Thursday, July 12, 2012

Duke's Version of Freeh (Updated)

[Update, 18 July, 8.38am: The Chronicle of Higher Education interviews, among others, John Burness about the Freeh Report. In his remarks, Burness essentially praises Penn State for doing what Duke did not do:
"They wouldn't have been able to put this behind them for the next several years if they hadn't gone about doing this the way they've done it—getting someone like Judge Freeh, whose character is pretty unassailable and who was given carte blanche to see what he found and report it without fear or favor," said John F. Burness, a visiting professor of public policy at Duke University and the university's spokesman during the 2007 lacrosse scandal. 
"There is some very bad news in here for Penn State and Coach Paterno and a lot of the leadership of Penn State," he said. "But this is a really critical inflection point for the institution because it is one of the thresholds they had to get through. As difficult as it will be, it was necessary to restore confidence in the integrity of the institution."]
I have a post over at Minding the Campus examining the Freeh Report—and what the document says about the continuing need for oversight by trustees. In short, at Penn State, the trustees failed in their fiduciary duties, and the university will now pay the price. The report describes a top-to-bottom failure in the Penn State administration—from the former president, to the former AD, to the former football coach, and back up again to current and former trustees.

At the very least, however, Penn State deserves credit for critically examining where and how the administration went wrong, and for trying to change a culture that both enabled and contributed to these administrative failures. And it’s hard to criticize the research behind the Freeh Report, which pored through e-mails, other university documents, transcripts of interviews, and publicly-available information from the criminal investigations. Any university that is attempting to move beyond errors would do well to look at the Freeh Report as a model.

For anyone who closely, or even not-so-closely, followed the lacrosse case, the flip-side of the Freeh Report is obvious. Though Duke steadfastly refused to publish a White Paper or even establish a Coleman Committee-like investigation of why and how the administration and “activist” faculty got the lacrosse case so wrong, there was—technically, at least—a Duke version of the Freeh Committee.

In his guilt-presuming April 5, 2006 letter (the document in which he dropped all reference to a presumption of innocence, and merely asked the Duke community to “wait until the authorities act before reaching any judgment in the criminal case”), President Brodhead announced anInvestigation of [the] Duke Administration Response.” He hoped, in part, “to address the concern that my administration did not respond as quickly as we should have and to learn any lessons this episode can teach.” The rush-to-judgment crowd that needed appeasing were unnamed “faculty, students, community members, and others.” While the identity of the “others” is unclear, it seems the remaining figures were either members of the Group of 88 or their student supporters.

To fulfill the role of Louis Freeh in the Penn State case, Brodhead chose former Princeton president and prominent affirmative action-defender William Bowen and former NCCU chancellor Julius Chambers; the duo added a third member, Danielle Carr Ramdath, who they helpfully  identified as an “African-American woman.” While the three admitted they didn’t have enough time to actually conduct a full-fledged inquiry, they nonetheless claimed that they “gained an understanding of the principal issues.”

Departing from the Freeh investigative approach, the Bowen/Chambers report gave no indication of examining internal Duke e-mails to get a sense of how and why the administration responded as it did. (Bowen and Chambers—Carr Ramdath, for reasons that are not clear, did not sign the report—never explained how they could investigate the “Duke administration response” without examining what would be the most relevant evidence to determine that response.) And the report gave no sign of the massive legal liability that Duke ultimately would face—the reported eight-figure settlement with the falsely-accused players, the legal bills piled up in defending the lawsuit from the unindicted players, the settlement with former coach Mike Pressler. Indeed, a reader of the Bowen/Chambers report—which faulted Duke largely for an insufficient commitment to diversity in its hiring process—would have been utterly mystified to ultimately learn that this “administration response” that the duo supposedly investigated had exposed the university to legal liability.

The Freeh Report is a long and difficult read. But for those with the time, compare it to the Bowen/Chambers report, to which I’ve linked in its totality. Which of the two constitutes an investigation, and which constitutes a whitewash?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"William Bowen, Julius Chambers, and Danielle Carr Ramdath"

I guess Moe, Larry, and Curly were unavailable.

A great tale of two reports. Thank you.

Duke Prof

Anonymous said...

The reports do not compare well. Of course, Louis Freeh did the thorough investigation.

In comparing these cases we see some interesting facts. One university culture was eager to tear down a sports program, and another university culture sought to protect a sports program. One situation involved the the abuse of vulnerable university students whereas the other situation; the other involved protection of the university's most powerful adults. In one situation the presumption of innocence prevailed to the benefit of powerful adults; in the other the presumption of innocence on behalf of the young people is crushed by the powerful adults.

What is most despicable in both siuations is the willingness of powerful adults in furtherance of their own ambitions to destroy children (or watch them be destroyed).

Observer

Ty Thorn said...

now the taxpayers pay the price

Anonymous said...

Excellent work by those constructing the Freeh report and to KC! A great contrast. The Duke Board of Trustees should be totally ashamed of themselves. They are truly pathetic people.

I can't wait till this gets to court.

Michael said...

First, Louis Freeh is a real investigator and a real lawyer who knows how to do the things that a top-down investigation requires. Bowen, Chambers et al were not. There's a moral to this, somewhere....

Secondly, Penn State's Board may have commissioned this report, but they don't deserve much credit unless they act on it, and that includes the resignations of all individuals who served prior to 2012. Period.

Anonymous said...

Is Bowen a Communist?

Chris Halkides said...

Observer makes some good points. I seem to recall that the creators of the "Paradise Lost" films said words to the effect that they went to West Memphis to make a film about what is wrong with today's youth but they ended up making a film about what is wrong with today's adults. The same dichotomy held true in the Amanda Knox/Raffaele Sollecito case. The Duke students involved in the DL case (on the team or as reporters) outshone much of the faculty and staff.

Lois Turner said...

William Bowen is not a communist. i suspect you're thinking of William Owen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Owen

Anonymous said...

BOB COSTAS wants to crush PENN FOOTBALL...suspend program or NCAA will approve the death penalty

..why not crush the DUKE FACULTY that supported the death penalty for
their lacrosse team when it wasnt true...ESPN is a bully organization

Anonymous said...

Bowen and Chambers produced the most butt-kissingest report I've ever seen. Freeh did an outstanding job, as far as I can tell, and that's an anomaly in the recent spectrum of university-commissioned socio-political investigations. MOO! Gregory

skwilli said...

I was up there this weekend and never saw so many morose people. I saw the guy painting over the halo on Joe Paterno on the mural downtown. I have tried to cheer everyone up that things are progressing as they should. Never before have so many good PSU people had as much power to make things better. There are over 300,000 active PSU grads alive that have the opportunity to make things better for this world. I suspect we'll do just fine now that we have the upper hand.

coniston said...

Lois Turner,

The "I - fill in the blank - a communist? is a catch phrase that has appeared 50 times over the years. It's more of a spoof than a matter of fact.

Anonymous said...

Oh brother, the ass-kissing Burness has the cojones to praise Penn State when HE, among many, did the buck -n-wing, hide-n-shuffle dance for Brodhead? Duke had the LAX guys tarred, feathered, and lynched....until, of course, it was absolutely SAFE to get on the bandwagon of support, and ollieollieinfree....Give me a break. Has Burness managed to start wearing socks with his loafers yet?

Anonymous said...

Freeh for President! At last, a moral man who has the courage, intelligence and cojones to tell it like it is.

Lois Turner said...

I know, Coniston dear, I know . . .

Best Business Brands said...

What was the Dukes version of Hamlet's soliloquy in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Anonymous said...

Butt-kissing, race/class/gender/orientation pseudoacademic horse manure. It's pretty simple, isn't it. As good old Joe A. said, "it's not about the truth, coach". It still isn't, apparently. What it WAS about at Duke and WAS about at Penn State....was protecting butts, money, and the rep of dear old D/PS U! At least Penn State got somebody credible...instead of the three squirrels...to do the investigative work. Talk about lack of independence and objectivity! Why didn't Duke just hire Mangum's mother and
Wahneeeeema's lover to do the report?

Anonymous said...

I worry that PSU will go too far in the penalties against the football program and end up hurting athletes who are not responsible for any wrongdoing. I realise it is a tricky thing sort through all of these issues. But I want them to do things right and not give in to public relations concerns driven by indignation and disgust. A mob that is on the "right side of history" is still a mob and is prone to excesses.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to be the lawyer deposing Burness someday....either Burness has had a complete change of heart since he retired, but those words he has spoken about Penn State will NOT sit well when compared with what he said at Duke.

It's never boring!

Anonymous said...

The Comment:

Best Business Brands said...

What was the Dukes version of Hamlet's soliloquy in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

7/19/12 10:00 AM

is a link to a porno site.

Marceline Therrien said...

It is very odd that someone with such thorough knowledge of a prosecution run amok is so quick to assume that the same thing has not happened at Penn State. Surely if you actually read the Freeh report in its entirety you must be fully aware that while Freeh makes a bunch of assumptions, he actually found no evidence of a deliberate coverup on the part of Penn State administrators.

KC Johnson said...

To the 2.55:

As I noted previously, it's pretty clear I "actually read" the report, since I repeatedly cited it, by page number.

We obviously have a difference of what constitutes "evidence of a deliberate coverup." Generally, to me, an e-mail from a college president admitting that a decision not to follow relevant state law could leave the university "vulnerable" constitutes "evidence of a deliberate coverup."