Public attention about the behavior of Duke faculty activists had two turning points. The first came on December 15, when—for what appears to be the first time in American history—the statements and actions of their own professors were cited as grounds for why college students could not receive a fair trial locally. The second came in the so-called “clarifying” statement, issued by 87 Duke faculty members in mid-January.
The statement, which purported to “clarify” the Group of 88’s ad, formed the first leg of the ill-fated Group of 88 rehab tour. The defiant refusal to apologize and the professors’ inability to explain the guilt-presuming statements from the original ad (something “happened” to Crystal Mangum; “to the protesters making collective noise, thank you for not waiting”) generated national attention. Drudge (16 million daily hits) linked to the statement itself; within days, Dan Abrams, John Podhoretz, Mary Laney, and Charlotte Allen had condemned the statement on television or in widely circulated newspapers and magazines.
The statement attracted big names among anti-lacrosse extremists: Anne Allison; Bill Chafe; Kim Curtis; Grant Farred; Karla Holloway; Wahneema Lubiano; Paula McClain; Mark Anthony Neal; Alex Rosenberg. But some Group members, such as Houston Baker, had left Duke by the time the new statement appeared; a select few, such as Arlie Petters, declined to sign the new statement. A total of 28 original signatories did not endorse the clarifying statement.
Perhaps the most inexplicable element of the faculty’s response to this entire case came in the decision of 27 members of the Duke faculty who had the good sense or fortune not to sign onto the Group of 88’s statement to affiliate with the Group’s cause long after it had been discredited.
Who were these newly “clarifying” faculty, and why did they act?
A handful were powerful figures on campus who fall into the Chafe/Lubiano/Allison ideological axis. Take, for instance, Kerry Haynie, co-Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences. He joined Chafe in a late-February apologia, demanding that Duke “move forward” without addressing the faculty’s response to the lacrosse case, and affirming his belief “students and faculty alike should pledge to uphold a code of mutual respect and of caring about each other.
When asked why he signed the “clarifying” statement, Haynie’s reply, en toto, was, “Get a freaking life! Quote me!”
A half-hour later, he e-mailed back, writing, “Please don’t send me any additional stupid emails on this topic.”
Some people might wonder how Haynie considered himself a figure who could lecture others on the need for “mutual respect.”
Other prominent figures among the newly “clarifying” faculty:
- Charlie Piot is chair of the African-American Studies program. At a February forum, he demanded that the Group’s critics “shut up,” and, in one of my favorite lines of the case, suggested that this blog imitates the propaganda practices of unnamed African dictators.
- Robyn Wiegman is Margaret Taylor Smith Director of Women’s Studies and Professor, Women’s Studies and Literature. Last fall, when Steve Baldwin became the first Duke professor to criticize the Group of 88, Wiegman wildly attempted to tar him with the brush of racism.
- Kenneth Surin replaced Karla Holloway on the Academic Council and confided to Diverse that athletes did not enroll in his courses: “I do not give quizzes . . . I give very hard reading.” He told me that he signed the “clarifying” statement and would have, if asked, signed the Group of 88’s statement because “Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to have a party with under-aged drinking in March 2006. Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to hire strippers at that party. Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to impersonate another Duke sports team [sic] when hiring the strippers. Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to shout racial slurs [sic] at the strippers that night (vouched for by neighbors [sic], no one on the team has denied this). Duke did not ask a member of the lacrosse team to send an inflammatory email later that night (the subsequent excuse is that this email was a ‘parody’, but in the circumstances sending it was not the best thing to do). Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to acquire a significant track record of alcohol-abuse and public-disorder convictions (1/3rd of the team since 2000). Duke did not ask one of the three accused members of the lacrosse team to acquire recently a gay-bashing conviction [sic] in DC. Duke did not ask the lacrosse team to become notorious for its unruly and antisocial behavior in the Edens Quad on campus and the
Trinity Parkand neighborhoods off campus (I know first-hand, having lived in the latter neighborhood from 1993-2005) . . . In no way can condemnation of this persistent pattern of lacrosse team misbehavior be a problem for any ethically upright member of the community.” Trinity Heights
How this explanation corresponds to the current excuse for the Group of 88’s statement (the ad had nothing to do with the lacrosse case; signatories were merely expressing support for unnamed black students on campus) Surin did not say.
Several other “clarifying” faculty (Erin Gayton, Erik Harms, Fred Klaits, Tamera Marko, Kristin Solli) were instructors in the University Writing Program—which isn’t exactly a hotbed of mainstream thought. Harms, for instance, teaches a course called “URBANcultureSPACEtimePOWER” (all one word), which explores such questions as, “Why are there no supermarkets in some neighborhoods, only liquor-stores? . . . Who gets ‘a view’ and who is put under surveillance?” Klaits teaches a course asking, “Why Have Wealth?”; Solli’s offering critiques “The World According to
Of the remaining 17 non-Group members who signed onto the “clarifying” statement, only two have publicly articulated their rationales. They, and the other 15, all did not respond to two e-mails from me asking about the statement; the Chronicle, too, found these professors unwilling to explain their actions. Many, however, had the expected (Jehanne Gheith; Robert Korstad; Sean Metzger; Stephanie Sieburth; John Transue; Kathryn Whetten; Tomiko Yoda) race/class/gender worldviews. Covering just about all the bases, Metzger, for instance, lists “performance and queer theory; race, migration and sexuality . . . [and] the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and national belonging as constructed through film, theatre and performance” as his intellectual approach.
Finally—and remarkably—the “clarifying” statement attracted a handful of signatures from either prestigious professors in the humanities (Maureen Quilligan, Helen Solterer) or faculty in computer science (Jeffrey Forbes); the natural sciences (Joshua Socolar, Roxanne Springer); and engineering (William Reichert). Of the six, only Forbes responded to e-mail requests from me asking about their reasoning for signing the statement. Forbes wrote back to say he would have no comment.
The statement to which the above figures affixed their signatures was highly problematic. To take just two examples: (1) the Group of 88’s ad claims the endorsement of five Duke departments and more than a dozen academic programs at the school. Yet no evidence exists how any of these departments endorsed the ad--and, indeed, it appears that none of the departments actually did endorse the ad. Why, then, did the clarifiers not repudiate this aspect of the Group of 88’s handiwork?
(2) The clarifiers quoted the Group of 88—“The ad thanked ‘the students speaking individually and . . . the protesters making collective noise’”—but cut off the next five words: “thank you for not waiting.” Why did the clarifiers consider it so important not to pass along the Group’s decision to praise people for not waiting before speaking out last March and April? Indeed, the academy usually advocates gathering all evidence before speaking out, not praising those who rush to judgment based solely on evidence presented by one side.
But with clarifiers such as Haynie lecturing colleagues on how to behave, perhaps such questions are irrelevant at Duke.