Setrakian's article had several new revelations. Nifong, Nauseef reported, is thinking about life after being a DA--"I've heard he's looking at teaching jobs. It wouldn't surprise me if he wrote a book." As to the former, what school could possibly hire someone as ethically challenged as Nifong as a professor? (Apart, I suppose, from Duke's newly elevated AAAS Department, which has been promised new faculty lines.) And the fact that Nifong is considering a book makes it all the more important that civil lawsuits be filed against him, so he cannot profit from his misconduct.
Meanwhile, Durham assistant district attorney Stormy Ellis offered an astonishing defense of Nifong. Lashing out at prosecutors who have criticized the DA, she also defended Nifong's character: "He's a good man and one of the most honest people I know. People fail to look at the man who convicted numerous criminals, who dismissed numerous cases, who had an open-file policy before it was the law . . . I'm shocked that he has been tainted as a 'rogue prosecutor.' It scares me to think that one case can mar you for the rest of your life." Given what we saw in this case, it's worth wondering just how Nifong implemented his "open-file policy" in the past. More broadly, Ellis' argument appears to be that prosecutors should have license to massively violate ethics obligations at least once in their career. Such a standard would, to put it mildly, wreak havoc on the justice system.
Among the week's items of unintentional humor, Washington Post legal commentator Andrew Cohen--best known for his charge that critics of Nifong's behavior sought to deny the public the "privilege of a trial"--penned a lengthy essay saying how much he wanted to serve as a juror but that he just had to be excused "because I was worried that I would not be able to fully and fairly deliberate with the other jurors for fear of saying something about the law, or about the evidence, or about some other trial in my past that would somehow change an intensely organic deliberation into something different, something artificial." And Cohen's most prominent Durham admirer, Herald-Sun editor Bob Ashley, has offered an auction item of a day "behind the scenes" in what Liestoppers has termed the Snooze Room (apparently on how to botch the most important story of the year in a newspaper's city).
In the intentional humor section: Hatemongers' Quarterly tackles the Group of 88.
But, it appears, in the time before minor alcohol offenses were seen as revealing massive character flaws, the Duke official line was quite different. At the start of the 2005-2006 academic year, the Magazine noted,
Despite their success, [Matt] Danowski and his fellow lacrosse players are largely unheard of and unheralded on a campus where high-profile sports such as basketball and football dominate the collective sports consciousness. A low recognition factor has its pluses, Danowski says. Small-sport collegiate athletes tend to be grounded by their relative anonymity and more focused on academics and life after the game. "You look at all the good lacrosse schools and you see they're also very good schools. Duke, Georgetown, Princeton. I think the kids who play lacrosse have more of a balance between academics and athletics."It's difficult to reconcile this portrayal with the convenient, after-the-fact portrayal of the team as well-known by everyone on campus for bad behavior.
The Devil's Den (Duke's site on the scout.com) network had an interesting post last week from a reader about the Group of 88:
Think whatever you want, but in my opinion the biggest disappointment and the longest lasting wound will be the damage the 88 have done to the reputation and academic integrity and atmosphere of the university. Intentionally, unintentionally and for whatever reason each of them had in signing the first statement and then following it up with their comments, silence, actions and inaction thereafter, each of them hurt Duke. Every time they, individually or collectively, issue another mealy mouthed "woe is me" and refuse to own up to it, they hurt Duke even more. You can talk about freedom of speech or academic freedom all you want, but this isn't about that. Heck, if anyone has chilled academic freedom or speech at Duke it is them, the Gang of 88. (Do you deny grade retaliation? Open confrontation in class? Do you think that's AOK?) This should have been a learning experience; and should have been a foundation for a calm, rational, constructive discussion of some of the topics you try to raise; but the Gang and its members preempted that and has effectively precluded it with their muck raking actions, outright meanness and dishonesty, as well as the ensuing silence and whining. No offense, but name one productive thing that has come out of the Gang and their efforts in the past year? Holloway all but admitted that she just wanted to light a stink bomb and then run away when she belly-ached about participating in the CCI and then quit. Houston Baker . . . whatever. Silence from other signees in the wake . . .? Regardless, not really a positive contribution to the University community . . .
Anyway, it seems to me that the debate in the court of public (ie students, other faculty, alumni, and fellow "intellectuals", but specifically excluding anonymous comment posters on random, unmoderated web sites) opinion regarding whether the Gang was right or wrong is clearly over in any event and the Gang of 88 lost, badly. My sense is that this story and discussion is now about honesty, integrity, honor and responsibility and has been for a while. The Gang members are scoring low across the board and, unfortunately, are seemingly irrelevant to the debate going forward. They've marginalized themselves and, worst of all, just don't get it, still.
The Gang had a whole year and numerous chances to join the debate prior to now but refused and/or have been in denial. The students have been running laps around them for the whole year and (along with many others in the University family) are now fed up and/or have otherwise given up trying to have that discussion. The Chronicle seems to have thrown the Gang one last bone with the last article and they balked/didn't get it one more time. If a vote of no confidence from the 1000+ students doesn't wake them up, nothing will. It is truly sad -- as this is unprecedented in the 25+ years I've been associated with the University -- that a group has shut down a discussion, so poisoned the community, vilified themselves, and virtually assured their irrelevance to/exclusion from a debate; but this is part of the Gang's legacy.
Meanwhile, a Duke graduate and parent of two Duke students, William Gaffey, posted at the DBR forum a lengthy response to a recent e-mail from the administration, which claimed that the administration had fully supported the accused players:
We, just as the parents of the accused lacrosse players did, entrusted our sons to Duke with the expectation that their welfare and best interest would be looked after in the event of trouble. Instead, President Brodhead chose the politically correct course of action and threw these kids to the wolves. He promptly canceled the season, fired the coach, suspended the kids, and ran down to NCCU begging for "a time of healing" , all actions which encouraged a national media frenzy against Duke in general and the 3 accused kids in particular . . . When the Nifong/Stripper story began to unravel and Mr. Brodhead had to face some tough questions put to him by Ed Bradley and other journalists, he managed to look like a deer caught in the headlights, babbling politically correct platitudes and bleating that the matter was best entrusted to the justice system . . . His failure to give any support to the accused players until the dismissal of charges was virtually assured and his failure to take any action to discipline or discredit the Group of 88 announced to all interested that it was open season on Duke and its students, giving us weeks of endless stories about rich white punks run amuck and Lacrosstitutes – just what I wanted to hear having spent $360,000.00 in tuition payments for my two kids . . .
The response to this crisis by the Duke administration was an unmitigated disaster. The only bright spot in the entire affair was in the way that Evans, Seligmann, and Finnerty behaved throughout the ordeal. Their comments to the press were thoughtful and intelligent-just what Duke students are expected to be. They, of course, are gone and Duke is left with the inept Brodhead and the despicable Group of 88 - what a trade off! If these young men had, as you claim in your email, the total support of you, the Board of Trustees, all I can say is Shame on You.
The first chapter of the Pressler/Yeager book has now been released, and the book was covered in the N&O as well. The former coach contended that Duke caved in to public (and faculty) pressure in its handling of the case, prompted the following response from John Burness: "The university made its decisions at the time based on what it believed was in the best interest of the university and everyone involved."
People of good faith can disagree whether the Brodhead administration's actions served the best interest of the University. But surely it cannot be contended that the president was thinking of the "best interest" of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty when he informed the Durham Chamber of Commerce, in his first public appearance after their arrests, "If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough."
Last week, the North Carolina House passed what could be deemed the Nifong-avoidance Act, to regularize eyewitness ID procedures. At the same time, the body is considering what should be deemed the Nifong Protection Act, a measure that would have allowed the DA to withhold the evidence that ultimately undid his case in the lacrosse affair. It's astonishing that the latter even could be considered after events of the last year.
Amanda Marcotte --taking a page from extremists among the Group of 88--recently posted a comment on her blog, announcing, "Having never accused anyone directly of anything, I have no idea what I'm supposed to apologize for. Oh yeah—being a feminist and opposed to rape and sexual harassment."
One of her own readers explained, "Amanda, how about apologizing for this: 'Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.' Again, I ask, What sexual assault are you referring to? Again, I ask, What sexual assault do you continually refer to when bashing those three lacrosse players? Again, I ask, Why were they guilty until proven innocent, and even then continually guilty, according to you?"
The comment thread is particularly notable for its willful ignorance: among Marcotte's defenders, about the only piece of news they appear to have witnessed since April 6, 2006 is Duff Wilson's August New York Times article, which was frequently (and fawningly) referenced.
The editor and faculty advisor to NCCU's campus newspaper apologized for printing an op-ed by NCCU student Solomon Burnette, a convicted criminal who urged vigilante action against the lacrosse players. Taking a line almost directly from Wahneema Lubiano's April 13, 2006 essay, Burnette wrote, "The 'facts' of the case should not matter to us because even if we are unsure of sexual assault, these supremacists have admitted to sexually, racially and politically denigrating these women. Strippers or not, this must be addressed."
(Burnette is also listed as taking Arabic classes at Duke. There has been no notice of any action against him, even though he has publicly advocated violence against other Duke students.)
The most interesting aspect of this affair was the response: even as the NCCU paper apologized for the op-ed, the Herald-Sun published a letter to the editor explicitly defending Burnette's argument. The paper also ran an editorial noting that "the right to voice radical opinions is woven in the fabric of our nation. It goes back to Benjamin Franklin and the colonists, whose loudly stated opinions were often intemperate. Those who prize freedom must stand on the shoulders of those who would say, as we do to Burnette: We disagree strongly with what you say, but we must defend your right to say it."
Imagine a counterfactual: the Chronicle published an op-ed by a white Duke student endorsing vigilante action against the black NCCU students who attended the April 11, 2006 forum. Does anyone seriously believe the H-S would have responded with an editorial defending the columnist's right to free speech?
With Group of 88 extremist William Chafe making reckless allegations, John in Carolina offered the former dean of faculty an opportunity to present his evidence.
Unsurprisingly, Chafe has not yet responded: as one JinC commenter noted, "If you held your breath until Chafe responded, the only sound you'd finally hear would be your harp playing in heaven. Time to exhale."
The administrative changes continue at Duke. First was the creation of a new dean of undergraduate education--a position not recommended by the CCI and which seemed to diminish the power of the two people responsible for the CCI (Bob Thompson and Larry Moneta).
Last week came two other moves. First, another new position--vice president for Durham and regional affairs--was created, with President Brodhead selecting Phail Wynn. The announcement noted that most of Wynn's portfolio previously had been handled by John Burness.
The same announcement contained news that Allison Haltom is leaving as university secretary and vice president. One of Halton's chief responsibilities was coordinating the activities of the board of trustees--who, thanks to several publicized and written remarks by BOT chairman Bob Steel, have been left in the uncomfortable position of approving, after the fact, the administration's response to the lacrosse case.
New Criterion places the case in perspective.
And a sensational editorial from DBR taking to task Shadee Malaklou, concluding with an important lesson of the past 13 months:
The power of the state was brought to bear on these private citizens, and despite an appallingly weak, trumped up case, the state, through Nifong, was prepared to ruthlessly crush them and send them to prison for the rest of their lives when it could not prove that a crime was committed, and when the great mass of evidence argued against it as well.
People who are so blinded by ideological commitments have no place in a university, but perhaps the idea of the university has changed to accommodate them and the old idea of pursuing truth and reason is obsolete. The truly sad thing is there's no more flexibility among many at Duke than there is for many at Bob Jones University.