The lacrosse case took an Orwellian turn on January 5, when Cathy Davidson published an impassioned apologia for the Group of 88 statement. The ad, she wrote, “said that we faculty were listening to the anguish of students who felt demeaned by racist and sexist remarks swirling around in the media and on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house. The insults, at that time, were rampant. It was as if defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women.”
Davidson’s claim, of course, was absurd. Between March 29, when the idea for the ad originated, and April 6, when the ad appeared, almost no one “on the campus quad” was defending the lacrosse players, much less using “pernicious stereotypes” about black women to do so. Indeed, the reverse was true: during that week, the players endured regular harassment from student and community “activists,” as well as some of their professors. And, as protesters carried banners screaming “Castrate” or blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters, what was the response of Davidson and her 87 colleagues? To publish a statement reading in part: “to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.”
Yesterday brought a further reminder of the real state of affairs from late last March, as opposed to Davidson’s imagined reality. As revealed in the Liestoppers forum, the Baydoun/Good book made the first public reference to an e-mail sent by Duke student Chauncey Nartey to Coach Mike Pressler last March. The subject line was a menacing: “WHAT IF JANET LYNN WERE NEXT???” (Nartey already had sent an all-caps e-mail to Presser demanding that the coach terminate all practices until the “alleged rapists” were found.) In the atmosphere at the time—where, despite Davidson’s subsequent claim, the lacrosse players, not their tormentors, were beleaguered—the Presslers took seriously the fact that someone had taken the time to ferret out the name of their older daughter, hardly an item that would have been common knowledge to the average Duke student. On March 31, Sue Pressler filed a complaint with the Duke Police over the e-mail.
Nartey never mentioned his e-mail to his colleagues in the Duke Student Government: two days after he referenced “JANET LYNN,” the Duke Student Government spent two hours considering its response to the crisis. At this session, Nartey demanded that the lacrosse team be prevented from practicing until Nifong completed his investigation. More temperate members of the Student Government resisted the move, and his resolution was tabled. Sophomore Matt McNeill spoke for the level-headed majority, urging his colleagues to respect due process: “You need to investigate the entire situation before you make charges against anyone.”
It is unclear whether the Duke Police informed anyone within the administration about Nartey’s e-mail. (Indeed, it is unclear how or to what extent the police investigated Sue Pressler’s complaint at all.) But by early May, the administration was fully aware of the document: Larry Moneta was informed by late April, and Brodhead himself learned of the e-mail no later than May 3, 2006. In a meeting with the lacrosse team, one player asked him about the disparate treatment of Ryan McFadyen and Nartey.
That senior administrators knew about the e-mail makes Duke’s handling of the Nartey issue one of the most inexplicable elements of the case. Nartey is one of just two students (outgoing Student Government president Elliot Wolf was the other) to have been invited both to serve on the Campus Culture Initiative and to join President Brodhead at one of the “Duke Conversation” events.
According to CCI chairman Robert Thompson, the Campus Culture Initiative’s “main thrust was to develop an inclusive social community,” since Duke’s “next challenge is . . . engaging difference.”
Imagine the reverse scenario: a white Duke student sent a menacing e-mail to an African-American Duke coach. Does anyone believe that Duke would respond by appointing this student as one of five students positioned to offer lessons to the school’s more than 6000 undergraduates on “engaging difference” and developing “an inclusive social community”?
On March 23, I asked Thompson when he learned of the Nartey e-mail and why he did not demand Nartey’s resignation from the CCI at that time. His response? “I personally do not know anything about an email from Chauncey Nartey to the Presslers. Your question is the first time I had heard about it.”
Thompson’s statement—which I have every reason to believe is true—casts further doubt on the already dubious nature of the CCI’s proceedings. One of the committee’s five student members had sent a March 27 e-mail that prompted the filing of a police report. The vice-chair of the CCI, Larry Moneta, had known about the e-mail since last April. And yet the first that Thompson heard of the e-mail was in March 2007—a year after Nartey sent it, and 11 months after his own vice-chair learned of its existence? Does that sort of behavior reflect the kind of “inclusive social community” that Thompson and the CCI aimed to achieve?
The decision to invite Nartey to Brodhead’s February 2007
Surely, it would seem, the combination of his sending the Pressler e-mail and his presiding over a fraternity that was suspended by its national organization would have ensured that Nartey no longer was singled out by the Duke administration as a model student. Yet such behavior appears to have had no effect.
Friends of Duke spokesperson Jason Trumpbour responded with outrage to the Nartey revelation:
The contrast between [Nartey’s] treatment and that of Ryan McFadyen could not be more stark. McFadyen’s message was transparently a joke and was sent to like minded individuals. In case that was not obvious from the message itself, it was clear from the context of the other messages and replies related to it. Yet Ryan was kicked off campus and, not only was Nartey unpunished, he was held out as a model Duke student. Moreover, if actual threats were communicated to a specific individual, that is usually a crime in most states.
When I saw Chauncey Nartey’s name on the list of featured students at the Duke Conversation in
, I absolutely could not believe it. It is not just the hypocrisy and dishonesty. Did Duke really believe that this information would never come out at some point? Charlotte
Trumpbour’s question is unanswerable.