Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good News from the DSG

The Duke Student Government has been a voice of sanity over the past academic year, and the administration of DSG president Elliot Wolf departed with several positive overtures.

In early March, Wolf became the sole member of the Campus Culture Initiative willing to speak out publicly against the flawed process that resulted in the February report.

Tireless in demanding a greater student role in shaping the culture in which students will have to live, Wolf’s position has been vindicated since his op-ed appeared: the CCI’s most extreme recommendations—such as the Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative and the call for a de facto Duke withdrawal from the ACC—appear to be dead in the water, and Provost Peter Lange is leading a more balanced review of issues surrounding campus culture.

Then, Wolf and incoming DSG president Paul Slattery took an important stance in favor of quality journalism for the Triangle. In late April, the Chronicle urged the Student Government to shift to the N&O from the Herald-Sun for its program of distributing one local paper for free newspaper boxes across campus. The Chronicle cited the weak record of the H-S, as well as Editor Bob Ashley’s hesitance “to acknowledge its myriad editorial mistakes.”

Wolf and Slattery were thinking along similar lines. They wrote,

We agree wholeheartedly, however, with the concerns expressed about The Herald-Sun in the recent Chronicle editorial “Buy the N&O instead” (April 20). The Herald-Sun has provided questionable editorial and news coverage of the lacrosse scandal and numerous other events over the course of the past year, to say the least. As also evidenced by their frequent misquoting/misattribution of DSG officials, The Herald-Sun is indeed “the Triangle’s worst.”

Duke Student Government will make arrangements over the summer to replace The Herald-Sun with The Raleigh News & Observer in our newspaper program.

Finally, last week, Wolf addressed the Board of Trustees. After opening with a hilarious story about keeping his cool while sitting in front of Mike Nifong during a three-hour service on Martin Luther King Day, Wolf declined, as he has in the past, to criticize the performance of the Brodhead administration in handling the lacrosse case.

He then moved on to two critical points:

The lesson of this case . . . is that we cannot have blind faith in the Durham Police and the Durham District Attorney to administer justice. And to that end, we have become increasingly concerned about the Durham Police Department’s treatment of Duke students. One DPD Captain admitted that it was DPD policy to punish Duke students more severely than other members of the community, and there have been numerous documented instances where Durham officers have violated the constitutional rights of students or issued citations based on evidence that would not stand up in court. This is of particular concern to us, and it should be to the University as well.

While we don’t expect the University to take overt steps to defend its students through legal proceedings, we don’t want the University to contribute to such differential treatment in any way . . . Duke must also now shake the perception, legitimate or not, that it simply washes its hands of students when they are in legal trouble.

Wolf also outlined to the trustees a common-sense approach to the CCI. Rejecting on the one hand advocates of maintaining the status quo at all costs and the extremism of CCI subgroup chairs Peter Wood, Anne Allison, and Karla Holloway on the other, he urged the trustees to endorse change, with a critical caveat:

“Changes” don’t necessarily constitute the wholesale elimination of social outlets or selective living groups, a tightening of the alcohol or any other policy, or the excision of any portion of the student community through changes in admissions. “Changes” mean recognition by the University that students’ experiences outside the classroom are just as important as those inside the classroom and should be prioritized accordingly.

In a case where many authority figures have not lived up to expectations, the Duke student body rose to the occasion—whether in the stellar performance of the Chronicle; the idealism of Duke Students for an Ethical Durham; or the steady hand of Wolf.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is why civilisation ultimately inches forward: young people having the right ideas and being optimistic enough to advocate for them. Mr. Wolf deserves much appreciation for his efforts.

D.H.

Gary Packwood said...

Elliott Wolf said...

....Duke must also now shake the perception, legitimate or not, that it simply washes its hands of its students when they are in legal trouble.
::
Why would Mr. Wolf need to tell the members of the BOT something so very obvious? The BOT should have been writing to him to establish that very point as policy. The Duke policy of Due Process outside of the classroom just as it is... inside the classroom.
::
....Wolf also outlined to the trustees a common-sense approach to the CCI. Rejecting on the one hand advocates of maintaining the status quo at all costs and the extremism of CCI subgroup chairs Peter Wood, Anne Allison, and Karla Holloway on the other...
::
I reluctantly defer to Mr. Wolf if he feels he must consider the point of view of Wood, Allison and especially Holloway as worthy of consideration for the CCI ...in the first place.
::
I am hopeful that they trustees are smart enough to read in between the lines.

As always, the students are the stars and they are worth...all the trouble and effort we can muster up to support their learning.
::
GP

Bella said...

What does it say about a University when the students show more maturity, levelheadedness, and intelligence than the faculty?

Anonymous said...

The quote from Dr. Wolf’s column is too funny.

"The University must work to recognize and empower those, whose conduct of the conversation has been most enhancing for the community and those in whose lives and work the conversation has borne most fruit, and to identify and alter behaviors and habits that inhibit or devalue the conversation to which Duke aspires."

Too many people at work write incomprehensible crap like that. What makes it even more appalling is the extraordinary amount of time they dedicate toward it. And that’s okay because no one expects serious productivity from them. The staff enjoys collecting and emailing these (“….therefore your extracting and parabolic developments regarding those developments are issues I fail to extrapolate in my mind”) snippets to each other. I guess Ivy League just ain’t what it used to be. In the rush for diversity in academia, affirmative action has dropped a non-competitive professorial class all over American universities to nurture racist minions like themselves. Publish competitively? No need. If you lack the requisite discipline and intelligence, simply preempt the critics by convincing everyone that as a victim of constant racism, you’ll always be too busy galvanizing opposition - to be bothered by the whole quality of work thing.

rrhamilton said...

I think that those of us who attended college 30 and more years ago owe to today's students an apology.

We knew the pot-banging faculty and administrators when they were still students. We knew that they were full of bullshit and hate. We knew that they were "going nowhere". But we didn't know how right we were.

We didn't know that while we went off into careers in law, science, engineering, and medicine, that the Marx-loving freaks who we knew as undergrads would stay behind, worm their way into the ivory towers and then promote each other until the lunatics run the asylum.

To Mr. Wolf and many, many other students who now suffer from our mistake, I offer an apology.

R.R. Hamilton

Anonymous said...

Not quite sure I understand the 2:11AM comment. Wolf is an undergrad, and president of the duke Student Government.

Mike said...

To: 04:02
I think 02:13 is commenting on Dr. Peter Wood not Mr. Wolf. Wood seems to be incomprehensible more often than not.
Mike Rayfield
Spring, TX

mac said...

Imagine that this was 1967-70:
imagine that a group of corrupt
Dudley-Do-Wrongs attempted to
throw three innocent kids in
jail.

Oh. That's right. It did happen.
Except they just shot 'em, instead.

Wonder why Duke won't protect it's
own from the townies? Do the cops
have to actually shoot them for
Duke to take notice?

scott said...

Elliot Wolf represents the best and brightest of Duke students. He and others like him will stand out in any crowd, exemplifying excellence. That has also been demonstrated by some of the Chronicle reporters and editorialists. Duke also has some lightweights, so we need to keep in mind that like any other large, diverse group, the Duke student body runs the gamut from high-end achievers to low-end slackers.

Lubiano got a degree from Stanford. I've met and worked with a number of Stanford graduates. No one should be fooled into believing that Lubiano was an Elliot Wolf at Stanford. You can't judge a book by its cover, nor a person by their sheepskin.

Anonymous said...

"Wolf declined, as he has in the past, to criticize the performance of the Brodhead administration in handling the lacrosse case.."

It seems Brodhead is getting a pass because he was in a tight spot, and the crafty DA had him completely bamboozled: but Brodhead doesn't deserve this out.

There are several stunning realities in this case, even besides the central stunning, stupefying fact that Nifong continues in his post (!). My God. You can pick any one of several dozen others to make your head swim. We have the DPD daring to announce the results of its BS investigation, the Gang88 charlatans still spewing their crap, actually insisting that what they said they didn't say, etc.

But that self-deprecating ol' Brodhead has the cojones to show his face anywhere in decent society is right up there. He isn't self-deprecating enough. Bottom line: Brodhead found Nifong credible because Nifong's charges matched Brodhead's social narrative. Period. So, trusting in the Knife, Brodhead attacked his own students.

...but I loved Coleman's suggestion that Brodhead's lack of courage may actually have enabled the SP to go hard at the case. Hmmm...the coward saved the day. What a world. What a Wonderland.

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

"Resisting the status quo at all costs". Wow. How does it come to be that DGS leaders actually show more insightful thought and genuine leadership, given their role, than the actual leaders of the university.

This is a credit to the students and previous Duke leaders who set the stage to have the caliber of students that Duke is currently graduating.

While current Duke leaders are no doubt capable of generating the same caliber of product going forward due to momentum, I question if these leaders are the same caliber of individual as the students they are graduating. If not, time for a change in order to maintain the bar and to set it ever higher.

Anonymous said...

From Wolf

"One DPD Captain admitted that it was DPD policy to punish Duke students more severely than other members of the community, and there have been numerous documented instances where Durham officers have violated the constitutional rights of students or issued citations based on evidence that would not stand up in court. This is of particular concern to us, and it should be to the University as well.

While we don’t expect the University to take overt steps to defend its students through legal proceedings, we don’t want the University to contribute to such differential treatment in any way . . . Duke must also now shake the perception, legitimate or not, that it simply washes its hands of students when they are in legal trouble."

Mr. Wolf said this as palatably as he possibly could. He is looking for results from the BOT, and it was his judgment, I expect, not to attack them or Mr. Brodhead directly, which would just make them even more entrenched and defensive.

The mere fact the President of the Student Government needs to say these things to the President of the University and the BOT
speaks volumes and should be deeply embarrassing to them.

Observer

Anonymous said...

Observer makes a good point. Elliott Wolf could not hope to accomplish anything by directly criticizing President Brodhead before the BOT. In addition, he seems to me to have a good sense of his role, and his area of expertise, as a student body president--to represent the interests of the students. As such, working to get real student input into the debate over campus culture and drawing attention to the important issue of how local authorities treat Duke students are much more valuable uses of his time , and likely to have more direct impact on more students, than a possibly quixotic campaign to embarrass or unseat a particular university president.

Gayle Miller said...

These students give me hope for the future!

The BOT, unfortunately, is comprised of a bunch of empty-headed, politically correct buffoons, with only a few serious and intelligent (common sense) members.

And like R.R. Hamilton - I also tender my apology to today's students.

mac said...

9:48

Right: delicate words must be
chosen.
Like the ones Brodhead used, when
he threw chum into shark-infested
waters, saying:

"Whatever they did was bad enough."

That's one of the reasons that
people with no sense keep saying
"something happened."

"Whatever they did," indeed.

Maybe the students can't say it to
the Trustees, but we can:
"Collaborator!"

mb said...

The fact that Wolf is apparently far more cogent and literate than the bulk of the G88 should escape nobody.

It's truly a sad commentary on the state of the humanities faculty at Duke (and most others colleges and universities in the US) that the students are more capable than the faculty.

And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Quoting rrhamilton

Maybe "We knew the pot-banging faculty and administrators when they were still students. We knew that they were full of bulls**t and hate. We knew that they were 'going nowhere'. "

True only if the halls of power in government, finance, healthcare, media, entertainment and education are “nowhere”. OK, maybe “they” did not go into legitimate industry; “they” and you sent that overseas. “They” still have the whip hand, and “they” only lost this one little skirmish because “they” picked the wrong targets. A few good people with residual influence identified with this particular group of innocent, mistreated youngsters. Luckily, the LAX players were articulate northeasterners. Had they been average lower-class Joes, especially lower-class southerners, their fate would have been sealed.

This is one battle they good guys won, but “they”, the new liberal establishments, are still winning the war.

Anonymous said...

I wish Wolf would have said:

want the University to contribute to such differential treatment in any way . . . Duke must also now shake the perception, legitimate or not, that it sayes, "What they did was bad enough" and simply washes its hands of students when they are in legal trouble.

Would have been much more effective and a nice little dig at Brodhead.
H.T.

Ralph Phelan said...

"In a case where many authority figures have not lived up to expectations, the Duke student body rose to the occasion—"

"It's truly a sad commentary on the state of the humanities faculty at Duke (and most others colleges and universities in the US) that the students are more capable than the faculty."

So what exactly are they paying all that tuition money for?

Anonymous said...

As someone who paid over a half of million for tuition to various Universities, I wonder the same thing. These professors have a great life. eight months of class that includes a spring break, Thanksgiving, Xmas break and the odd long weekends. I would be taking better care of my job than the 88.

Anonymous said...

To add - This is all prior to 1995 - who knows what it would be in 2007 dollars.

don t. said...

What an incredible embarassment this clown brodhead is!!! This feckless stumblebum is getting a free pass because the BOT refuses to step up and admit their mistake. He needs to go back to yale (or Durham Elemantary) and do his thing with English lit. Why is everyone pussyfooting around his incompetence???

Trinity60

Anonymous said...

Trinity,

You're right about Brodhead, but the real problem is how universities choose their leaders.

I'd prefer a GE-trained manager over an academic.