Thursday, June 28, 2012

Updates

Three brief items:

1.) The N&O reports that Crystal Mangum, in papers filed by her de facto attorney, Sydney Harr, has demanded that her bail be reduced (to $50,000) and that the murder charges against her be dismissed, on grounds of self-defense.

The Harr/Mangum team had already made requests along these lines; chances of getting a better outcome this time seem doubtful.

2.) Speaking of Harr (a local retiree best-known for heading a committee of die-hard Nifong fanatics): the Durham News reports that the State Bar will investigate him for practicing law without a license. Harr had admitted that he had "helped" Mangum write her previous legal filings, but argued that he did so after informing her he wasn't an attorney.

“You can’t disclaim the unauthorized practice of law simply by saying I am not an attorney,” David Johnson, deputy counsel for the State Bar, told the Durham News.

Harr (hilariously) claimed he wasn't aware of the rule. (This is the same figure who has termed himself so expert in ethics rules that he can demonstrate the incorrectness of Nifong's disbarment.) He also has told the Bar he won't practice law again--a promise that would seem to be undermined by his delivery of the most recent batch of Mangum papers.

3.) Continuing the practice of Duke elevating Group of 88'ers into positions of authority, as of July 1 the Duke Sociology Department will have a new chair--Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, one of the two or three most extreme members of the Group. In addition to signing the Group statement, Bonilla-Silva had signed onto an even more extreme case-related document, a May 1, 2006 letter that could only be described as willfully ignorant about events in the case.

I looked at Bonilla-Silva's scholarship and teaching record in this post. To give a taste: in a syllabus (a legally binding document between university, the professor, and students), Bonilla-Silva wrote, We conclude the class with a discussion of some of the solutions that have been proposed to deal with the racial dilemmas plaguing the United States of Amerikkka (I will remove the three Ks from this word when the USA removes racial oppression from this country!).” And, as an example (he said) how he wasn't biased against white people, the chairman-designate noted, “Historically, many good people supported slavery and Jim Crow”—just like the “good people” in the current environment who “oppose (or have some reservations about) affirmative action.”

Imagine the (appropriate) howls of outrage if a university like Duke named as a department chair someone from the far right whose views and rhetoric were as extreme as Bonilla-Silva. Perhaps Bonilla-Silva is being prepped to succeed Paula McClain when his Group colleague steps down as graduate dean.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Follow Me

A reminder that you can follow me on Twitter; I tweet links to all my new posts both here and (on other higher-ed matters) at Minding the Campus, as well as assorted other links of interest.

Fairness

In general, the lacrosse case featured a level of non-responsiveness from key figures at Duke. (There were clear exceptions to this pattern: John Burness responded to virtually every request for comment from me.) Perhaps a fear of likely lawsuits explained this reticence; perhaps it came from a recognition—to borrow the chair of Dean McClain’s selection committee’s “Kinsley gaffe”—that many in Duke were “not on the right side of history.”

Among the faculty, the best example of reticence was the principal organizer of the Group of 88 statement, Wahneema Lubiano. Lubiano, author of two perpetually forthcoming manuscripts, aggressively solicited signatures for the Group ad, but subsequently refused all comment to me (or to any other blog that focused on the case), leaving unanswered such critical questions as to why she (falsely) claimed that five academic departments endorsed the statement. Within the administration, the case reticence award went to Larry Moneta, who declined an interview request for UPI, and who did his best to stonewall comment in this interview:
video

To what extent, however, could it be said that the blog (or, I suppose, other blogs) was unfair in not including sufficient information from the Duke faculty and/or administration? A few days ago, I was asked this question which is a rather interesting one, in reference to this post, which examined how the Duke and Durham communities responded to the sexual assault of Duke student Katie Rouse in a dramatically different approach than how the very same people had responded to the lacrosse case.

The post included one Moneta statement about the assault, in an interview with NBC-17 captured by Liestoppers: The situation was “part of the reality of collegiate life and of experimentation and some of the consequences of students not necessarily always being in the right place at the right time. This happens around the country. Duke is no different in that respect.” The post did not include Moneta’s earlier statement on the case, a four-sentence press release mentioned here, which claimed that Duke was giving an unidentified type of “support” to the student and cooperating with the police investigation.

Duke not cooperating with the police investigation likely would have violated federal law, and so saying the university was cooperating with police would be a little like saying the sky is blueclearly true, but of no relevance. In this instance, then, by the time of the post, the only appropriate reference to the Moneta press release would have been sarcastic—to note that a prominent Duke administrator apparently was defining “support” as seeming to shift the blame for the crime to the student.

But what if Moneta hadn’t done the interview with NBC-17? It’s still hard to see any news value in his press release, which was little more than pabulum. Given his position as president, the blog in general referenced all case-related press releases from Brodhead (even those that amounted to little more than pabulum), but generally referenced lower-level administrators only when they said something of substance. The handful of people who had any interest in generic statements issued over the signatures of various Duke officials could find them on the Duke website.

The idea that statements from affected parties must be referenced in the name of fairness—even if those statements either don’t say anything or non-responsive—has become a hallmark of contemporary political journalism, as reporters desperate to prove their “objectivity” include quotes from campaign press officials that amount to little more than talking points about issues that are at best tangential to the subject of the article. Reading past such non-sequiturs has become a requirement for anyone who glances at articles in the Times, Washington Post, or Politico. “Fairness” doesn’t immediately jump to mind when describing the impact of the inclusion of such statements.

The lesson from the Moneta press release? If administrators want their words noticed, their statements should actually say something. Then again, at Duke during the lacrosse case, administrators’ most substantive remarks (for instance, Brodhead’s April 5, 2006 letter to the campus community) often backfired. Perhaps they should have stuck to the pabulum strategy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Coach K Defends Campus Due Process


In many ways the lacrosse case that hit the Duke campus was a perfect storm. A media that (thanks to the botched Samiha Khanna interview in the N&O and then the Times’ initial biased coverage) portrayed the affair as a brutal example of racism. A corrupt local prosecutor who positioned himself as a latter-day Atticus Finch. A diversity-obsessed faculty whose “activist” members were more than willing to play the race card against anyone who opposed them, even as they violated Duke rules and procedures to get their way. And a president who was at best intimidated by his own faculty and at worst a willing accomplice of the faculty mob.

In this environment, perhaps no one could have provided the voice of reason. Yet the voice of arguably the most powerful person on the Duke campus, men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, was conspicuously silent in the initial weeks of the case. The co-author of several books on leadership, Krzyzewski refrained from all public comment on the case until late June 2006, eleven weeks after President Brodhead had fired coach Mike Pressler and issued a guilt-presuming public statement, and nine weeks after Brodhead had traveled to the Durham Chamber of Commerce to say of the accused lacrosse players, “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.”

In his June 2006 remarks, Krzyzewski said, “If you're going to be in here for the long run, you're going to have trying times. That's just what happens, whether it's a business, a family or a university if you're in it for the long haul." Of the accused players, the coach said, “What I've tried to do behind the scenes is say, 'We're with you. We'll see what happens, and whatever happened if you did it, you should be punished.’” (From everything I learned in the case, whatever behind-the-scenes support Krzyzewski provided to the falsely accused players was very, very quiet indeed.) The sports blog Deadspin mockingly characterized the remarks in the following way: “Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has spoken out in full solidarity, um, in utter opposition, ah, in lukewarm, half-hearted support of the Duke players in this high-profile controversy.”

Such rhetoric, the coach concluded, was consistent with a university’s values: “Giving support does not mean you're choosing sides. Giving support is what a university should do ... because we're in the kid business.” Of course, the leadership that was needed on the Duke campus in spring 2006 was not giving support (if the players were guilty, why would they have deserved the support of the men’s basketball coach, whether or not he was in the “kid business”?), but speaking out on behalf of fairness—ensuring that Duke faculty treated all students fairly, and ensuring that Durham authorities treated all Duke students fairly.

Krzyzewski made no such statements while the case was ongoing. He gave somewhat contradictory reasons for this approach. In an interview with the AP, he said that he decided to privately lend whatever guidance or insights I might have into the situation,” including to President Brodheead, because I am the basketball coach. I'm not the president, I'm not the athletic director and I'm not on the Board of Trustees and don't want to be.” (If, in fact, Krzyzewski did privately advise Brodhead, he either saw his advice completely rejected or gave very bad advice.) In an August 2006 interview with Time, however, the coach implied that he had remained silent to help the players, since in [the Durham] area, I am like a lightning rod for some things, because there are a lot of Carolina fans or whatever.” And by March 2007, in an interview with Bob Costas, the coach enhanced his recollection again: “I met with my college president. I told Dick Brodhead, 'If you need me ... you tell me, and then put me in a position where I'm not the basketball coach. But I am that special assistant to you.’ Dick Brodhead did not bring me in.

Krzyzewski eventually did criticize the Group of 88, though not until the spring of 2007, and only once he realized that the Group’s statement targeted not only the lacrosse players but also indicated “a latent hostility or whatever you want to say towards sports on campus. I thought it was inappropriate, to be quite frank." And he issued by far the most gracious statement of anyDuke administrator once the case imploded, when he commented after Nifong’s disbarment, “The Lacrosse Community, the Pressler Family, the Danowskis, there's some real heroes, but the main heroes are those kids and their families.

Yet at no point in the lacrosse case did Krzyzewski issue a public statement on behalf of due process—urging Duke administrators to ensure that all Duke students were treated according to the rules by Durham authorities and by Duke professors, or that Duke administrators avoid precipitous action until the facts were clearer.

Why revisit Krzyzewski’s silence on lacrosse case due process? Because CNN reports that in an interview to appear tomorrow, the coach will criticize Penn State’s board of trustees for acting too hastily in firing longtime coach Joe Paterno. Penn State, said Krzyzewski, made a “real mistake” in how it handled affairs; “it was really not well done.” He continued, “You had somebody who’d given six decades of service to the university and done such an incredible job. Somehow, you have to let—something has to play out and respect the fact that you’ve gone through all these experiences for six decades. And it doesn’t just go out the window, right at the end.”

Penn State’s trustees faced an extraordinarily difficult decision regarding Paterno’s fate when the indictments of the school’s AD, security chief, and former football defensive coordinator came down. Viewing the facts the Trustees had through the lens most favorable to Paterno, the coach (a) had received a report of a horrific crime by his former chief assistant, waited a day before phoning his AD about it, and then never followed up on the report even as his former chief assistant continued to frequent the football facilities; (b) had, despite his prominence in State College, no knowledge of the 1998 police investigation into another child sex abuse claim against Jerry Sandusky; and (c) did not notice Sandusky bringing along one of his sexual-abuse alleged victims to a 1998 bowl game. Finally, and again assuming facts in the most favorable light toward Paterno, the trustees would have needed to believe that Sandusky's abrupt resignation as defensive coordinator in 1999 was not motivated by hopes of distancing the football program from Sandusky following the 1998 investigation.

With these (and especially item a) as the facts viewed most favorably to Paterno, it seems to me Penn State’s trustees acted properly, though I can see how people of good faith could disagree. It would seem odd, however, for someone who didn’t criticize his own university’s trustees and administrators for not upholding due process to then criticize another school’s under the circumstances that Penn State faced in November.

Moreover, even if someone believed in November that the trustees mistreated Paterno, virtually every piece of information that’s emerged since then has placed Paterno in a less flattering light. In the late coach’s only interview aboutthe affair, he suggested that when he first heard of the allegations against Sandusky, he couldn’t even conceive of them, since “I never heard of, of, rape and a man.” To accept that statement required believing that Paterno—a high-profile Catholic who made large donations to Catholic causes—had never heard of the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church in the United States.


Then, an Esquire article offered tantalizing, if circumstantial, evidence that Paterno might in fact have known of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky.


And finally, reports in recent days have suggested that in 2001, Paterno’s nominal superiors (whom he had faced down in 2004 when they urged him to retire) extensively discussed the charges against Sandusky, and made a conscious—and probably illegal—decision not to report the allegations.

Given all that, it seems remarkable that Krzyzewski still believes that the Penn State trustees should have kept Paterno as their coach for the rest of the 2011 season—all the more so given his disinclination to publicly support due process or criticize his own school’s administrators during the lacrosse case.

Friday, June 15, 2012

H-S: Civil Case Appeal Scheduled

The Herald-Sun reports that the 4th Circuit has scheduled oral arguments for sometime in the third week of September for Durham's appeal in the civil suits. Durham is claiming that governmental immunity means that the lawsuit must be dismissed before any discovery occurs--a precedent that would be comforting for all city governments intent on engaging in a conspiracy to bring false charges against innocent people.

It's worth reiterating exactly what's under appeal here: there hasn't even been any discovery in a civil suit that was filed years ago. With the only on-point precedent a case from a district court outside of the 4th Circuit, Judge Beaty allowed Durham (and also all claims against Duke involving former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy) to be deferred until the 4th Circuit acts. So even if the appeals court decides against Durham, this decision almost certainly won't come before early 2013, and then the lengthy discovery process will commence.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Cline: Taxpayers Should Fund My Appeal

The N&O reports that disgraced ex-DA Tracey Cline has offered a Durham definition of chutzpah: she has filed a request that taxpayers should fork over the funds for her appeal of the (civil) judgment that removed her from her post as DA. She justified this extraordinary request on the grounds that since she no longer draws her DA's salary, she can't afford her attorneys' fees. (Cline apparently has struggled to set up a private practice.)

According to the N&O, the director of the courts system, former Judge John Smith, urged Judge Hobgood to deny the motion, on the following grounds: "there is no appropriation of funds for this purpose, there is no statutory authorization justifying the expenditure, and there is no other factor that would permit the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide payment for outside counsel in this situation. Furthermore, precedents establish that this is not a situation where state funds should be used to pay for private counsel in a removal proceeding such as this.”

Cline also can appeal to the AG's office to pay her legal expenses; why Roy Cooper would want to fork over taxpayer funds for such a fantastic appeal is not clear to me.