As his committee began to take shape, CCI head Bob Thompson received a number of e-mails reminding him that the coterie of extremists that swarmed the Duke campus in spring 2006 extended beyond the Group of 88.
In early April 2008, Tsahai Tafari, Ph.D.* (who described herself as an African-American woman) told Thompson that “I have been afraid of the young white men on campus at Duke for a very long time, and the racist assault and . . . the rape basically confirmed my fears.” She complained that in her lab, she was forced to listen to people talking about the “lacrosse case” who—“horrific in their lack of humanity”—suggested that the players might be innocent.
Such speech, apparently, needed to be prohibited at Duke.
In mid-April 2006 (several days after DNA tests that Mike Nifong had promised would clear the innocent had shown no matches to any lacrosse player), Denise Jackson, the mother of a Duke female student, complained to Thompson. Mrs. Jackson reported that, while walking to class, her daughter had seen “a group of students who choose to wear T-shirts with the words ‘We Support the Duke Lacrosse Team.’”
Perhaps the students had a right to their viewpoint, Mrs. Jackson conceded, but the administration nonetheless needed “to consider requesting” Duke students to refrain from wearing such T-shirts. Such free speech, she feared, would “inflame tensions”—especially among “African-American” employees of the university.
Mrs. Jackson appeared unaware of how her insinuation that African-American employees might not be able to contain their rage built off negative racial stereotypes of blacks.
And from off campus, a California lawyer named Christopher Wilson offered an astonishing suggestion: that the CCI should “make sure [Duke students] vote in elections for DA Nifong and his ilk.” I e-mailed Wilson to ask if, in hindsight, he stood by his suggestion.
Wilson did not reply.
The CCI archive also preserved two previously unpublished documents from extremist campus groups. The first, dated March 30, 2006, came from a group calling itself “Concerned Citizens at Duke University,” with whose leaders Brodhead met at the same time he was refusing to meet with parents or any representatives of the lacrosse players. Most of the CCDU members appear to have been African-American, although no list of the organization’s membership survives.
“We are appalled and insulted,” the CCDU missive asserted, “by the university’s denial of the interrelatedness of white privilege, class, racism, and sexism in this issue. We want open and direct recognition of this incident as a hate crime by the University.” (The CCDU actually appeared to be demanding that the University “recognize” that the lacrosse players had committed a “hate crime,” rather than, as they wrote, that unnamed others “recognize” the affair “as a hate crime by the University.”) In either case, for the CCDU, an unsupported allegation by a mentally unstable woman, and denied by the accused, appeared to be enough to establish a “hate crime.”
In a fantastic interpretation of the Brodhead administration’s motives, CCDU members claimed that “the university is cultivating and sustaining a culture of privilege and silence that allows inappropriate behavior to plague the campus.” Even stranger, the missive faulted Brodhead and his advisors for operating under the premise that “the oppressed are always asked to justify their oppression, to put their hurt, trauma, and pain that those who are not oppressed can understand, although those feelings have no rational basis.” How the administration was supposed to predict or respond to “irrational” feelings the CCDU members never said.
What were the University’s specific faults, according to the CCDU?
(1) “President Brodhead has failed to acknowledge of show sympathy for the family of the victim [sic] involved in the case.” (These Duke undergraduate students appeared not to understand that a mentally unstable woman claiming she was raped did not, in and of itself, make her a “victim.”)
(2) “There exists a culture on campus in which male athletes are able to exercise privilege through sexual misconduct.” (The only evidence cited for this preposterous assertion was Samiha Khanna’s “interview” with false accuser Crystal Mangum.)
(3) The lack of “full-credit courses dedicated to foster dialogue about what constitutes harassment and devoted to what constitutes a comfortable environment in which students can discuss the intricacies of social identifiers (Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Class, Age, Ability, Ethnicity).” (This was an early version of the Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative.)
Incredibly, the CCDU framed these ruminations as consistent with “respect of the legal institutions of due process.”
To place the most favorable possible spin on their actions, the undergraduate students in the CCDU responded emotionally and temporarily lost their intellectual bearings; their letter appeared five days after the Khanna interview with false accuser Mangum. Thirty-two days later, however, no such excuse existed.
On May 1, 2006, members of the Duke Sociology Department produced one of the most troubling documents that appeared at any point in the case. A five-page letter from Group of 88 radical Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, nine other professors in the Sociology Department, and 27 Sociology Ph.D. students was coordinated by Serena Sebring, the Sociology graduate student who joined Wahneema Lubiano on an April 12, 2006 panel lamenting that “since the [negative] DNA results were returned Monday, we [have been] moving backwards.”
The Sociology letter approvingly cited three of the most pernicious documents produced by Duke: Houston Baker’s March 29, 2006 racist screed, which mentioned, in a negative fashion, the race of the lacrosse players ten times; Brodhead’s guilt-presuming April 5, 2006 letter; and the Group of 88’s April 6, 2006 statement. The 37 Sociology Signatories expressed their “deep concern about local manifestations of racism, sexual coercion, and assault,” and demanded “lasting institutional change” that would recognize how “recent events involving the lacrosse team are embedded within a broader culture.” The Sociology Signatories did not acknowledge the wide dispute as to what these “recent events” actually were: they had already made up their minds as to what occurred—and why it did.
Unsurprisingly, the Signatories praised the politically correct Bowen/Chambers report, and maintained that the lacrosse case exposed problems in “issues of gender, masculinity, privilege, wealth, race and ethnicity, and inequality.” The letter called for Duke to adopt a combination of hate-crimes legislation and thought control. The Signatories demanded that the administration rewrite the Judicial Code to recognize “actions that inflict, threaten, or cause injuries that may be corporal, psychological, material, or social, in which victims are presumed representatives of a bias-related classification (i.e., race, gender and sexuality).”
What, exactly, is a “social” injury to a “presumed representative of a bias-related classification (i.e., race, gender and sexuality)”? This Orwellian conception of a student judicial system would subject white male students to charges for thinking the wrong way on issues such as “diversity” or affirmative action.
The CCI, declared the Sociology Signatories, needed to create a culture that was “proactively anti-racist, anti-sexist, non-homophobic, non-heteronormative, and anti-classist.” How does this jargon translate into plain English? Duke recognizing that the “myth of the meritocratic ideal . . . allows individuals to justify the continuation of racial and gender equality.” This belief was part of the “oppression” that existed on the Duke campus, and could only be overcome with—as expected—new “admissions and hiring” practices to favor minorities and those who thought appropriately on “diversity” issues.
As had the Group of 88, the Sociology Signatories both presumed guilt and showed indifference to Anglo-American legal norms. “An exclusive focus on whether the administrative response operated within the scope of the law would ignore the important responsibilities the Administration has to students, faculty, and staff, as well as the citizens of Durham. The entire Durham community is directly affected by this situation, in particular, and the culture of Duke more generally. The events that transpired on March 13th [and, again, at the time this letter was written, grave doubts existed as to exactly what “the events that transpired on March 13th” were] call for an immediate response and decisive leadership to ensure that everyone affected can be certain that the administration of Duke will never tolerate any form of racial, sexual, or gender violence from any individual of the Duke community regardless of their race, class, and privilege status.”
This passage, which reads almost as a parody of political correctness, makes no sense unless the Signatories assumed that an incident of “racial, sexual, or gender violence” actually occurred.
The problem was a national one, the sociologists exclaimed, since “at Duke and many campuses, sexual assault is endemic.” The evidence that “sexual assault” is more common at “Duke and many campuses” than anyplace else in society? The Sociology Signatories didn’t say. Why allow facts to interfere with the metanarrative?
The Sociology letter is of interest in one additional respect. Written before the backlash against the Group of 88’s rush to judgment occurred, the Sociology document celebrated the connection between the case and the Group of 88’s ad--in sharp contrast to the later efforts of Group apologists Charlie Piot and Robert Zimmerman to distance the Group of 88 statement from the lacrosse case. The Signatories proudly explained that “the term ‘social disaster’ was used to describe the lacrosse incident [emphasis added] in an ad sponsored by Duke’s African and African-American Studies Department in the April 6, 2006 issue of the Chronicle.”
The documents produced by the CCDU and the Sociology Signatories showed that, indeed, a profound problem of campus culture existed at Duke in spring 2006. But the CCI, of course, had no interest in exploring how and why these faculty members, graduate students, and Duke undergraduates so willingly interpreted campus events through an extremist version of the race/class/gender prism, and so willingly disregarded Anglo-American legal norms.
On Monday, I’ll post some of the documents from the CCI archive.