Though President Brodhead’s apology attracted the most attention at the
Paul Haagen. For me—and for others coming into the case from outside of Duke—the introduction to Haagen was not a welcome one: his “helmet sports” remark from the deeply flawed N&O March 25 article.
Yet as I learned more about the case, it became clear that Haagen’s role was almost wholly a positive one. As chairman of the Academic Council, Haagen ensured Jim Coleman’s appointment as chairman of the committee that investigated the lacrosse players’ behavior. He also promoted one of the few unequivocally good ideas to come out of the whole affair—the faculty athletics associate program.
That his successor, Paula McClain, said that (unnamed) colleagues were “aghast” that Haagen’s idea would even be considered gives a sense of what might have occurred had the Academic Council been under less inspired leadership. As Sports Law Blog tartly observed, “Apparently, Professor McClain—who is co-director of Duke’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences—believes that in the aftermath of the Duke lacrosse scandal, the University needs to distance itself from its sports teams, rather than embrace them.”
At the law school conference, Haagen offered a detailed explanation of his approach to the case:
1) He believed (correctly) that Duke faculty needed to avoid specific comments on the criminal case.
2) He did everything he could to have the response conform to existing procedures and to create a common base of information to the shifting set of questions about the team. The Coleman Committee resulted from these goals.
3) He wanted to minimize the sense of isolation among Duke athletes and their coaches, and he personally reached out to facilitate exchanges.
4) He hoped to minimize tensions among the faculty—no easy task when Steve Baldwin, the first professor to criticize the Group of 88, was greeted with an implicit call for violence from one colleague and an intellectually dubious claim of racism by another.
In the end, Haagen hailed the “remarkable” performance of Duke coaches—people who felt “assaulted,” but didn’t become bitter and showed impressive self-restraint. And he raised a question that should form an important lesson of the case: when professors have an opportunity to raise their issues, how aggressively should they exploit that, and what are their other responsibilities? Haagen noted that his “deepest concern was that a number of people didn’t ask very seriously what the tradeoffs were when they used an opportunity to push an issue.”
Sergio Quintana. Quintana, a reporter for NBC17,* recalled that when the crisis began, he spoke to some Duke students who felt that the University was throwing the players under the bus. These students, however, were afraid to speak on camera, lest they get in trouble.
Indeed, if any "listening" ad with anonymous student quotes needed to appear in spring 2006, it was from these students, who understandably feared speaking out. With one grade-retaliation lawsuit so powerful that Duke settled out of court with a public announcement that the grade was changed; and with at least five cases of unprofessional classroom behavior documented in UPI, the students’ concerns seemed reasonable.
Such fear of retaliation wasn’t confined to the student body, of course. Take the case of History professor and Group of 88 member Susan Thorne. Last winter, Thorne told a lacrosse player (in writing) that she understood the harm that the Group’s statement caused, and planned to pen a public essay expressing her regret for the statement. Instead, a few weeks later, she signed the “clarifying” document, whose signatories reaffirmed the Group statement and announced that they would not apologize.
When asked why she had gone back on her word and not published her apology, Thorne coldly replied that “If I publish something like this . . . my voice won’t count for much in my world.”
Quintana’s recollections and Thorne’s behavior serve as reasons why the “Campus Culture Initiative” seemed so misguided. What accounts for a faculty culture where a tenured professor like Thorne believes that she has to betray her own students to maintain influence; or where a host of professors considered it proper to use class time to denounce the lacrosse team?
Those questions about campus culture few, if any, figures in the administration have proved willing to address, even as the CCI focused on the race/class/gender ideological triumvirate so appealing to the Group of 88.
Michael Cassidy. Another clearly good thing to come from the lacrosse case: Duke’s commitment of $1.25 million over five years to expand the
Cassidy, a former
Finally, the institutional response panel provided a useful reminder—while Duke might have had to base its decisions in this case on incomplete information, that condition applies to all crises.
[Note: I am traveling to Boston today for a talk at the Harvard Club; comment moderation, therefore, will be sporadic at best.]