Q: How difficult was it to maintain a timeline/deadline while writing the book given the constant new developments in the case? It seemed that things continued to change and develop right up until the publication. Was it difficult to format the book given the swings in the case?
A: This wasn’t as much of a problem as it might have seemed at first glance. The book involved considerable research beyond the blog, so many of the shifts in the case I could anticipate in advance. That said, this was a case that always had more than its share of surprises, and both Stuart and I were working very hard keeping up with things right up until the book went to press.
Q: Just how much more could be written with what has developed since publication? It almost seems as if a second edition is possible…ie Nifong disbarred, Meehan fired, City Council vote to investigate the case, Durham insurance company threat to drop them, the bogus initial responses from DPD and Baker, the civil suit, the feds deferring to the state of NC, Gottlieb, Himan, Chalmers fade that is currently DPD, appeals, proposed changes in Durham, where Crystal wound up? etc.
A: Comparatively little, in the grand scheme of things, because—for purposes of length—any item added would needed to have been complemented by a subtracted item. There were a number of items from the Gottlieb and Himan depositions that I would have liked to have included in the text—but they’re in the notes (as extended notes). We have the disbarment and the Baker/Chalmers report in the epilogue, which was most fortunate: the book would have been incomplete without mentioning those events. All told, I would guess that the post-book material would have entailed around 5 pages of additions.
Q: Whose idea was it to write the book?
Q: How did you and Stuart end up working together?
A: I had never met Stuart before this case—though I was a regular reader of his columns. I e-mailed him after his first column on the case, and we had regular exchanges after that. Once it became clear in December that the case was moving toward a rapid conclusion, he asked if I wanted to co-author the book, and I said yes.
Q: And how did you allocate the work?
A: Mostly on the basis of who did the original research. For instance, Stuart attended the DC trial, so he wrote the first draft of that section. I had done most of the research on the medical (Levicy) issues, so I wrote the first draft of those sections. The book went through 10 or 12 drafts, however, and our writing blended as each draft proceeded.
Q: After further reflections are there any changes that you would make to UPI?
A: The book had three errors of fact (which we corrected in the notes); obviously, it would have been better had those not appeared in the book.
The only other issue I might have changed (and this applies to the blog as well) is to have comprehensively examined the alcohol section statistics of the Coleman Committee report. Two sources whose judgment I very much valued repeatedly pressed me to look at the figures that the committee used (which were supplied by Dean Bryan), on the grounds that they were weighted against the lacrosse players. I didn’t do so, because the issue struck me as irrelevant—I always considered the report an exoneration of the assault on the players’ character. Had I anticipated that Coleman would have, more than a year later, taken a far more aggressive public stance on the issue, I would have done more to examine the statistics behind the report.
Q: Did you and Stuart Taylor disagree about anything in regards to the writing of UPI? How was it resolved?
A: We didn’t disagree on anything of consequence. There were lots of issues that we discussed; in each case, we reached consensus, usually by e-mail discussions.
Q: Based on what we have learned to date about the Duke lacrosse rape hoax, would the creation of faculty Truth and Reconciliation Committees at universities across the country be an appropriate effort to protect students, prevent abuse and promote faculty/student communication?
A: Yes. Which is why, unfortunately, figures like the Group of 88 will adamantly oppose any such move, or anything that shines a spotlight on their teaching or research practices.
Q: The central theme of your book is the threat to justice (and therefore to all of us) from mindless "political correctness". Is there anything further you wish to add to the theme now, 18 months later?
A: To me, the most striking elements of the case came after it was clear that Nifong and Mangum had perpetrated a fraud. Yet even then, not only could the Group of 88 not apologize, but they continued to offer absurd defenses (“drunkenness” happened, the Piot article) of their behavior. Similarly, people like Bob Ashley or Byron Calame provided bizarre rationalizations of their papers’ approach to the case. That record suggests an extreme closed-mindedness that should concern anyone who cares about the academy or the media.
Q: Many of us are dissatisfied with the discovery, through your help, of the danger our children face from the world of injustice thriving on many of our campuses. Not much has changed, not even on the Duke campus. Is there any follow up you would recommend?
A: One easy answer: the situation is not going to get better on its own. One purpose of the Group Profile series was to provide a sense of what passes for “scholarship” in many disciplines, with an eye toward pointing out that such professors control future hires as well. The academy, in short, is likely to get more extreme: if this case occurred in 2016 rather than 2006, with the likely hiring patterns at Duke over the next decade I suspect we would have dealt with a “Group of 188” rather than a Group of 88.
The response, therefore, needs to come from other stakeholders in higher education: trustees, alumni, and parents. Bob Steel has made it clear—for whatever reason—that he has no problem as Duke BOT chairman with a faculty whose personnel policies produce figures like Wahneema Lubiano. Hopefully, future Duke trustees will look differently on the situation. Engaged alumni can influence enormous impact on a university environment—as has occurred, most recently, at
Parents, however, tend to be passive on academic matters—in part because that’s the way it’s always been, in part for practical reasons. Higher education is a seller’s market—every elite university has far more applicants than it can accept. So it’s my sense that most parents are grateful that their sons or daughters get into a good school, and don’t rock the boat. (In this respect, the Dowds are among the heroes of the case—rather than quietly going away, they stood up for principle, and won.)
I hope that, at some point, a group of parents will start approaching higher education from the standpoint of consumers—perhaps by asking why they should spend nearly $50,000 a year to have a university employee call their children “secret racists” (Farred); or suggest without foundation that their children advocated genocide against Native Americans (Wood); or disseminate information about their children that the professor either knew or should have known was false (Holloway).
Such pressure, right now, doesn’t exist. But it’s not hard to imagine even small, media-savvy groups of parents (20-30) exercising considerable influence.
Q: If you had it to do over again, would you? Are the results you have seen worth the effort you have put into it?
A: Yes; and yes.
Q: Did Duke, or anyone acting on its behalf, threaten you with litigation for any of your postings?
A: Yes, a threat arrived several months ago from one member of the Group of 88. It claimed that the blog had said defamatory things about her that the blog, in fact, had not said.
Q: Did Jim Coleman ever respond/apologize to you and/or Stuart for his letter to the Chronicle?
A: He did not apologize, nor did he supply evidence to substantiate his claims. He has, however, come under attack for similarly overblown rhetoric in another post-case development.
Q: Are you considering a second book that details your blog experience and the responses to it?
A: No. In this respect, the blog stands on its own.
Q. Looking at the current status of this case as an historian, do you think this has been a significant historical event, and by that I mean do you think this case and its aftermath will produce significant changes outside of
, and/or will be a topic in history textbooks in years to come? Durham
A: I’m going to post some closing thoughts tomorrow about the historical legacy of the case, and will discuss this question then.
Q. Although there have been many comments about racial factors that fueled these events, do you think any longer-term systemic changes resulting from these events will benefit one race more than another?
A: To the extent that this case leads to due process-friendly changes in the
Q: Who was the nexus between Duke and the DPD during the early phase of the hoax investigation, supplying information to the DPD that could only have been accessed by University personnel?
A: The answer is unclear. The State Bar depositions suggested a closer relationship than Duke had previously acknowledged. Duke has, of course, never provided a full accounting of the DPD’s performance in the case (beyond the embarrassing Bowen/Chambers report), and it’s unlikely the University will ever do so.
Q: Who provided Ryan McFadyen's email to the DPD? And who released it to the public?
A: This is one of the great unanswered questions of the case. Based on the information now available, it appears as if someone at Duke is the most likely culprit, but there’s no hard evidence one way or the other. Had a federal investigation occurred, this question might have been answered. Absent one, however, I suspect we’ll never know.
Q: How did the pressure brought to sign the original and subsequent statements from the faculty manifest itself? It would seem to ripple out from a few ring-leaders.
A: That is my sense. The ringleaders were Lubiano, Karla Holloway, and then-AAAS chairman Charles Payne. Not every faculty member on campus was asked to sign: Lubiano appears to have solicited signatures only from departments and professors she considered ideologically predisposed to back the statement’s agenda.
Q: Given that both the blog and the book contain information that could only have come from Duke faculty, without naming names and citing specific information, what was the nature of the cooperation you received from Duke faculty after your prominence in the case became known?
A: I developed a cooperative relationship with many sources, including quite a few people at Duke. Many of my sources were in a difficult position: they were outraged by the Group of 88's conduct, but at the same time, publicly criticizing the Group could expose them to retaliation--on the job front for those without tenure, in future events on campus for those with tenure. I wholly understood their dilemma: if this case proved nothing else, it was that the Group of 88 couldn't be counted on to behave in an ethical or a professional manner.
Q: What type of reactions (negative or positive) did you receive from Duke faculty?
A: It ran the gamut. With one (private) exception, the Group of 88 followed the lead of William Chafe, Alex Rosenberg, and Charlie Piot. On the other hand, I had positive reactions from 40 or so Duke professors who wrote me at various points in the case. I also had a perfectly professional relationship with the Duke administration, especially John Burness, even though I grew increasingly critical of Brodhead's decisions as the blog progressed.
Q: What first aroused your interest in the case enough to start this blog? Did you ever think your work would bring so many readers?
A: The Group of 88’s ad stimulated my initial interest in the case—it struck me at the time, and continues to strike me, as a betrayal of the signatories’ duties as professors, and I can’t think of a similar document (where so many professors rushed to judgment and in the process increased the vulnerability of their own students) in the history of American higher education.
I initially estimated that the blog would attract 100 readers a day; I would have considered a 1000-viewer week well beyond expectations. As it turned out, since 8-28-06, the blog has had just over 3.5 million unique visitors and just over 6.2 million hits.
Q: What motivated you to keep posting every night at midnight?
A: Pragmatic concerns. I believed (correctly) that the only way for the blog to develop a consistent readership was through consistent posts. I settled on the 12.01 idea by imitating the Times and Washington Post, which always do their first daily editions on-line at midnight. I had been a regular reader of both for some time.
Q: Did you interview or attempt to interview Crystal Gail Mangum?
A: I never interviewed her. I tried to contact her, though I didn’t expect a positive response, and didn’t receive one. That said, I doubt an interview would have been productive. This is a woman with deep psychological problems who spent a year constantly changing her story—and therefore anything that she said, on any issue, wouldn’t have had a shred of credibility.
Q: Did you ever get a response, comment or threat from Nurse Levicy?
A: No, no, and no. I did make several attempts to interview Levicy; she repeatedly did not respond.
Q: How important do you think DIW and UPI have been in putting things right in the public eye?
A: That’s not a question I can really answer. The fact that both the blog and the book received positive reviews, however, is an encouraging sign.
Q: What is Gaynor’s problem?
A: No comment . . . :)
Q: Why do you think they promoted Cpl. Addison?
A: Because the DPD still hasn’t come to grips with the fact that it spent months in a conscious attempt to frame three innocent people and send them to jail for 30 years.
Q: Do you think
was ripe for such a hoax, or was it just a “perfect storm?” North Carolina
A: I don’t think this was a
Q: Have you enjoyed DIW?
A: It certainly was an interesting experience. I learned a tremendous amount—both about criminal justice issues and about media matters. In this respect, the experience will be a great help to me in the classroom, as well.
Q: What was the most frustrating issue in this case for you and how did you deal with it?
A: The most frustrating issue was seeing the far left (Piot, Robyn Wiegman, a few Group members) imitate the O’Reilly/Limbaugh argument and suggest that stray, extreme, anonymous comments reflected the viewpoint of the blog author. In part, this criticism came from a Luddite perspective—a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of blogs. In part, the criticism suggested a bankruptcy of ideas from the far left on this case.
I resolved the problem, of course, through comment moderation, which I imposed with greatest reluctance.
Q: Do you believe that discovery in the civil case will be so incriminating that the feds and/or NC Atty. Gen. will no longer be able to pass the buck on an investigation?
A: Unfortunately, no. I would be amazed if
Q: Do you believe that Judge Smith telegraphed a message to the Atty. Gen and the Feds when he opined in the Nifong contempt hearing that he did not believe a conspiracy had taken place between Nifong and other parties.
A: No. It’s worth remembering that at the criminal contempt trial, Meehan offered what was at least the fourth distinct version of his interactions with Nifong. Smith, therefore, was operating from a contradictory evidentiary base. And Meehan wasn’t on trial, so a finding against Meehan would have been gratuitous.
Q: Have your conversations with the attorneys in the case led you to believe that Nifong made his first mistake (so far as the alienation of the legal community goes) when he "asked why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and has done nothing wrong."
A: Yes--there were two particularly egregious Nifong statements, remarks that cut to the core of the legal profession. This was one; the other, uttered during the campaign at a time when the Grievance Committee was considering whether or not to bring immediate charges against him, had the then-DA claiming that community disagreement over the merits of a case in and of itself was a reason why a case needed to go to trial--effectively rationalizing political trials.
Q: What has been your most thrilling experience while working on the lacrosse case?
A: In the courtroom on Dec. 15, 2006, hearing Brian Meehan say "yes" when Jim Cooney asked if the lab director and Mike Nifong had entered into an intentional agreement not to report all of the DNA test results.