There were a few high-profile instances in the case in which events conspired to prove a figure of authority unequivocally and publicly wrong. The most spectacular example of the pattern involved the New York Times August 25, 2006 front-page article, which asserted, “By disclosing pieces of evidence favorable to the defendants, the defense has created an image of a case heading for the rocks. But an examination of the entire 1,850 pages of evidence . . . shows . . . there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury.”
In his April 12, 2007 press conference, Roy Cooper stated, “We believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges . . . we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house on that night.” With those words, the attorney general of North Carolina effectively asserted that the New York Times got a major story completely wrong: there was “no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house on that night” on April 12, 2007, just as there was “no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house on that night” based on the 1850 pages of discovery files that Duff Wilson purported to have examined in August 2006.
A similar error—whose magnitude has become apparent only as time has passed—involved the trio of William Bowen, Julius Chambers, and Danielle Carr Ramdath (the latter identified in the trio’s report, for no apparent reason, as an “African-American woman”). In April 2006, Duke tasked Bowen and Chambers—who then added the “African-American woman” to their team—with evaluating the administration’s response to the lacrosse case.
We now have a clearer sense of what the administration’s mismanagement (or malevolence) in the early stages of the case cost Duke—millions of dollars in legal settlements, continuing exposure to two massive federal lawsuits, and (according to filings of its insurer) legal costs that have already exceeded $5 million.
What caused such legal exposure? Among other things: (1) The administration’s failure to enforce the university’s own anti-harassment policies; (2) The administration’s failure to enforce the Faculty Handbook; (3) The administration’s disregard of student FERPA rights; (4) The administration’s allegedly one-sided public statements; (5) The president’s failure to properly supervise one of his employees, former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, who offered unsubstantiated and varying versions of events to local law enforcement; (6) The firing without due process or cause of former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler.
Given that Bowen, Chambers, and Carr Ramdath were supposed to—in Bowen’s own words—“address a specific set of Q[uestion]s posed to us, all of them pertaining to how the Duke administration handled a complex and very messy situation,” a reader of their final document might have encountered some analysis of exactly what the Duke administration did that exposed the university to such massive legal liability.
A reader of the actual Bowen/Chambers report would, however, find none of the above issues discussed—with the exception of the Pressler firing, with the report authors praised as “merited,” with the caveat that it might have come sooner. Instead, as could be expected from “diversity”-obsessed authors, the report focused on the need for the Duke administration to have more “diversity” (except, of course, of the intellectual type).
In 2007, Carr Ramdath informed a lacrosse parent, “We stand entirely by the report, which no one has questioned.” The statement was blatantly untrue: in the highest-profile contemporary criticism, 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.”
Perhaps, I wondered, the Bowen/Chambers/Carr Ramdath trio was instructed by Duke to avoid mention of any administrative conduct that might expose the university to future legal action. I posed the question to Bowen in a recent e-mail, and he denied any such limitations: “We were given total freedom to ask the Qs we thought appropriate and give the responses we thought were correct, but all within the boundaries of our—properly limited—charge.”
What was his rationalization, then, for not mentioning behavior that has cost Duke millions of dollars in a report that was supposed to analyze the Duke administration’s behavior? “No part of our charge involved the conduct of the local prosecutor, the merits of the case, etc.” But, of course, Duke’s legal liability didn’t come from “the conduct of the local prosecutor” or even “the merits of the case.” It came as a result of specific decisions made or not made by Duke administrators.
Civil suits, in an ideal world, are supposed to rectify wrongdoing while also deterring against future improper behavior. In the “diversity” world of Bowen, Chambers, and Carr Ramdath, it seems, there’s still nothing the Brodhead administration should have done differently regarding the behavior that cost Duke millions of dollars.
Another figure from the ideological fringe of the case recently returned to the news. Grant Farred—the Duke literature professor who parlayed a public denunciation of Duke students who registered to vote in Durham as “secret racists” and a book claiming Yao Ming was the greatest threat to the American empire into a promotion and a tenured position at Cornell—got a mention from Stanley Fish. The New York Times web columnist featured an item on a particularly odious development in higher education: demands for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
Farred, predictably, supports the move. “The boycott or the divestment campaign,” writes he, “is the mode of political protest that is left after all other forms of struggle have been tried.” Moreover, he has claimed that such a move is fully consistent with support for academic freedom, since, “Academic freedom has to be conceived as a form of political solidarity.”
Translation: professors should be able to say or do anything they want regarding political issues, including in the classroom (as long, of course, as such actions are consistent with a race/class/gender worldview), and be able to call the action “academic.”
But Farred’s anti-Israel extremism should come as no surprise: as I noted early in the case, a remarkable overlap existed between faculty anti-Israel extremists and faculty anti-lacrosse extremists. And, as with Bowen, Farred’s conduct suggests that he sees nothing wrong with his behavior in the lacrosse case.
Hat tip: E.F.