is not higher education.
::
GP

mac said...

Jack,

Ummm...didn't Duke just have a
major cheating scandal?

Does this have anything to do
with the tendency of such
institutions - these days -
to dismiss morality as outre,
a waste of time, an exercise
in paternalism and blahblahblah?

Yup. There's always been cheating
as long as there've been tests,
but there's rarely been a time
when people - (like some in the 88)
would think cheating was ok if it
helped the downtrodden make their
way over the top of the graves
of the established order
blahblahblah.

What's happening at Duke is a
symptom of a disease. There's
an outbreak - (call in the CDC!) -
and almost an epidemic.

You don't abandon one patient
in the vain hopes of curing it
in another who carries the same
bug: you stop it where it lives.
Duke could be saved, and it should.

Any Triage Nurse could tell you
that: you either fix it or
quarantine it.

mac said...

Doctor: the patient still has
a pulse!

Jack said...

Mac @ 10:24

First of all, the patient in this case, Duke University, does not consider its condition a “disease”, nor is it seeking assistance in the hopes of a cure. More importantly, the condition that Duke suffers from is self inflicted, and not accidentally.

Anonymous said...

Doctors "fix it" or "quarantine it" - not nurses. The triage nurse seperates folk into catagories for the Doctors to treat, based on his/her judgement as to who needs to be treated first.

mac said...

Point was: ANY Triage Nurse
could tell you; you don't need
a medical degree to see this.
I never said Triage Nurses
ordered quarantines, but they
do separate the merely sick
from the deathly sick.

It also doesn't matter if Duke's
affliction is self-inflicted
or not: there are plenty of
people here who think it's worth
saving, or they wouldn't be
spending so much time on the
subject.

Some - like you - may want to
move on, thinking the effort
to save Duke from itself not
worth the effort.

So, then, move on.

Jack said...

Why save Duke? Who are you to think that you actually can save Duke? From who, what - things that YOU don't agree with? Better yet, who are you to think it needs saving? It is Duke's admission policies, Duke's endowment, their faculty, buildings and research projects. Duke has set the agenda - if you don't like it, fine, then YOU move on. It is presumptious for you to think they need to be saved.

mac said...

Jack,

Do you have any idea what the
Duke's value is to our country?
Do you know anything at all
about Duke?

Why don't you make a list of
all the things that Duke does
well, and compare it with the
things it doesn't? Then you'll
see - (though I somehow doubt
you'll be capable of seeing) -
that institutions like Duke
play an incredibly valuable
part in our society.

Start listing, buddy.
Do it Chinese-menu style.

mac said...

BTW, Jack,
you need to learn something
that has been attributed to
various persons:

"If you're not part of the
solution, you're part of the
problem."

You don't seem intent on being
any part of the solution.

mac said...

Hey, Jack,

Whose business was it for KC
to intervene - using your
squalid arguments about why
no one should care about
Duke?

Anonymous said...

KC started this blog because he got mad that 88 professors from Duke publicly denounced their students. The reform Duke movement came late. Like Jack, I don't care about Duke. My purpose was to see this injustice corrected and have the charges dropped against the defendents.

mac said...

KC continues this blog.
Why? In part,
I'd guess that he sees
Duke as an indicator of how
Universities are going
to be - most of them -
in the near future.

I don't know if KC has given
up on Duke, but I seriously
doubt it.

Why don't you ask him?

mac said...

Contd.
If Duke continues as-is,
then dramas like we've seen
unfold will recur, again and
again.

If the Duke BOT loves its'
school, it'll clean it up.
I know that there're lots
of parents who want to see
change, so that their
children - who haven't
yet graduated - won't have
to transfer, or fear for
their lives.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.