This weekend, Duke’s 37-member Board of Trustees descends upon
1.) On April 6, 2006, an advertisement appeared in the Duke Chronicle claiming the endorsement of a variety of departments and programs, including the following five academic departments:
- Romance Studies;
- Psychology: Social and Health Services;
- Classical Studies;
- Art, Art History, & Visual Studies;
- Asian & African Languages & Literature.
A hallmark of academic self-governance is the principle of democratic, majority rule. Yet no record exists that any of these officially constituted academic departments ever conducted a vote—either in person or via e-mail—on whether to sign onto the statement. (Less than 50 percent of the professors in each department endorsed the ad individually.) Indeed, in the case of at least one department (Classical Studies), I have been told explicitly that no vote of any type occurred.
Will the Board publicly explain the procedures under which these five academic departments—official administrative units of
2.) Chapter Six of the Duke Faculty Handbook opens with the following passage: “Members of the faculty expect Duke students to meet high standards of performance and behavior. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the faculty adheres to comparably high standards in dealing with students . . . Students are fellow members of the university community, deserving of respect and consideration in their dealings with the faculty.”
Does the Board believe that all Duke professors adhered to the terms of Chapter Six during the lacrosse case? If not, why are some Duke professors allowed to operate under different rules?
3.) This case exposed some ugly voices coming from quarters of the Duke faculty, and also shone the spotlight on some professors whose quantity and quality of publications seemed subpar for a world-class institution such as Duke.
Does the Board believe that the hiring of apparently under-qualified but ideologically suitable professors such as Wahneema Lubiano constituted an anomaly; or is there a need for a thorough review of personnel procedures in all departments to ensure that Duke brings aboard only highly qualified professors?
4.) Does the Board consider the existence of semi-permanent “visiting” professors such as Kim Curtis consistent with Duke’s mission of academic excellence?
5.) In an April 11, 2007 e-mail, Bob Steel wrote, “Each step of the way, the board agreed with the principles that [President Brodhead] established and the actions he took.”
On April 20, 2006, President Brodhead informed the Durham Chamber of Commerce, in his first public appearance after the arrests of Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, “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.”
Did the Board agree with President Brodhead’s remarks at the time? If so, does it continue to endorse this statement? If not, will the board issue an apology to Seligmann and Finnerty?
6.) No later than April 7, 2006, at a meeting with Duke coaches, President Brodhead was informed of allegations that some professors were treating lacrosse players in their classes inappropriately.
Were those reports ever investigated? If not, why not? If so, will the Board release the findings of that investigation?
7.) Looking back on events last spring, it seems clear that the poisonous atmosphere created by Mike Nifong, the Group of 88, the potbangers, and the Herald-Sun all but necessitated cancellation of the lacrosse season, since Duke could not ensure the safety of either its own players or visiting teams.
Yet in their contemporaneous explanations of the cancellation, Bob Steel and Richard Brodhead* did not mention the safety issue. Here’s what they said:
- Steel: “We had to stop those pictures [of the players practicing]. It doesn’t mean that it’s fair, but we had to stop it. It doesn’t necessarily mean I think it was right—it just had to be done.”
- Brodhead: “Sports have their time and place, but when an issue of this gravity is in question, it is not the time to be playing games.”
Did either or both of these statements reflect Board policy?
8.) In its April 5, 2006 announcement, why did Duke choose to describe Mike Pressler’s departure as a voluntary resignation rather than a forced dismissal?
Security and Public Safety
9.) On September 12, 2006, Capt. Ed Sarvis informed the Herald-Sun that the Durham Police Department has an official policy of punishing Duke students more severely than other
Will the Board publicly state what steps since that date the administration has taken to ensure that Duke students are treated according to the same procedures as all other residents of
10.) In late March and early April 2006, the e-mail accounts of at least two Duke lacrosse players were hacked into, and an unknown party or parties sent out false e-mails under their names. In addition, it now seems possible or even likely that a third e-mail, that of Ryan McFadyen, was supplied anonymously to police by a Duke employee.
Was this troubling breach of security thoroughly investigated by the administration, and will the Board release the results of that inquiry?
11.) In January 2007, 87 Duke faculty members issued a public statement describing a “disaster” that allows “sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus.” Yet according to Duke’s official statistics, in the past six academic years around .02 percent of Duke’s students have been victims of sexual violence—hardly a “prevalent” condition.
Are these faculty members privy to data on criminal acts that the University has not publicly released? If not, does the Board have another explanation for such a sizable portion of the Duke arts and sciences faculty making what appears to be a demonstrably untrue statement?
12.) Why did no one from the Duke administration publicly condemn the death threats against Reade Seligmann delivered at the Durham County Courthouse on May 18, 2006?
On April 5, 2006, President Brodhead created five separate investigatory committees to look into the lacrosse players’ behavior; campus culture relating to the lacrosse players’ behavior; the administration’s response to the lacrosse players’ behavior; an examination of the student judicial process; and a presidential advisory council.
In recent months, however, there has been little or no interest in engaging in critical self-reflection. Instead, the mantra has been “let’s move forward,” so as to leave unexamined how both the administration and a significant segment of the arts and sciences faculty responded to the lacrosse case.
Will the Board create a truth and reconciliation commission, composed of outside experts and internal figures of integrity, to conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom review of how the University responded to the case—not for the purposes of assigning blame, but instead to pave the way for the healing process to begin?