Two books on the case have now been officially released. It’s Not About the Truth, co-authored by Don Yaeger and former coach Mike Pressler, offers a behind-the-scenes look at how everything that happened since last March affected Pressler, his family, and the senior class he had recruited to Duke; the book also provides background on Duke lacrosse, Durham, Crystal Mangum, Nifong, and a summary of the case.
A Rush to Injustice, co-authored by Nader Baydoun and R. Stephanie Good, provides a personal memoir of a how a Duke graduate came to view with distaste the actions of his university.
An earlier post touched on the new items from the books dealing with the legal and police aspects of the case; today’s post examines some of the revelations regarding Duke.
The Nartey “Apology”
The Yaeger/Pressler book contains a passage from the “apology” sent by Chauncey Nartey, the Duke student whose e-mail prompted the Presslers to file a police report and who subsequently was named to both the Campus Culture Initiative and a “Duke Conversation” slot.
I simply wanted you to perhaps make the connection between how the families of the alleged victim might field, especially when it appears as though the ALLEGED perpetrators were so insensitive as to continue forward with activities as though a national scandal were not occurring underneath their noses.
Nartey bizarrely argued to Yaeger that his e-mails should not be considered a threat because he sent them from his Duke account.
Both books contain powerful critiques of the president’s performance.
Former Duke AD Tom Butters told Yaeger, “I spent thirty-some years at Duke, and I can assure you this would have been handled differently. Understand what I am saying here—not in my days, in Duke’s days. Duke would have done something differently.”
Former lacrosse captain Dan Flannery recounted a vignette from the 2006 Senior Ring dinner, held at Brodhead’s house, late spring 2006. Brodhead thanked Flannery for attending, and added, “I have to believe we will be better someday because of this, of the situation.” Flannery’s response: “I don’t share the same opinion. I’ll believe that when mothers no longer have to take antidepressants.”
Flannery’s fellow 2006 senior, William Wolcott, found it “hilarious when Brodhead was interviewed and he said the facts keep changing. I felt like calling the guy and saying, ‘Hey, facts don’t change. The truth doesn’t change. Lies and versions of events, those things change. But the truth doesn’t change.’”
The Baydoun book has a lengthy quote from a letter sent to Brodhead by Dan Smith (Trinity ’70)—a former prosecutor in Denver DA’s office, assistant U.S. Attorney in Colorado, and a special assistant attorney general in Colorado. The case, Smith noted, had all the signs of a sham from the start. He then told Brodhead:
You are quoted as saying, ‘I embrace athletics at Duke.’ My God, President Brodhead, if the way you treated those three players, the team, and the coach is your idea of an embrace, what do you do when you dislike someone or something?
I can only surmise that your knee-jerk reaction to the events as they unfolded was kindled by the naïve, ignorant, and well-publicized response of a significant number of Duke faculty.
Chuck Sherwood, Devon Sherwood’s father, asked Yaeger, “Did it ever occur to them that they may have the kind of kid—this team—that if they saw one of their teammates doing something that was inappropriate that the other guys would have interceded and stopped it? Those are the kind of kids that I believed they had on the team.”
In the Baydoun book, Jim Coleman expressed a similar sentiment. “When we’ve got 46 students saying they didn’t do anything and not a single one of them is saying anything happened, which is a pretty good indication that they may be telling the truth, we find a way to support them without saying we’re indifferent to the truth.” The university, he argued, should have been more concerned with possibility its own students were being railroaded.
The Group of 88
In the Baydoun book, Bill Thomas, an attorney for an unindicted player, was blunt and on-target in his comments. The Group’s statement, he observed, was “horrible”—it basically said, “Thank you for not waiting to see what facts develop here. Thank you for jumping to conclusions based on race and social status.”
The attorney concluded, “They all should be ashamed of themselves, every single one of them.”
Former Chronicle columnist Stephen Miller astutely analyzed the Group’s motives:
It seemed like one of those situations where they were asking each other, “Who can go the farthest? Who can say the most outrageous things? Who can attack the establishment the most?” It was almost a weird sort of competition among these people. It was just so clear it was never about the victim, it was never about the players. They came in advance with their social agendas, they have had them for years, this was the perfect moment to really let things fly.
In the Pressler/Yaeger book, former lacrosse captain Matt Zash reflected on the Group’s behavior:
We have always said, we just want an apology. But now, [after] how long it’s lingered, you can just see that there is this underlying hate these professors have for us, just being white men, and elitist in their terms . . . It is apparent that . . . these people are not remorseful for what they have done.
Jim Coleman, meanwhile, discussed with Baydoun the “absolutely outrageous” possibility of in-class harassment—something the Brodhead administration has never investigated.
I think any professor who confronted and tried to embarrass and call out kids in front of a class should be disciplined. I think that’s totally inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated on a university’s campus. That’s just inexcusable . . .
Allegations that other professors were confronting the students, not flunking them, but talking about lacrosse players with lacrosse players in the class. That’s just cowardice, in my view . . . prejudging their guilt and turning them into pariahs is inappropriate . . .
It’s been unfortunate that these students got caught up in this and that more people, and this isn’t just the university, didn’t express concern about what was happening.
Lacrosse parent Donna Wellington recalled one of the low points of the affair, Father Joe Vetter’s March 26, 2006 sermon:
A casual listener might have concluded that he more facts than even the DA at that point . . . He was already condemning these boys without knowing any of the facts, and my husband told him that he would deeply regret this when the real facts did get revealed.
If a priest is going to rush to judgment, where can anyone go for support and counsel about surviving the inevitable barrage of false accusations, and finding spiritual strength and solace in God’s eventual justice and truth? I didn’t know what to say to him other than to point out that this was a man with obvious human frailties and prejudices, and that he was very misguided.
John Burness, meanwhile, deflected critics of the administration’s handling of the Group by noting
In the time I’ve been at Duke, our faculty do and say all kinds of things. The university doesn’t comment on that . . . Our job is to provide a venue for free speech, and then late the debate go. We hope it’s enlightened, but at the end of the day, you have these debates and people learn from them. We don’t go condemning faculty members for what they say when they do that.
This argument would have been more compelling had Brodhead not thrice specifically commented on the Group’s statement—defending it in a January Chronicle interview and then in “Duke Conversation” events in Philadelphia and Chicago.
N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan noted the difficulty in not getting any positive responses from Duke about the team:
I did have a conversation with John Burness about the university’s role in the case at some point and asked why when all of this was coming out that they didn’t help us understand the truth, why they didn’t spin the other side to us. They could have helped us, that’s for sure. One thing he did say to me at the time, which is a convenient excuse but also true, was that they also have to be really careful about how they handle student information. That caution, I think, made things worse.
In the Baydoun book, Jim Coleman summarized his committee’s findings, noting that a negative view of the team is unwarranted:
Among athletes they did have a higher percentage of disciplinary citations, but we pointed out in the report that that was due to the lacrosse culture, which is that they are a very tight group of guys, they do things in groups, and they don’t spread out to other groups. So that when somebody is in the dormitory making noise or drinking beer, and it’s a lacrosse player, just about everyone else is a lacrosse player . . . In terms of the nature of citations, they were no different than the kinds of things other students were doing.
Baydoun reveals a fascinating story, about how he had dinner last March with former basketball captain Larry Saunders, at which a daughter of a mutual friend, Duke student Emma Stevenson, was in attendance. Emma and her friends at Duke had been thinking who the least likely member of the lacrosse team would be to commit a crime.* “They joked that Nifong would probably indict someone as unlikely as Collin Finnerty because Collin was one of the nicest guys on the team and one of the least likely to hurt anyone.” They were “shocked and dismayed” when Finnerty was indicted.