Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brodhead's Extraordinary Address

[Update, Friday, 12.45pm: On his own blog, Peter Arcidiacono has responded to Brodhead; I urge people to read the post in full.

Arcidiacono observes that the kind of research Brodhead specifically criticized--"analyzing average differences in choices across demographic groups--race included"--is "standard practice not just in economics but in all quantitative social sciences," and therefore "to suggest that this is insulting disparages the quantitative social sciences as a whole."

Brodhead obviously knows this: indeed, this type of social science research, in a less detailed form than what exists in the academy today, provided the underpinning for many of the civil rights decisions in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The only possible inference, therefore, to take from Brodhead's criticism is that at least on issues of race, this research strategy is acceptable only when it yields results that conform to the beliefs of the campus majority.

Arcidiacono adds some personal context which makes Brodhead's behavior even more troubling: "This squashing of divergent ideas also shows up in the administration's lack of defense of the study beyond issues of academic freedom and, more importantly, in the administration's lack of a substantive conversation with either myself or my co-authors. Personally, the latter is what I have found most disturbing about the whole controversy. As I have repeatedly made clear, I am happy to talk with anyone who has concerns about my work. I was disappointed when the Black Student Alliance (BSA) chose to go directly to the press rather than engage in a discussion with me--the called-for forum has not happened. But these are undergraduates. This is the president of the university. To publicly disparage my work without engaging in a conversation with me is not something I would have expected from Brodhead. To top it off, the speech alludes to administrators working on the issues raised in the paper with the BSA and yet there still have been no substantive discussions of the issues with the authors. Thank you God for tenure."]

As a university in the South—and as a university also associated in the past with the upper class—Duke contributed to the Jim Crow system that governed the region (de jure and for some time thereafter de facto) for much of the 20th century. Duke’s greatest president, Terry Sanford, courageously and forcefully confronted the legacy of this past.

Sanford resigned the Duke presidency in 1985 to launch a successful bid for the U.S. Senate. In the last quarter century, Duke—like virtually every elite university in the nation—has aggressively utilized racial preferences in admissions, while just as aggressively seeking certain types of “diversity” in faculty hires. Racial tensions doubtless remain at Duke and at all elite universities; entirely eliminating racism (or sexism or homophobia or ethnic/religious biases) is impossible. But there are few if any employers or institutions anywhere in U.S. society more “anti-racist,” to use the politically correct term, than Duke and the nation’s other elite universities.

Moreover, during the administration of President Richard Brodhead (2005-), the university’s most significant racially-oriented episode involved not racism toward African-American students or professors but a racially-charged crusade directed by members of the school’s African-American Studies Department against a group of falsely accused white Duke students. Apart from a single statement from Provost Peter Lange rebuking an outright racist screed from then-Duke professor Houston Baker—and a vague, tardy, and ultimately toothless apology from Brodhead—there’s no evidence that anyone from Duke’s administration ever addressed this faculty behavior, or ever rebuked those Duke professors whose private biases led them to ignore their obligations to their own institution’s students.


In his March 22 address to the faculty, Brodhead chose to speak about “the issue of race and inclusion in Duke's history, our recent progress, and the nature of the work that lies ahead.”

Those expecting that the choice of this theme meant that Brodhead would critically self-examine his and his administration’s failure to address the shortcomings exposed by the lacrosse case would be sorely disappointed. The race-baiting of spring 2006 wasn’t mentioned, perhaps because doing so would have forced Brodhead to ask uncomfortable questions about how so many Duke faculty members had addressed “the issue of race and inclusion in Duke’s [recent] history.” It would, for instance, have been very difficult for the president to have reconciled his Faculty Address boast that “this university has had a commitment to making Duke a place of access, opportunity and mutual respect for all” [emphasis added] with the conduct of the Group of 88 (or sympathetic faculty such as Orin Starn, Peter Wood, and Tim Tyson) during the lacrosse case.

Nor did the president display any willingness to consider whether the use of racial preferences in admissions or the obsessive emphasis on certain types of “diversity” in faculty hiring remain tactically wise or morally acceptable in the 21st century world. Once again, the posing of uncomfortable questions was not on Brodhead’s agenda, especially if asking such questions might trigger a faculty revolt.

Instead, the president offered a reflexive defense of “diversity” policies as they have been practiced at Duke (and other elite universities) over the past generation. No surprises there. But the stated motivation for his remarks did raise eyebrows. He selected his topic, he claimed, because of three recent events, the first of which was the “controversy over a piece of unpublished faculty research that appeared to disparage the choice of majors by African-American undergraduates.”

Brodhead thus joined Provost Lange and a host of other senior administrators in publicly criticizing (and in the president’s case, willfully misinterpreting) a piece of research from Duke two professors, Peter Arcidiacono and Kenneth Spenner; and Esteban Aucejo, a Duke graduate student. That paper, as I noted before, used Duke’s own data to show how African-American students (whose admissions test scores were far lower than those of whites or Asian-Americans who enrolled at the university) disproportionately migrated, after arriving at Duke, from majors (the hard sciences, engineering) widely considered as more challenging. As with virtually all other critics of the Arcidiacono, et al., paper, Brodhead did not challenge any of the paper’s data.

Brodhead’s discussion of the paper was nothing short of stunning. After an almost apologetic defense of the principle of academic freedom as applied to faculty research, the president all but seethed with rage when discussing the paper: “I can see why students took offense at what was reported of a professor's work. Generalizations about academic choices by racial category can renew the primal insult of the world we are trying to leave behind—the implication that persons can be known through a group identity that associates them with inferior powers. A further insult was that the paper had been included in an amicus brief submitted by opponents of affirmative action urging the Supreme Court to hear the case I mentioned earlier regarding admissions policies at the University of Texas.”

The last sentence is, perhaps, the most extraordinary of Brodhead’s entire address, and, indeed, one of the most extraordinary statements I have ever seen a university president make. The president of a major research university, in a formal address to his university’s faculty, expressed regret—deeming it an “insult”—that research from his own university’s faculty (research whose accuracy he did not challenge) was included in an amicus brief for a critical case before the Supreme Court.

So much for the idea that a central purpose of a research university is the dissemination of knowledge in pursuit of the truth. The president’s message could not have been clearer: those who dare to pursue research that challenges the (campus) majority’s agenda on race can expect a public shaming—regardless of whether the data those researchers uncover is accurate or fairly presented.

Brodhead concluded his address on a more personal level. “The single front,” said he, “where I myself feel the greatest frustration regards senior leadership positions at Duke.” He noted that among his eight senior administration appointments, he had named two African-Americans, one Asian-American, and one woman. But, he lamented, “the number of women on my team . . . is fewer than I would wish.” And he offered his awareness that “including African Americans in the top academic leadership of this university is a piece of unfinished business.”

If Brodhead’s personal pain about the insufficient “diversity” in the upper ranks of Duke’s administration is as genuine as his Faculty Address rhetoric suggests, an immediate step to address the issue is available to him: He could, today, submit his resignation as Duke president. That move would give Duke’s trustees the opportunity to bring more “diversity” to the school by replacing him with a female or minority leader for the university.

But I strongly suspect that Brodhead’s personal commitment to “diversity” doesn’t quite extend that far. Publicly sliming two members of his faculty is, it seems, so much more satisfying.


Anonymous said...

KC, you're my 'Hero'.
Big Al

Anonymous said...

Once again Brodhead makes clear that he still retains the capacity to both surprise and, if possible, further degrade himself and Duke. It's one thing to celebrate the bogus diversity "scholarship" proferred by the Gang '88 and their ilk. (Given Duke's reckless AA admission and "diversity" projects, perhaps Brodhead feels he has no choice in the matter.) It's another thing entirely, however, to endeavor to diminish careful empirical scholarship conducted by the precious few faculty members at Duke capable of such work. With his "humanities" training and background, it's all but certain Brodhead hasn't a clue about quantitative social science research. Indeed, Brodhead wouldn't recognize a regression coefficient from, say, a facially specious (and criminal) rape Hoax.

jay said...

Are there grounds for a defamation suit?

mikelau said...

Careful KC- you sound a lot like a conservative.

Liberals have always advocated for affirmative action and diversity hiring....but never at their own expense.

Are you sure you're an Obama supporter? Color me skeptical.

Thanks for the insightful analysis.

Anonymous said...

Brodhead and Duke's administration during his tenure has much in common with Eric Holder's justice department:

'Fairness' and 'equality' are to be extended only to approved classes of victims, despite any evidence to the contrary. It's not that there's a double standard, it's that standards may be changed at whim to suit the desired political outcome.

Anonymous said...

The few serious academics left at Duke are already heading for the doors. CVs are flying out of Durham; scholars will soon follow.

Anonymous said...

Is Brodhead a Cultural Marxist who is cowering before the bullying of Race/Class/Gender demagogues because he is mortally terrified of being labeled a racist?

Jack in Morris County said...

Just read the professor's blog, I can only imagine how he must feel. Duke seems to be in a tough position. Despite calls for his resignation or dismissal, Brodhead is not going anywhere. The pending lawsuits make it imperative that Duke's most important witness be a friendly one. In the meantime, alumni, parents, benefactors and friends must put up with an ideology that is an affront to many of Duke's core constituents. Sort of like how Eisenhower felt after appointing Earl Warren - "Whoa! Where did he come from?"

skwilli said...

What is in Brodhead's Golden Parachute?

Anonymous said...

Re: 3:24 p.m.

Nah, he's just an a**hole

Kevin M-R

Anonymous said...

Re: 8:50 p.m.

"Nah, he's just an a**hole"

Occam's Razor demands I concede your point.

Anonymous said...


1) Liberalism is finished as it crashes on the rocks of reality;

2) Self Styled Liberals if intelligent individuals such as KC, one would expect, when forced to reflect on a serious topic for an extended time will be forced to see, through the mechanism of cognitive dissonance, that Liberalism is truly insane and its Liberal actors in the Duke saga, chronicled by KC over now many years, ranging from the high ( Broadhead, "Bob" Steel ), to the low ( "Mike" Nifong, Houston Baker ) lack any semblance of rational thought, fair play and awareness or understanding of what they are doing. KC has exposed the folly of the Liberal media again and again yet he remains a part of the Liberal media.

3) I am losing hope that I will see KC abandon Liberalism. That said, I tip my hat to his ongoing exposure of the insanity. Well done KC.

Dan Kurt

Anonymous said...

"3) I am losing hope that I will see KC abandon Liberalism. That said, I tip my hat to his ongoing exposure of the insanity. Well done KC."

KC appears to me to be an old-school Liberal, much like Tom Jefferson.

Modern Liberalism isn't.

RighteousThug said...

"Squashing"? Or "quashing"?

Or "squshing", as they say in the South? ;)

Anonymous said...

I already knew the general outlines of this issue -- Brodhead was (of course) appalled at the implications of some objective Duke research on black students -- so I played a little game with myself, tried to guess what aspect of the issue might make me shake my head. Only one thing really did: Arcidiacono's comment that "To publicly disparage my work without engaging in a conversation with me is not something I would have expected from Brodhead."

Really? Did the man follow the Duke LAX case at all? Professor A. reminds me very much of the astonished KC expressing, on this blog a long time ago, amazement that the New York Times would not cover a story about blacks evenhandedly.

What a pair of innocents the two of you are!

Anonymous said...

Equating what has happened in Durham regarding the Crystal Mangum Lying Hoax to "The Death of Liberalism" is like relating what happened in Sanford, Florida regarding Trayvon Martin to "The Death of Conservatism."

Why must people continually try to put all pegs into round holes? Some of those pegs are star-shaped, others are square-shaped, and still others are octahedrons. The answer is almost never just black and white. And few micro-decisions and actions ever change macro-structures and beliefs.

In Sanford, we had bad Conservative legislation leading to bad Conservative decisions by people who are bad Conservative decision-makers (e.g. among others, police officers, district attorney). "Conservatism is, therefore, dead!" Of course, that's not true.

At most, I see the possibility that "closed systems" lead to the pendulum swinging too far in one direction. Arguably, Sanford and Durham -- and Duke -- are pretty closed systems. (I would need A LOT MORE RESEARCH, a lot more thought, and a lot more people freely discussing and evaluating this thesis before I would call it anything close to a possible fact, but I'd like to see that research and discussion.).

Which brings me back to the research conducted by Peter Arcidiacono. There's no way to know if Affirmative Action has hit a dead end or can be improved or even if it is even still needed if actual research is not permitted. That's why this "liberal" heartily supports the research by Arcidiacono. Let's know the truth, whichever way it leads. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

KC, excellent work. Brodhead is a disgrace to Duke University and to its basketball team.

Anonymous said...

Another reminder that the Duke lacrosse case is not forgotten:

--George Will on Trayvon Martin: Remember Duke lacrosse?--

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Sanford Florida case, the similarity with the Duke rape hoax case is how it is now being exploited by the same old tired actors (the race / class / gender crowd, Jackson, Farrakhan, Sharpton, “the new black panthers”, etc.) Unfortunately, even the president has waded into it this time. And the media, always complicit in exploiting mass hysteria, has even mainstreamed a new phrase, referring to Zimmerman as a “White Latino”, to keep the “white” vs. “black” conflict-line going. Had Obama inherited the white pigmentation of his mother, would he be referred to as a “White Black”? Are they incapable of realizing how asinine they sound?

With this group it’s all about the amount of melanin in people's skin and how to exploit this for group financial and political gain. Many of those, like Brodhead and the “group of 88”, who view everything through the prism of where a person's ancestors originated and the pigmentation of one's skin, knows this but is too intellectually dishonest to admit it.

People shoot each other every day in this country, as well as throughout the world. There will be people of a darker pigmentation shoot others of the same pigmentation or lighter today that won't even merit a comment in the paper. Recently, in Dublin Ohio a person of African descent executed a person of Middle-Eastern descent in cold blood, and nary a peep out of the left wing. This happens all the time. The hypocrisy in all of this is nauseating and the left needs to start realizing that most people of European descent, while appalled at these acts of violence, are left cold by the never-ending, monotonous drone to "reflect", or "look inside ourselves", or some other such twaddle.

When viewed through the melanin and ancestral background lenses that the left insists upon, a Latino in Florida shot an African in Florida. Since we're no longer simply "Americans", why am I, an Anglo, supposed to stop and “reflect" when a Latino shoots an African over 800 miles away from me? If we “stopped and reflected” every time people of different ethnicities killed each other in the world community, not a lot of work would get done, would it?

Anonymous said...

Unless Brodhead has the courage and cojones to admit to Duke's wrongdoing in 2006 (the LAX hoax), he seems to have no choice but to continue down "it's not about the truth" path. The evidence presented in the paper did NOT draw conclusions of a judgmental nature. For those who doubt, read the paper! But gosh darn and hang it all, when the research is sound, the only thing left to do is attack the researchers. Brodhead once again proves his spine is made of air. Let the sucking sounds begin......

Anonymous said...

" He could, today, submit his resignation as Duke president. That move would give Duke’s trustees the opportunity to bring more “diversity” to the school by replacing him with a female or minority leader for the university. "

Wow - K.C. that really took it to the maximum. That would solve everything.

It is a real shame that when I apply for Government positions (requiring post grad degrees) how discouraged I feel when I have to disclose "WHITE MALE". I know I am pushed to the back of the pile. I am so ashamed that I feel I must protect my future children by making sure they are 1/2 African American so they can have every advantage available to them when they look for opportunity in the USA.

Anonymous said...

To the 9:19 am:

I have to disagree. I think the Sanford, Florida mess is about the murder of a child. I think the Durham, North Carolina fiasco was about the framing of innocent students. MOO! Gregory

Anonymous said...

On a mildly related topic...
Mark Anthony "DaThug" Neal reposting on his blog a missive speaking out against Pat Knight's comments critical of his student athletes.
And the hypocrisy award goes to...


Anonymous said...

To Brodhead et al., diversity does not mean "variety; the condition of having or being composed of differing elements."

Instead, diversity means total and complete submission to belief in the unholy trinity of: race/gender/class identity politics; cultural relativism; and proportional representation.

And to question, challenge, or disagree with the politically correct view of diversity is a grievous moral failure.

Anonymous said...

Re: George Will on Trayvon Martin: Remember Duke lacrosse?

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh offered a lengthy comparison of the two cases that was spot on IMO, as more information in known about Trayvon. The bounty offered by the New Black Panthers is just as threatening as they were at Duke. The same cast of clowns are gathering again, we just need a few members from the ever expanding ‘Gang of 88’ to complete a disgusting flashback image.

Lee Cheng said...

I've long believed that advocates of racial preference are most generous with others' rights. Am still fighting the fight--the organization I helped found, the Asian American Legal Foundation, will be filing an amicus brief in Fisher v. Texas.

Anonymous said...

Our old friend thuggniggalectual or whatever he went by is jumping on the latest rush to judgement wagon....

Anonymous said...

Is Ken Edwards a Communist>

Anonymous said...

I hope Professor Johnson will excuse me for again saying, it is pathetically remarkable to what lengths an intellectual snob will go to avoid admitting he erred.

Brodhead is going through contortions which even the most accomplished Twister player could not do.

Anne W said...

My degree is from Duke--I did undergrad bio, graduate neuroscience work and two years of seminary there. The president of the alum foundation lived in the same dorm I did. I get fund-raising letters from Duke and Stirly, and I always let them know they'll see a check from me when I read a true apology from Duke to the lacrosse players and the 88 are sanctioned.

This is shameful behavior. Shameful and embarrassing--and it renders a degree from Duke less valuable.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Brodhead is clearly a hypocrite. He regrets having appointed men to all but one position, but he doesn't given any explanation for why he used to be so dreadfully anti-affirmative-action and, more importantly, he doesn't fire a bunch of them and appoint women instead. Why not? Can't he find women qualified to be college administrators?

Eric Rasmusen said...

""analyzing average differences in choices across demographic groups--race included"--is "standard practice not just in economics but in all quantitative social sciences," and therefore "to suggest that this is insulting disparages the quantitative social sciences as a whole."

Brodhead obviously knows this..."

Ah, there's your mistake. He's a literature professor. This very study shows that lit classes teach so little that someone lacking in high school preparation can still get A's.

Anonymous said...

The problem at Duke is that it has gotten a lot harder for most people to get in over the last 25 years.

(I blame Coach K!)

The freshman biology, chemistry, and calculus classes are full of kids who would rather study than even take 2 hours a week off to go to the basketball games!

If Duke wants retention rates for minorities in the STEM subjects to improve, they're going to have to duplicate the tutoring infrastructure they have in place for the scholarship athletes.

In fact, they'll have to intensify it, very few athletes major in anything close to a STEM subject, at least in basketball and football.

As Brodhead well knows, it's a lot easier to pander to 19 year olds and silly faculty members (none of whom seem to be from the STEM departments).

Vigilarus said...

Brodhead actually, if unintentially, gave a good quote against affirmative action and identity politics when he lamented "the primal insult of the world we are trying to leave behind—the implication that persons can be known through a group identity that associates them with inferior powers."