Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
[Updated, Friday, 1.07pm: In the race-to-the-bottom among critics of the paper, none other than Tim Tyson--yes, that Tim Tyson--has weighed in on the matter. In virtually any other environment, Tyson would have no credibility to comment on public matters. This was, after all, a figure who so badly misjudged the lacrosse case that he participated, as a "teacher," in a candlelight vigil on behalf of false accuser Crystal Mangum (who he described as somebody's "sweetheart") a couple of hours before Mangum took the stage, in a highly . . . limber . . . fashion, in a local strip club.
But in the race/class/gender-dominated academy, a race-baiter like Tyson speaks pearls of wisdom. And so in yesterday's Chronicle, Tyson goes after Peter Arcidiacono, fuming, "Who appointed [Arcidiacono] to weigh the merits of black folks being allowed into the room?" I was unaware that tenured faculty members like Arcidiacono had to be "appointed" before they could engage in scholarly inquiry.
As with virtually all of Arcidiacono's critics, Tyson does not challenge the data that the paper of Arcidiacono, et al., uncovered. Instead, he resorts to the race-baiting attack lines: after disingenuously suggesting that he's not challenging the academic freedom of people who don't share his world-view, he does just that: "Duke’s treasure, the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, whose legacy Arcidiacono treads upon, provided research for Thurgood Marshall in the Brown v. Board of Education case. But there is no constitutional right to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha might put it. BSA members who question 'the research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity,' display a generosity and deliberation far exceeding those of this study."
Once again: Tyson does not challenge in any way the data that Arcidiacono, et al., presented, that black students at Duke disproportionately migrate away from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors.
[Updated, Wed., 8.14pm: In what could be deemed the least surprising development of this entire affair, prominent members of the Group of 88 have sharpened their race-baiting credentials to attack the paper.
Karla Holloway, notorious for her decision to pass along fifth-hand, slanderous gossip against Duke students, at least when doing so furthered her on-campus agenda, tweeted that "Duke authors' unpublished study of race + Affirmative Action lacks academic rigor." Nowhere in her twitter feed has Holloway provided any specific criticism of the study's data; indeed, in another tweet, she even elected to use scare quotes when describing the paper as a study.
The existence of the paper, the Group of 88'er wildly implied, indicated that "Duke still struggles w/issues of diversity," as she appeared to demand that Duke administrators publicly speak out about a research study from Duke professors. (This position was particularly rich coming from Holloway, who during the lacrosse case had issued the bizarre demand that Duke administrators had to publicly support her, as a Duke professor, from criticism.) In what could qualify as a textbook case of the politics of grievance in action, Holloway leveled the inflammatory allegation that the paper--a paper, again, whose data she does not appear to have publicly challenged--"re-opens old racial wounds."
The message here was clear: professors willing to provide data--even if that data is accurate--that challenges Holloway's worldview will face ill-concealed accusations of racism.
Holloway also tweeted a link to the blog run by Mark Anthony ("Thugniggaintellectual") Neal, who ran a post by David Leonard criticizing the paper. Imitating Holloway's race-baiting tactics, Leonard asserted that the paper (whose data he, too, did not challenge) "has dangerous implications."
Meanwhile the Black Student Association has upped its pressure, delivering what the Chronicle terms a "list of demands" to the administration. The list includes--of course--hiring more black professors. The almost laughable inference here is that Duke's arts and sciences faculty--a faculty where many departments are dominated by Group of 88 members, and others have strong Group influence--somehow are insufficiently attentive to hiring African-American faculty. Anyone who believes such a claim would have to reside in some sort of fantasy-land.]
Watching the returns from Saturday night’s South Carolina primary, I was struck by a focus group of Florida GOP voters, who had response dials as they listened to Newt Gingrich’s victory speech. Their dials skyrocketed into positive territory when Gingrich spoke of his willingness to stand up to ill-defined anti-Christian bigotry—this in a majority-Christian country where more than six in ten voters say they’d be less likely to support a presidential candidate who was an atheist.
But Gingrich did not need data or factual evidence to bolster his claims. Rather, as the (basically sympathetic) Sheldon Alberts correctly analyzed, the speech was part of a “broader ‘politics of grievance’ strategy that Gingrich is executing — at the moment — better than his rivals.”
As expert as Gingrich might be at practicing the politics of grievance—and he’s a master—the former Speaker can’t hold a candle to campus “diversity” advocates, who all but originated the tactic. An excellent example came last week at Duke.
The affair started with an unpublished paper penned by Peter Arcidiacono, Kenneth Spenner, and Esteban Aucejo. (Arcidiacono and Spenner are professors at Duke.) The paper used Duke’s own data to show that groups of students who receive preferential treatment in the admissions process (African-Americans and “legacy” admittees) disproportionately migrate from more difficult (science and engineering) to easier (liberal arts) majors.
The paper was cited in an amicus brief in the Fisher case. In briefs filed with the Supreme Court, a key, and persuasive, argument of opponents of on-campus preferences—including, as I wrote about at MTC, my UPI co-author Stuart Taylor—is that not only do these preferences violate the 14th amendment’s promise of all people receiving equal treatment under the law regardless of their race, but preferences don’t even benefit the people (minorities, in this instance) they allegedly were designed to serve. In this instance, the paper’s authors concluded that “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering.”
As far as I can tell, no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that the trio presented. To reiterate: as far as I can tell, no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that the trio presented.
The paper first generated outrage from Duke’s Black Student Alliance. The H-S revealed that the organization e-mailed the state NAACP to complain that “the implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community is hurtful and alienating.” Newt couldn’t have handled the faux grievance angle better!
The e-mail further noted that the BSA had demanded “a dialogue” with the paper’s authors “that addresses our concerns about research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity.” Yet as far as I could tell, the BSA did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented. I e-mailed BSA president Nana Asante to ask her if, in fact, she had any complaints about the accuracy of the paper’s data. She did not reply.
Even more boldly, the BSA suggested that some type of “acknowledgement or intervention took place, in the best interests of black students” by the Duke administration. I also asked Asante what type of administration “intervention” she and her colleagues envisioned. She did not reply.
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, the BSA did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
According to the H-S, the grievance crusade then moved on from the BSA to a group of black Duke alums. Seventeen alums wrote to the H-S to say that “we are deeply troubled and offended by the recent study emanating from faculty members at our alma mater.” The letter accused Arcidiacono, Spenner, and Aucejo of “slander” and having produced “both flawed and incorrect” research.
Yet, at least according to what was revealed in the H-S article, the letter didn’t actually identify any specific areas in which the paper was “both flawed and incorrect,” much less slanderous. It’s not even clear to me who the paper could have slandered.
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, despite their overheated rhetoric, the alums did not challenge the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
The grievance demands triggered a joint letter from Duke provost Peter Lange and other Duke administrators (including Group of 88’er Lee Baker, now a Duke dean). The letter gave a generic defense of academic freedom. But it also included this extraordinary sentence: “We understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes.”
The administrators did not identify which “negative stereotypes” they had detected, nor did they explain how “the conclusions of the research paper” could be “interpreted in ways that reinforce” these unidentified “negative stereotypes.” The administrators’ letter did not challenge, in any way, the accuracy of the data that the paper presented.
Apart from instances of academic fraud or outright racist/sexist/anti-semitic “research” claims by professors (the “work” of Northwestern’s Arthur Butz comes to mind), I can’t recall a single instance of a university’s administrators—much less a leading research university’s administrators—accusing professors at their school of producing scholarship that could “be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes."
This administrative outrage, of course, is highly selective. Imagine the following counter-example. A couple of Duke professors pen a research paper noting (correctly) that opposition to marriage equality skews toward under-educated segments of the population. Duke’s Christian student organization, whose members oppose marriage equality but who see an association with poorly educated people as personally offensive to their religious beliefs, pen a letter wailing that “the implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the Christian community is hurtful and alienating.” The Christian students demand “a dialogue” with the paper’s authors “that addresses our concerns about research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity.”
Does anyone believe that Duke administrators would respond to the Christian students with an open letter seeming to validate their complaints about the (accurate) scholarship, or that “we understand how the conclusions of the research paper can be interpreted in ways that reinforce negative stereotypes”? And if such a public letter were penned, does anyone believe that Duke administrators would not be facing a revolt from the Group of 88 and their allies?
To reiterate: as far as I can tell, no no one has presented evidence that challenges the accuracy of the data that Aucejo, Arcidiacono, and Spenner presented. But in the contemporary academy, which worships before the altar of “diversity,” accurate scholarship can be insufficient—and can even, as in this case, generate an implicit rebuke from a university leadership.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
[Updated, Thurs., 5.56pm: "Ahab" Cline will continue her quixotic quest against Judge Hudson, the N&O reveals. Cline--the person who, it's worth noting, wouldn't recognize the truth if it bopped her in the head--wrote that "it is truth telling time" for Durham County.]
[Updated, Wed., 4.22pm: Durham attorney Kerry Sutton (who played a minor role in the lacrosse case) has filed an affidavit urging the removal of Tracey Cline as Durham DA. In the affidavit, Sutton accuses Cline of "habitual intemperance" and conduct "prejudicial to the administration of justice." Sutton, not unreasonably, characterized Cline's "inflammatory" filings against Judge Orlando Hudson as filled with "venom" and "paranoid" language, lacking in "fact or evidence, other than Ms. Cline's personal beliefs." Sutton goes into considerable length about how Cline's obsession with Hudson has both harmed the Durham DA office's reputation and consumed the Durham legal community's resources. (She also points out that the grammatically-challenged Cline also has a tendency to misspell "affidavit" in her legal filings.)
The N&O's Andrew Curliss reports that the gambit employed by Sutton is rarely used, and is believed to have resulted in the removal of only one DA in North Carolina history.]
Durham County’s minister of justice was last heard from penning a bizarre e-mail to the Herald-Sun in which she misspelled a judge’s name and asserted that “truth should be intimidated by the pressure of the powerful or the fear of failure.” This morning’s N&O exposes as false a central claim made by Tracey Cline in her quixotic crusade against Judge Orlando Hudson—that Hudson had demonstrated his anti-Cline bias by entering an August order before the prosecution even had the chance even to present all of its witnesses.
Reporter Andrew Curliss did what Cline failed to do—he actually investigated the seeming anomaly. And he discovered a benign explanation: “The clock at the courthouse that stamped the document was more than two hours slow that day.” In a situation that would seem more likely in a small town courthouse than in North Carolina’s fifth-largest city, the clock in the county clerk’s office seems to malfunction with some regularity. Curliss spoke to assistant county clerk Angela Kelly, who commented about the clock, “It is a machine that's plugged up in the wall that runs constantly. When things are filed, we stick it in there, and we always hope and pray it's correct. But there have been times when we notice that it's not correct."
Curliss confirmed Kelly’s recollection by checking into legal documents filed the next morning—which the clock erroneously stamped at 7.18am, rather than after 9.00am, when the clerk’s office actually opened. (Times public editor Arthur Brisbane might just call Curliss a “truth vigilante.”) The N&O website has a photo of the relevant filings.
Rather than assuming the worst and thereby leveling wild, unsubstantiated allegations against a sitting judge, Cline might have checked to see if there were problems with the clock in the clerk’s office, something that would have taken her only a few minutes to do. The N&O presented Cline with the information, but she declined comment, and thus did not take the opportunity to say that she would withdraw her charges against Hudson. Jim Coleman summarized the problem to Curliss: "She has made a serious allegation, and it warranted serious review by her before this filing. It is now just more evidence of a lawyer who is barreling down a hill totally oblivious to the damage she is causing to the judicial system. She is undermining confidence in the system. It's disgraceful."
Such cavalier disregard for the truth and professional behavior from his county’s “minister of justice” might be enough to cause “shame” and “anger” even from the likes of Duke professor William Reichert. But I suspect not.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Though Duke’s race/class/gender-dominated humanities faculty members embarrassed themselves in their response to the lacrosse case, faculty in the hard sciences and engineering behaved very differently. Indeed, only one member of the Group of 88, Ronen Plessler, came from any of the sciences or engineering departments.
That said, on the one occasion in which a science professor did try to imitate his “activist” colleagues—when “Counselor” Thomas Crowley hung his shingle for readers of the Herald-Sun—the result was humiliation and a quick backtrack.
Biomedical Engineering professor William Reichert should have learned Crowley’s lesson. In what’s described as a guest “commentary” in today’s Chronicle, Reichert begins by complaining about SportsCenter devoting excessive coverage to the Jerry Sandusky case, thereby disturbing his workout. This situation—not, it seems, Sandusky’s alleged crime, but ESPN’s coverage, from which for unknown reasons he could not avert his eyes—left him “stewing . . . for weeks and weeks,” until, finally, he elected to turn to the pages of the Chronicle. (Did Deadspin, known for its biting ESPN commentary, reject his submission?)
From the Sandusky affair, Reichert moved on to a . . . curious . . . recapitulation of the lacrosse case. He confessed that “senseless behavior,” which he did not specifically define, left him with feelings of “anger” and “shame.” Of what senseless behavior, then, did he speak? His colleagues’ rush to judgment and their abandoning the basic requirements of the Faculty Handbook? The local prosecutor’s violating myriad ethical standards? The Durham newspaper’s decision to turn a blind eye to the abuses?
None of these developments appeared to produce either “shame” or “anger” for Dr. Reichert—in itself a revealing insight into his character. His “shame” or “anger” came from the “behavior of students”—presumably the lacrosse players, rather than the potbangers, though Reichert is careful not to say so (perhaps for legal reasons?). Fortunately, however, there was a hero of the affair: Richard Brodhead, who showed “courage” in prematurely terminating the 2006 lacrosse season, fully aware of “the blow back [sic] that was sure to come.”
This claim is a little bit like Cathy Davidson’s reinvention of spring 2006 as a time of terror for black students on the Duke campus. Brodhead’s canceling the lacrosse season required no courage at all. Faculty “activists” were demanding it, the team itself had virtually no supporters on campus at the time, and then-BOT chairman Bob Steel considered it a necessary sacrifice for public relations purposes.
Brodhead, in short, received virtually no “blow back” for the decision, at least at the time. Indeed, the only way in which Reichert’s “blow back” claim makes any sense would be if he’s suggesting that Brodhead fully believed that the accused students were innocent but cancelled the season anyway, thereby anticipating a “blow back” once outsiders (even the biased New York Times) came to criticize the university for its guilt-presuming action.
A question: could it be that Reichert’s other title—“Associate Dean for Diversity”—accounted for his Group of 88-like interpretation of the lacrosse case?
Thursday, January 12, 2012
[Updated, Friday, 1.03pm: Duke has filed its discovery requests in the McFadyen lawsuit. University lawyers are asking for potentially thousands of documents, including logs of Facebook accounts, e-mails to their teammates and their parents, high school grades, drafts(!) of class papers, tax returns, and medical records since 2001.
The document requests suggest that the university's legal strategy will focus on attempting to blame the lacrosse players for any damages they received, presumably by trying to detect stray items in Facebook posts or e-mails. The strategy is unsurprising: if the Brodhead administration's actions are indefensible, the university has little choice but to go after the plaintiffs. That said, it's still striking that as the same university that wants thousands of documents from its former students has been willing, thus far, to hand over only 27 documents of its own.]
New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane, last seen searching out Wendy Murphy for guidance about how his newspaper should report sexual assault cases, posted a provocative item this morning asking if the Times should be a “truth vigilante.”
Brisbane said that his post was prompted by reader concerns about the paper’s repeating false candidate claims (such as Mitt Romney’s repeated assertion that Pres. Obama embarked on a tour to “apologize” for the United States) without reporters pointing out that these claims were . . . false.
Of course, it’s hard to give any credibility to someone, like Brisbane, who sees Wendy Murphy as an arbiter of truth. In any case, the Times’ indifference to repeating false items obviously predated the current campaign. The factual errors from Duff Wilson’s reporting remain uncorrected.
Durham County’s “Minister of Justice” is back in the news this week. Tracey Cline, continuing her quixotic case against Durham judge Orlando Hudson, filed papers demanding Hudson’s removal from a yet another criminal case, on spurious grounds that he is biased against her office.
N&O reporter Andrew Curliss noted that Cline’s filing repeated factual errors that she’s made in previous legal documents (even if the office struggles with basic research, does anyone from the Durham DA’s office bother to read the newspaper?). At least, however, Curliss notes that Cline's 30-page submission was “much smaller than previous filings by her that attacked Hudson.”
BTW: Cline came second for worst prosecutor of the year, 2011, to John Bradley.
I have a post at Minding the Campus using the recent example of former St. Joe’s basketball player Todd O’Brien to point out how universities too often abuse FERPA, using the law not as it was intended (to protect student rights) but instead as a shield to avoid public criticism.
That post suggested (and a browse through FIRE’s archive would confirm) that universities too often interpret FERPA far too rigorously. But the post also acknowledged the one high-profile instance in which a university ignored FERPA so as to serve short-term public relations interests—Duke’s decision to give the DPD keycard information on the lacrosse players—without a subpoena, and without telling the students or their parents. Intriguingly, among the handful of documents turned over to Bob Ekstrand in discovery was an email from Duke falsely claiming that the university had followed FERPA’s terms.
Finally, Politico reports on a new PBS movie focusing on Bill Clinton and the former President's many, many affairs. Among the people quoted in the article--U.S. history's race/class/gender specialist, none other than William Chafe.
The Group of 88'er conclusion: Clinton's lack of control over his behavior was "terrifying." There's no indication whether Chafe will be endorsing a full-page ad in the Chronicle denouncing Clinton.
Friday, January 06, 2012
A filing by Bob Ekstrand in the McFadyen lawsuit has revealed some interesting material about Duke’s initial response to Crystal Mangum’s false allegations. Ekstrand filed in response to Duke’s . . . miserly . . . approach to discovery—the University has turned over only 27 documents—some of which, according to Ekstrand, were duplicates.
Ekstrand’s brief included examples of material already obtained in discovery—and provides a good sense of why Duke has proven so . . . reluctant . . . to hand over material.
By far the most significant item is a March 17, 2006 e-mail from Dean Sue Wasiolek, sent to an array of top Duke administrators, including John Burness, Larry Moneta, and Tallman Trask:
Here’s the latest update on this situation. Most important is that the students who reside in this house have been fully cooperative and are concerned that their names will be in the press. Since they have not yet been officially charged with anything, they have asked that should the realty company (or anyone else at Duke) be asked for those names, that we not give them out since this is still just an investigation. Scott Selig has called Allenton Realy and alerted them to this.
The Durham police are, in fact, investigating an alleged rape/kidnapping at 610 N. Buchanan. On Monday, March 13, two strippers were hired to perform at 610 N. Buchanan. About 30 men were in attendance, all members of the Duke Lacrosse team. One of the strippers appeared to be on drugs. the men decided to pay the women early, and then asked them to leave. They refused and the men paid them more. The one stripper ended up passing out either on a porch or deck in the back of the house and the men carried her to the other woman’s car. At some point later, the passed out woman interacted with Durham police at the Kroger on Hillsborough Road and made the allegations. I believe she was examined at Duke ED.
Last night the house was searched. The men volunteered to engage in DNA testing and to take lie detector test. I believe the DNA testing was done.
Mike Pressler and Chris Kennedy are well aware of this situation. The men have denied all allegations--they obviously admit to hiring the strippers.
The Wasiolek e-mail confirms that the senior Duke administration knew from the start that the lacrosse players had fully cooperated (even to the extent of the captains volunteering to take lie detector tests) with the police inquiry. Less than two weeks later, when Mike Nifong began his pre-primary publicity crusade, he suggested something else—that, in fact, that players had erected a “wall of silence” to frustrate the investigation.
Duke administrators were under no legal obligation to correct the record. (Whether they had a moral obligation to do so is another story.) But the Wasiolek e-mail confirms that senior Duke administrators knew from the start that not only was the DA violating standard procedure by speaking early and often about the case, but that one key element of his publicity barrage—the lack of cooperation by the players—was demonstrably false.
Yet this knowledge (which, at the time, very few people outside the lacrosse team, their families, and their attorneys possessed) that the DA was publicly lying about Duke students appears to have had no impact in how Duke administrators initially responded to the case. Why was that?
The other intriguing item from the Ekstrand filing is a deposition from Associate AD Chris Kennedy, a consistently first-rate figure throughout the case. (Kennedy was quickly marginalized from discussions about how Duke should respond to Mangum’s allegations.)
Kennedy’s deposition provided an insight into the mindset of senior Duke administrators. For instance, he recalled a March 24 or March 25 conversation with Tallman Trask, in which Trask said “something to the effect of he would be amazed or astounded . . . if there was anything to the allegations.”
Obviously, public statements from Duke administrators near this time—most particularly the Brodhead April 5, 2006 “letter to the Duke community”—appeared to operate from a radically different premise. Why was that?
Kennedy’s deposition also provided useful context on how two particular actions by Duke helped shape public opinion in the case. The first came in the extraordinary decision to cancel the March 25, 2006 Duke-Georgetown game less than two hours before the game was to start. In response to a question from Ekstrand, Kennedy said he couldn’t recall an instance in which Duke had canceled an athletic contest in response to criminal allegations against team members, and added, when questioned again, that “I thought that somebody from the outside—in light of the newspaper article that appeared that morning in the News and Observer,"Dancer Gives Details of Ordeal”—I thought that that would send the message that that was, in fact, an accurate account of what had happened.”
Kennedy was right. Indeed, in their non-apology apology, the New York Times sports editors cited the unprecedented cancellation of the game and then the season as one reason for the paper’s presumption of guilt in its coverage.
The second came in Brodhead’s infamous April 20, 2006 remarks to the Durham Chamber of Commerce, shortly after the arrests of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, in which the Duke president declared of his students, “If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.”
Kennedy was asked how the Durham community viewed this statement, and he responded, reasonably, "I think that someone without any knowledge of any of the facts, someone on the outside would again draw the conclusion that some kind of crime had been committed and that Brodhead believed they were guilty. And furthermore, I think it was incredibly indiscreet to say ‘whatever they did was bad enough.”
Finally, the deposition offers a revealing vignette. Kennedy spearheaded the (successful) NCAA appeal for the members of the team to obtain an extra year of athletic eligibility. He wrote the appeal document, and passed it along to the Duke counsel’s office for approval. The counsel eliminated items dealing with the on-campus threats to the students and the behavior of the Duke faculty toward their own students.
A bit of revisionist history, perhaps.