On April 5, 2006, accompanying his decision to cancel the lacrosse season and demand the resignation of Coach Mike Pressler, President Brodhead appointed a task force charged with “investigating” the administration’s response to the case. Former Princeton president William Bowen was a well-known critic of intercollegiate athletics and co-author, with Derek Bok, of a high-profile defense of racial preferences in the college admissions process. Julius Chambers, former general counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and NCCU chancellor, was a similarly aggressive advocate of the “diversity” agenda in higher education. Bowen and Chambers took it upon themselves to add a third member to their panel, Danielle Carr Ramdath, who their report identified as an “African-American woman.” (The report did not disclose either the race or the gender of Bowen and Chambers.)
The resulting report unsurprisingly reflected its authors’ long-held beliefs. Though claiming that they were “not arguing for filling positions of any kind by applying a race-gender quota system,” they demanded creation of new positions that women or minorities were all but certain to fill. They faulted Duke administrators for not determining Crystal Mangum’s race immediately—an argument that prompted then-Academic Council chair Paul Haagen to wonder, “I’m not sure that somehow or other we should have responded differently if it had been a white woman.” And, in a stunning passage, they explained that Duke needed to balance its students’ due process protections against the fact that “in the eyes of some faculty and others concerned with the intersecting issues of race, class, gender, and respect for people, the Athletic Department, and Duke more generally, just didn’t seem to ‘get it.’” As a result, these professors (which included Peter Wood, Karla Holloway and Houston Baker, each of whom Bowen and Chambers interviewed) saw the lacrosse team as the “manifestation of a white, elitist arrogant sub-culture that was both indulged and self-indulgent.”
Shortly after the document appeared, Stuart Taylor penned a National Journal column observing how Bowen, Chambers, and Carr Ramdath appeared determined to “slime the lacrosse players in a report . . . that is a parody of race-obsessed political correctness.”
More than a year later, the Bowen/Chambers report remains the sole official review of the Brodhead administration’s performance in the case. In light of all the information that has emerged since the report was filed on May 4, 2006 (much of which Bowen and Chambers had access to at the time), it seemed useful to review the report’s conclusions.
A note: I twice e-mailed Bowen inviting his comment; I said I would print his reply unedited. He did not respond. I also e-mailed Carr Ramdath; she responded by saying that she would decline to answer my questions.
She did, however, inform a lacrosse parent, “We stand entirely by the report, which no one has questioned.” (Apparently Taylor, or Haagen, or blogs don’t count.) And Bowen, in a response to Carr Ramdath on which the lacrosse parent was cc’d, stated, “My advice is just to ignore this—no response is the appropriate response.”
Denigrating the Presumption of Innocence
Bowen and Chambers effusively praised one Brodhead statement: the April 5 letter. It was, they noted, “widely applauded.” They added that the early negative impression of Duke “was changed, rather markedly, we believe, by President Brodhead’s April 5 letter.”
Their only complaint? “It would have been better if a letter of this character could have been issued earlier.”
Here is the letter that Bowen and Chambers so welcomed. It didn’t even contain a throw-away line about the presumption of innocence; it falsely asserted that the lacrosse players had a history of racist behavior; and it opened with several paragraphs that strongly suggested a belief that a rape had occurred.
In a peculiar choice of words, Bowen and Chambers described Mangum not as the accuser but as “the victim of the alleged assaults.” Of the lacrosse players exercising their legal rights against untaped interviews with the police, on the other hand, they wrote, “The negative public reaction to these actions” (which included protesters carrying “castrate” signs or distributing “wanted” posters) “is perhaps understandable because they seemed to make Duke’s players, and Duke, appear to be much more interested in the team members than in the community and in the broader issues raised by the rape allegations.”
It appears that Bowen and Chambers did not consider prosecutorial misconduct, the academy’s rush to judgment, or the protesters’ willingness to make absolute moral judgment based on wildly incomplete information as among the “broader issues” the case raised.
The Administration’s Actions
Bowen and Chambers claimed to have received complete and candid cooperation from the administration. Yet several passages in their report do not correspond to facts that they could or should have known.
For instance, they described AD Joe Alleva as “accepting the resignation” of former coach Mike Pressler. (They also suggested that Pressler should have been fired earlier.) Yet, as we know now, Brodhead demanded Pressler’s resignation. Why, then, did Bowen and Chambers not state as much in their report?
On another front, their report repeatedly discussed the McFadyen e-mail, treating it as if it were a legitimate threat. Yet by May 2006, Duke officials knew that the e-mail was a vile parody of a vile piece of literature assigned in three Duke classes. Why, then, did Bowen and Chambers not state as much in their report?
Page five of the report conceded that “the players may have been lulled into a false sense of security” by Duke’s response, but made no mention of the administration’s highly controversial decision to suggest the possibility of Wes Covington (an old associate of Dean Sue Wasiolek) representing the captains in the early days. Did Bowen and Chambers not know of this decision?*
The Attitude of the Faculty
By the end March, what John Burness later described as “rumors” of improper classroom behavior by Duke professors had reached the administration. President Brodhead himself was given specifics of these allegations no later than April 7, or four weeks before Bowen and Chambers submitted their report. There is no evidence that anyone from the Duke administration ever investigated these allegations.
This oversight would seem an obvious topic for a report ostensibly designed to analyze the administration’s response to the case. Yet Bowen and Chambers didn’t even mention the issue—nor did they discuss the related question of the administration’s unwillingness or inability to enforce on professors the provisions of the Faculty Handbook.
Could their list of interviewees—which disproportionately included extremist critics of the lacrosse team—have explained the silence of Bowen and Chambers on this issue?
In my e-mails to Bowen, I asked him whether he was instructed by the administration not to look into this matter; or whether his ignoring the administration’s non-response to allegations of faculty misconduct was his own decision. He did not, of course, reply.
Misreading the Police Reports
Wrote Bowen and Chambers, “Duke officials might have responded differently had they been aware that one female member of the Duke Police Department, who was on the scene of the Emergency Department of the hospital and who attempted to calm down and reassure the young woman [Mangum], saw that she [Mangum] was ‘crying uncontrollably and visibly shaken . . . shaking, crying, and upset’—a description of behavior which doesn’t suggest that the case was likely to just ‘go away.’”
In fact, the behavior witnessed by Officer Sara Falcon suggested just that: even as biased a witness as SANE Nurse Tara Levicy conceded that she had never seen a real victim behave as Mangum did the morning of March 14.
Meanwhile, the report chastised Duke for relying on the “second-hand” word of Officer Christopher Day that the Durham Police officers at the hospital had strong doubts about Mangum’s credibility. The insinuation: Day was either wrong, or was being fed incorrect information by the DPD to “lull” Duke into false security.
In fact, as the ethics depositions made clear, Day’s report to his superiors was completely accurate. Perhaps Duke should have guessed that an unethical district attorney would have seized control of the case—but that failure can hardly be blamed on Officer Day.
The Pre-Virginia Tech World
Bowen and Chambers did criticize one senior Brodhead administrator—ironically, the paragon of political correctness himself, Larry Moneta.
After Duke Police obtained information about the possibility that Duke students might face drive-by shootings off-campus, Moneta sent a general e-mail passing along the notice and urging all students to take proper precautions.
This e-mail, wrote Bowen and Chambers, was considered by many a “coded and gratuitous statement about race and violence that only made a difficult situation worse.”
In the post-Virginia Tech world, I doubt that many people would treat seriously a report advocating that universities should downplay threats to student safety.
To sum up: The official investigation of the administration’s performance—conducted by members hand-picked by the administration under investigation—concluded:
- The only major Brodhead statement not even mentioning a presumption of innocence struck the right tone.
- Duke shouldn’t have warned its students about security concerns that had come to the administration’s attention.
- Duke should have paid more attention to a police officer whose report described atypical victim behavior and less attention to a police officer whose report about Mangum’s lack of credibility was accurate.
- Duke—and, by inference, other universities—needed to balance the due process rights of its own students against promoting the race/class/gender agenda of its activist faculty.
- There was no need, apparently, for the administration even to inquire about allegations of improper faculty behavior toward men’s and women’s lacrosse players.
Only in Wonderland.
*--modified for clarity