When last heard from regarding the case, Newsday columnist Steven Marcus channeled Selena Roberts, as he:
- provided a one-sided summary of the Coleman Committee report;
- criticized Chaminade High School for selecting the falsely accused Collin Finnerty as a volunteer lacrosse coach; and
- allowed a senior Duke administrator to engage in anonymous character assassination against Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.
He recently returned, with a negative review of the Yaeger/Pressler book. Marcus concluded his review by asserting, “Yaeger cites Pressler’s 100 percent graduation of Duke players as his crowning achievement. Someone [sic], I don’t think he’ll be remembered for that. It is highly irrelevant to the issue.”
Think about that statement for a minute: is it “highly irrelevant” for a 16-year college coach of a team that fields more than 40 players per squad to have had a 100 percent graduation rate?
The remark captures the odd nature of how many in the media (and, more important, at Duke) approached this case. Perhaps Marcus is a graduate of BYU or Liberty, where underage drinking is considered indicative of negative character. But at most colleges, academic achievement is generally seen as much more important than whether or not students consume alcohol. (I speak as someone who doesn’t drink.)
Before coming to Brooklyn, I taught at Williams College, and served two years on the college disciplinary committee. Almost all of our cases involved academic integrity issues—not underage drinking violations. Yet reflecting the Wonderland that was the lacrosse case, much of the media and the vocal element of the Duke professoriate acted as if drinking provided the key insight into students’ character, with academic performance—to borrow Marcus’ phrase—“highly irrelevant.”
Marcus concluded his column with grudging praise for the blog but a negative prediction about Until Proven Innocent. A DIW reader asked Marcus how—regardless of his opinion of me—he could so easily dismiss co-author Stuart Taylor. After all, Taylor, a Harvard J.D., is currently senior columnist for National Journal (which nominated him for a National Magazine Award for his columns on the Duke case) and a contributing editor for Newsweek. He previously covered legal affairs and the Supreme Court at the New York Times, which nominated him for a Pulitzer Prize.
Marcus’ response? “I have no idea who he is.”