The bitter-enders were out in full force last week. First, of course, was the Tom Ehrich article, contending that even though the Group of 88 was wholly wrong in its rush to judgment about the case, Duke should implement, as soon as possible, the Group’s agenda.
Meanwhile, at Forensics Talk, Kathleen Eckelt rightly critiqued a column by Anne Ream that initially appeared in the Chicago Tribune. “Legal vindication,” fumed Ream, “is not moral vindication,” especially since “we may never know everything that occurred on the night of March 13, 2006, when the Duke lacrosse players threw a team party at an off-campus house.” Ream neglected to say what it is that she doesn’t know, or wants to know. The Attorney General’s report is actually quite comprehensive in providing a party timeline.
Ream continued, “The words and images that came from the residence of the captains of the Duke lacrosse team demand to be addressed, as does the prosecutor’s possibly criminal mishandling of the case. They speak volumes about the climate in the players’ house. So what does our silence in the face of these truths say about us?”
Ream, apparently, has been living in a parallel universe for the past 16 months: rather than silence, there has been more condemnation of “the climate in the players’ house” than perhaps any college spring break party in history.
Ream also faulted AG Roy Cooper for noting Crystal Mangum’s mental problems in his press conference announcing the dismissal. Would Ream have preferred that the state petition the court to unseal Mangum’s nearly 1000 pages of medical records, so everyone could examine her mental health history for themselves?
Perhaps most troublingly, Ream, who founded an organization supposedly is expert in the trauma faced by real rape victims, suggested that Mangum’s behavior was typical of real victims. “That the accuser,” Ream states, “gave conflicting statements to the police is not unusual. A victim’s statements, particularly in the wake of a traumatic attack, can be confused and inconsistent. Memory is resolutely imperfect over time and under the duress of repeated questioning.”
Eckelt’s devastating conclusion: the article is the product of a figure with a “closed, prejudicial mind” and “a hate-filled heart.”
Regarding another bitter-ender, Michael Gustafson takes to task Duke Education professor Joseph DiBona, the first arts and sciences professor (other than Paula McClain, who defiantly said she wouldn’t be intimidated but made no specific analysis) to comment on the case since Duke announced a financial settlement with the three players designed to shield the faculty from potential lawsuits.
In June 2006, as Gustafson notes, DiBona was among the harshest critics of the team among the Duke faculty. He demanded Brodhead’s resignation in light of the president’s decision to reinstate the lacrosse team. Why? “Here [Brodhead] suddenly chooses to ignore the forthcoming jury trial. In other words, it no longer matters whether the team will be found guilty or innocent.” DiBona did not reveal from what source he determined that “the team” was on trial.
DiBona resurfaced in a June 2007 letter to the Herald-Sun. In it, he complained, “We still have not resolved the racial conflicts that emerged over this scandal, nor the issue of sexual exploitation of women, nor how the criminal justice system is held captive by wealth and power, nor how academic priorities are subverted by a dominant athletic culture.” And he still criticized the lacrosse players, though now along different lines: “Let us hear the players, parents, athletic department, university leadership and defense lawyers embrace compassion, forgiveness, and leadership toward making this a better world. We all have a role, and using Nifong as a whipping boy only avoids or delays a realization of our true responsibilities.”
Gustafson pointed to the irony in DiBona’s sudden discovery of forgiveness. “Now that the hoax has been laid bare, now that Nifong's misdeeds have been shown for what they are, and now that Duke has made a settlement so that any actions taken by the administration, faculty, and staff that furthered the baseless prosecution of Mr. Evans, Mr. Finnerty, and Mr. Seligmann are seemingly free from investigation—now we should ‘embrace compassion, forgiveness, and leadership toward making this a better world.’” The letter, he correctly concluded, “is another unfortunate case of adults not taking responsibility for their own actions over the past 16 months.”
In considering the counterfactuals that might have prevented the hoax from ever emerging, one is obvious: the Durham Police could have listened to Sgt. John Shelton, the first officer on the scene and someone who detected almost immediately that Mangum was lying.
As Tortmaster has noted, “There were so many who were actively evil within the Durham Police Department and the office of district attorney. Then, there were the passively evil, those who would allow injustice to occur without comment. One man did not fit either description”—Shelton.
Yet not only have the police failed to recognize that Shelton was right from the start, but Nifong and several members of the force specifically criticized him, both at the time and in their depositions.
As Tortmaster concluded, “Not only did Sgt. Shelton honestly and correctly report as any police officer should, he also failed to bend to pressures from every side. In fact, by all accounts he railed against what was happening to his police department. Something inside this man would not allow the dishonesty to continue. It is almost ironic that the pettiness of Gottlieb, Nifong and Wilson, in decrying the officer in their depositions, really only shined a light on his bravery, honesty and good deeds.”
At the Liestoppers forum, Baldo has a scan of Officer Himan’s handwritten notes from his March 16 interview with Crystal Mangum. These notes contained the only descriptions she ever offered of “Matt,” “Brett,” and “Adam”—with two of the descriptions bearing no resemblance to any of the people ultimately charged.
By this point, of course, Mangum had given differing descriptions of the “attack” to Officers Shelton (no rape) and Sutton (rape by five people), nurse-in-training Levicy (rape by three people with Kim Roberts as accomplice), and the UNC (rape accompanied by being punched in the face and falling back on the bathroom sink, striking her head).
Read through the (graphic) allegations and consider: how was it possible—given this specific description of an “attack”—that no DNA could have been left behind? Yet for months, Nifong, who had access to this entire set of notes, reasoned that DNA (except for a mixture on a false fingernail that his own expert said likely came from transference) was unimportant, while Dr. Meehan informed the Dec. 15 court hearing that finding no suspects’ DNA in this case could be compared to bank robbers leaving behind no fingerprints.
Today Paula (“no to due process”) McClain assumes command as chair of Duke’s Academic Council. So, for the next two years, Duke’s chief faculty spokesperson will be someone associated with the worst excesses of the Group of 88.
A post on Friday had clips of Group of 88 member Michael Hardt making a variety of off-the-wall comments.
In academic self-governance, departments have more or less free reign in hiring decisions. (The exception comes on “diversity” hires, when an administration essentially mandates the hiring of a female or minority candidate.) So part of Hardt’s responsibilities, as a professor of literature at Duke, is to cast votes on personnel matters, such as who should be hired within the department and who should be tenured.
The roster of full professors in the Literature Department reads like a who’s who of anti-lacrosse letter signatories. Of the 16 full professors, Hardt, Ariel Dorfman, Alice Kaplan, Walter Mignolo, and Alberto Moreiras signed both the Group of 88 ad and the “clarifying” statement. Frank Lentricchia was a Group of 88 member; Janice Radway, Kenneth Surin, and Robyn Wiegman affiliated with the “clarifying” faculty.
So nine of the sixteen faculty members listed as full professors on the program’s webpage signed at least one anti-lacrosse public statement.
What kind of professors would a department with such figures be likely to hire? The Literature website lists seven associate and assistant professors:
- Grant Farred (Group of 88, “clarifying” faculty);
- Ranjana Khanna (Group of 88, “clarifying” faculty);
- Wahneema Lubiano (Group of 88 statement author, “clarifying” faculty);
- Susan Willis (neither);
- Tomiko Yoda, (“clarifying” faculty—Yoda’s primary appointment is in Asian & African Languages & Literature)
- Negar Mottahedeh (neither);
- Antonio Viego (Group of 88).
Lest it appear Willis and Mottahedeh depart from the department’s race/class/gender ideological norms, don’t fear. Willis describes her specialty as “revealing the contradictions of capitalism in everyday life and discovering utopian content in culture”; Mottahedeh’s most recent publication is entitled, “Female Body as Metaphor.”
The academic hiring process too often yields self-replication. In this respect, the tenured faculty in the Duke Literature program—people like Hardt—have helped bring to Duke professors whose worldviews are as—or, in the cases of Lubiano and Farred, more—extreme than those of their senior colleagues.