Thursday, May 27, 2010

Character, Ctd.

A few more items, from both sides of the question, regarding themes from the post below.

Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were both named to the 2010 Scholar All-America Team.

Finnerty’s individual awards were listed in the post below; Seligmann received the IMLCA Boston Market Humanitarian Award in 2008; in 2010, he was named first team All-Ivy, All-New England, and a USILA Scholar All-American.


As to the Group of 88: Emory professor Mark Bauerlein did a post at the Chronicle for Higher Education blog noting how my survey of the Group’s post-case activity—which found that many Group members had either been named to deanships or been hired away from Duke for more lucrative opportunities at other institutions—seemed to conflict with the typical victimization narrative of the academy’s far-left fringe. Indeed, that so many of the Group members have been rewarded despite (or perhaps because of?) their behavior is nothing short of astonishing.

Bauerlein noted, “Johnson doesn't mention any signer of the document who has suffered one bit from its publication. If readers of Brainstorm know of anybody who did sign it and has been called to account for it, please add a comment.”

Several commenters expressed outrage at Bauerlein’s post. Wrote Sandy Thatcher,

Mark conveniently ignores the fact that the Duke lacrosse team had a reputation for bad behavior before the incident occurred that gave rise to the “rush to judgment.” It is not as though all these Duke lacrosse players were paragons of virtue. I recall one particularly scurrilous e-mail that was uncovered during the investigation. The players who were named as defendants by the district attorney may have been innocent of the crimes alleged, but there is a history here that helps explain why so many people did assume the worst when this incident happened. The players were no moral saints.

First of all, of course, the players were innocent, not “may have been innocent.” Second, as Bauerlein appropriately comments, “do you really think that ‘a reputation for bad behavior’ is an excuse for the rush to judgment at Duke?” Apparently Ms. Thatcher does.

Several readers suggested that the Group didn’t or probably didn’t do anything much wrong. Opined one, “The ad was premature and made all sorts of bad assumptions, but the same could be said of nearly every op-ed article ever published. Did newspapers and magazines fire all their political commentators who went along with the Iraq WMD claims? (And no, this isn't a tu quoque argument – it’s an analogy. And I don’t think those commentators should have been fired for being wrong.)”

This argument is a rather peculiar one. Most newspapers—to the best of my knowledge—do not sign contracts with their op-ed writers that contain clauses like this one, from Duke’s Faculty Handbook: “Members of the faculty expect Duke students to meet high standards of performance and behavior. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the faculty adheres to comparably high standards in dealing with students . . . Students are fellow members of the university community, deserving of respect and consideration in their dealings with the faculty.”

But perhaps this Bauerlein reader considers dozens of professors signing a statement asserting unequivocally that something “happened” to Crystal Mangum, falsely asserting that the statement contained endorsements from five academic departments, and thanking protesters who had (among other things) urged castration of the lacrosse captains to constitute treating Duke students with “respect” as “fellow members of the university community.”

Moreover, the Group’s behavior contributed to Duke’s (wise) decision to reach a sizable out-of-court settlement with the falsely accused players. I’m no expert in the newspaper industry, but I suspect that few newspapers would willingly keep on staff an op-ed writer whose columns had exposed the paper to massive legal liability.

Then, there’s the typical taunter: “And where oh where is Mark Bauerlein today? Still stuck in the same old job at Emory, still neglecting his students while he does his daily ‘Dumpster Diving,’ digging and digging ever so deeper to find any and all trash and garbage he can get his hands on - either to discredit someone or something or to vent his own frustration at being seen as not professionally worthy of being elevated in his own career.

The last I looked, the average SAT score of incoming Emory freshmen is about the same as that of Duke freshmen (or, for that matter, as that of freshmen at Williams, where I used to teach). But in the world of this (anonymous) commenter, Bauerlein apparently spends his days consumed with jealousy about colleagues at another institution, because he just can’t take his fate in life: that is, teaching at one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

Such ad hominem attacks, it seems to me, are not only rarely logical, but are also revealing of the attacker’s character.


Quasimodo said...

This is still being written three years after the AG declared the players innocent.

If there was ever any doubt whether the damage to the players' reputations remains, here it is :

"I recall one particularly scurrilous e-mail that was uncovered during the investigation. The players who were named as defendants by the district attorney may have been innocent of the crimes alleged, but there is a history here that helps explain why so many people did assume the worst when this incident happened. The players were no moral saints."

William L. Anderson said...

And I hope the attorneys for the players are looking at that quote, for if one needs proof of what Duke and Durham did to the reputations of those kids, here it is.

hman said...

I could not help but notice that the people who are still trying to justify the rush to judgment that occurred in the spring of 2006 have retreated to ever more vague assertions - which are harder to disprove, fwiw. Like "there is a history there" of supposedly bad behavior. But the specifics of the bad behavior they supposedly have in mind are not defined. Maybe they forgot them. Maybe they have not forgotten their old arguments and claims about this case but have learned that many long time supporters of the kids still remember exactly why those kinds of claims and arguments were and still are unsupportable and many of them would find the energy to type out a strong and well practiced rebuttal.
So they keep everything vague. Maybe that represents progress.

Kilgore said...

Bigotry - You can shoot it, but you just can't kill it.

Thanks for keeping us informed KC.

AMac said...

It's worth following KC's link to read the comments following Bauerlein's essay (17 of them at this writing). As a group, they are much more reasonable than this DiW entry led me to expect.

Sure, there are two or three pseudonymous entrants to the ongoing Defend-The-Indefensible competition. "Only an intellectual could say something so stupid," as a noted wag is reputed to have quipped a while back.

Mostly, the commenters who might be favorable to the politics of the Group of 88 put quibbles to Bauerline, which he effectively addresses. Those among the readers who liked the Hoax and would have cheered the pre-ordained politically correct outcome have little to say. They kind-of lost this round -- best to send it down the memory hole and move forward. Doubtless the glorious East-Is-Red future holds many more such "Who? Whom?" morality plays that can be better spun to their liking.

Quasimodo said...

How much of this continuing damage to the players' reputations is due to the court's delay in permitting the full truth about the Duke frame-up to become public?

What images would 'Duke lacrosse' conjure up in the public mind if the public were aware of all the facts? Some of the players acted very honorably in resisting pressure to lie for the prosecutor.

Yet when these players go looking for jobs after graduation, what does "Duke lacrosse" mean on their resume? Do the false images concocted by Nifong and his enablers still cling to them?

These players have sought relief from the courts to help get those lies and distortions corrected.

We are four years after these events, there still has not been closure, the lies still remain uncleared, while the courts have dithered over such things as the importance of Nifong's "bankruptcy".

We are now learning whether or not the court system is itself so much a part of the establishment that a citizen who has a cause against that establishment will face nearly insurmountable obstacles in getting his case heard.

Anonymous said...

I tried to talk to the father of a group of 88 member about a year after Until Proven Innocent was published. He is a lawyer and I thought he might address how mistakes had been made in the judicial process which led the 88 members astray in the heat of the moment. Instead he became defensive and would not discuss the facts at all just ending his argument with "those guys were criminals as shown by their previous record and "something happened."" I recognize that he would support his child but not to want to look at the totally corrupt judicial process as undermining the case for other women just floored me. I agree with 8:55 that the tort case needs to go forward because the judicial system is taking a hit here.

Anonymous said...

@ Quasimodo

Two comments about your comment.

(1) If justice delayed is justice denied, the rules of civil procedure, with their astronomical expense and interminable delays, mean that the US "justice" system is SYSTEMATICALLY unjust. It is simply a boondoggle for the legal profession.

At one time, it was primarily the court of chancery that was reputed to be a scheme for the enrichment of lawyers at the expense of the innocent public. In the modern US, however, the scheme has been expanded to include the entirety of civil and administrative law. The Duke case is standard procedure: all the lawyers are collecting fat fees while nothing happens on the merits. One case I was personally involved in got caught up in an interlocutory appeal, which took seven years before anyone reverted to the actual facts of the case.
(You may think think I exaggerate that it took seven years for the court of appeal to make a decision, the court en banc to make a second decision, and the supreme court to make decisions on granting certiorari and then on the merits of the point of law involved, before remanding the case to the trial court for discovery, etc. I do not.)

(2) Of course, in a more fundamental sense, you are completely right. The problem is that private litigation is a poor method for righting public wrongs. This whole thing should have been addressed by criminal prosecution of those who conspired to subvert justice, including those at Duke who actively helped the police and district attorney's office intentionally and repeatedly violate the civil rights of the team. Civil remedies do not necessarily or even usually lead to public disclosure of the "full truth." Most of the discovery will be under seal, etc.

It is disgraceful that neither North Carolina nor the US had the courage to pursue what was a criminal conspiracy fueled by racism and political opportunism.


Anonymous said...

Is thatcher a Communist?

Anonymous said...

KC -- The Group of 88 did not get it.

They do not get it.

They never will get it.

There is a fundamental disconnect between truth as we understand it. You believe truth is established by facts and evidence, by relentless pursuit and questioning. The Group of 88 view truth as fungible, bending to what is necessary to conform to the metanarrative. We see discredited theories and lack of character. The 88 (and like minded in academia) see a successfully exploited opportunity to spread theories that no one would take seriously otherwise. Read Saul Alinsky to better understand the 88and academia.

THe lacrosse team was everything the 88 hate. White. Male. Popular. Well adjusted. Strong students. Strong families. Athletic. Promising careers. Well to do backgrounds. High and assumed expectations. Recall how they attacked the women's team for supporting the men during the crisis (the women's team fit all the hated demographics except one, and that will do in a pinch). It was more important to tear down the players and their families to advance the metanarrative than concede the truth. Alleva captured this mentality in his succinct observation: It's not about the truth.

THe fact that the 88 enjoy continued success in academia says more about academia than the 88. None are so blind as those that refuse to see.


sceptical said...

Good article about Reade Seligmann, who is graduating from Brown University today.

Anonymous said...

They are still hung up on the email, aren't they?

halides1 said...

Sandy Thatcher wrote, “Mark conveniently ignores the fact that the Duke lacrosse team had a reputation for bad behavior before the incident occurred that gave rise to the "rush to judgment." It is not as though all these Duke lacrosse players were paragons of virtue. I recall one particularly scurrilous e-mail that was uncovered during the investigation.”

I think that Ms. Thatcher ignores some of the reasons for that reputation. By the time of the indictment, the prosecutor and police had leaked information to the press that was prejudicial and irrelevant. The email in question had no evidentiary value whatsoever; its release was orchestrated to make the team look bad. One player’s outside-a-bar scuffle became the principal subject for articles in three separate papers. One administrator took four incidents of a certain type of bad student behavior, one involving a lacrosse player, and concocted a statistic to the effect that 25% of these incidents involved players (I have forgotten the details). To sum up, law enforcement deserves the primary responsibility for harming the players’ reputations, and the Duke faculty and the press amplified the smear, wittingly or unwittingly.