Monday, February 11, 2013

Campus News

A few items from Duke and other campuses:

First, a horrifying story of anti-Asian prejudice from a Duke fraternity (followed, a few days later, by reports that at least some Duke students—there are debates about how many—were mocking a NC State basketball player over his grandmother’s death). These are not signs of a healthy campus culture.

The recent events recalled an item from UPI, revealed by Stuart’s reporting—that in the 2005-6 academic year, around 20 student groups hired strippers for campus parties. That well-meaning and basically decent students could make such poor choices provided a legitimate ground for the university to launch an impartial examination of campus culture. So, too, did the issue of whether prejudice was too rooted on the Duke campus.

But examining these issues would have required shining a harsh light on not merely Duke students but also some Duke faculty—it would be hard to argue that prejudice did not factor into the behavior of at least some of the Group of 88, such as Houston Baker, Wahneema Lubiano, and Grant Farred. So the Brodhead administration avoided these difficult issues and instead implemented the Campus Culture Initiative, allowing three of the CCI’s four subcommittees to be run by anti-lacrosse extremists. The CCI unsurprisingly produced a report so extreme (urging that Duke adjust its scheduling policies to basically force the university to withdraw from the ACC, recommending a curricular change that would have compelled the vast majority of Duke undergrads to take a course from a Group member) that even Brodhead had no choice but to shelve the panel’s findings.

Duke has suspended the anti-Asian fraternity, allegedly for reasons unrelated to the prejudicial behavior.

Second, at Penn State, the Paterno Family has released its long-awaited critique of the Freeh Report. I analyzed the document over at Minding the Campus. The report provides almost no new evidence, continues the general pro-Paterno pattern of insisting on wildly counterintuitive interpretations of circumstantial evidence, and presents several odd interpretations of due process. On the latter point, for instance, the Paterno Family attacks Freeh’s investigators for not interviewing two senior administrators (Freeh instead relied on contemporaneous e-mails from the duo) who declined to cooperate with Freeh on advice of counsel. Yet the Paterno Family’s hired attorneys and experts didn’t interview the two senior administrators, either.

In the event, so obsessed was the family with restoring Paterno’s tarnished reputation that they bequeathed a report that effectively left unchallenged Freeh’s central assertion that a handful of powerful administrators cooperated to bypass the legal requirement to report Sandusky to police—only that Paterno (a figure, apparently, without much power or influence on campus) played no role in these decisions.

It’s a document for true believers, and true believers only.

Finally, on my own campus, a shameful episode, in which the school’s political department formally (and highly unusually) voted to affiliate itself with a talk by two advocates of separating Israeli from the international community, including boycotting Israeli academics based on their nationality. Then, facing intense public criticism, the professors refused to provide a rationale for their vote. (This vision of academic freedom amounted to an accused criminal pleading the 5th amendment.) When the event occurred, a handful of anti-BDS students were expelled from the proceeding, despite the college president’s invitation to critics of the talk to attend and ask questions.

The college’s apparent disinterest in the academic freedom of its students reinforced an impression that a fear of antagonizing powerful anti-Israel forces on campus guided the administration’s approach to the case.

Hat tip—R.L.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

KC,

You are spinning your story the same way you decimate others for spinning. True, there are 'reports' of Duke students making remarks about another players grandmother's passing. However, the 'reports' are untrue, as validated by statements made by those actually attending the game…reporters, students, alumni. 'Past Your Bedtime' was the cheer. Merely aledging something is not the same as something actually happening.
The Frat party has everyone sickened, by the way.

KC Johnson said...

To the 8.35:

I wasn't at the game, obviously. Yet, as this DN piece also points out (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/college/duke-fans-heckle-basketball-player-dead-grandma-article-1.1259077), both a NC State student reporter (a fairly credible source) and a basketball player for the team made the claim. Both of those people, obviously, attended the game, as did the people whose tweets were referenced in the linked article--each of which claimed they attended the game.

It's possible, I suppose, that each of these people are lying that they attended the game, but that strikes me as unlikely.

Anonymous said...

This report on the behavior of the Duke student body at its basketball games should surprise no one. Its tradition of personal taunts and jeers is long standing. In fall 1987, North Carolina forward Scott Williams suffered the worst imaginable tragedy when he lost both his parents in a murder-suicide shooting. Several of the creative Dukies responded at the Duke-UNC game the following spring with clever shouts of "Orphan, Orphan!" as Williams was introduced.

Anonymous said...

True power comes from the tip of the gun, not the tip of the pen. Israel has big guns. It’s a good thing too because it’s obvious that with the funded anti-Semitism rampant throughout the world’s college campuses today a peaceful, intellectual, dialogue-based resolution to this conflict can never occur.

Der fuhrer would be pleased to see his tactics still at work today.

Anonymous said...

I've read several accounts of the NC State game, and many of the reporters attending on press row claimed they never heard it. Some others have stated they have.

I think what probably happened here is that this was something a few students started and may or may not have been picked up by a section. This is incredibly poor taste, sure, but it's not atypical of various student taunts one will hear at just about any ACC basketball game. Everyone knows, for example, that the Maryland fans are the worst.

Only through the lens of DIW is something like this a sign of an unhealthy campus culture.

Anonymous said...

The uproar over the chant was set off by a tweet from former NCSU basketball player, Julius Hodge, who ironically trashed talked Chris Paul about the death of his grandfather during an NCSU vs Wake Forest game years ago.

KC Johnson said...

To the 11.16:

Not sure with the meaning of the last sentence comment regarding "lens," since, to the best of my knowledge, I've never written about such an item--so if the blog has been using this "lens," it's done so on a highly irregular basis. (The blog has generally had warm things to say about the Duke student body.)

Surely, however, you're not suggesting that students taunting a player over his grandmother's death suggests a healthy campus culture.

Chris Halkides said...

I wonder whether the word "horrifying" is a little bit too strong for the fraternity party in question. It is deeply disappointing to see college students behaving that stupidly. Full disclosure: I am a member of Kappa Sigma. My fraternity brothers were capable of great generosity and occasional boorishness, but I don't recall any theme parties, fortunately.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not suggesting the taunts are a sign of healthy campus culture. I thought it was fairly clear from my post that what I was debating was the contention that such taunts are somehow a sign of an unhealthy campus culture, but perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

To state that a chant of a few students out of thousands is a sign of an unhealthy campus culture is disturbingly similar to the extrapolation of "what happened" into a crusade against the angry studies faculties' favorite demons.

Yes the students that chanted that were tasteless, but were drowned out for most listeners by the majority of the crowd that wasn't. The actions of a few people does not define a "culture."

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to take the Duke administration's concern over anti-Asian prejudice seriously. Like many elite schools Duke appears to operate an anti-Asian quota system to keep their numbers down. The average sat and class rank needed by an Asian student is higher than that of any ethnic group. Personally I would find this more damaging than a tasteless party.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! Students wore sumo suites and kimonos, drank asian beers, made fun of the leader of North Korea and talked in a ridiculous accent. Oh the horror. What's next? An Octoberfest party? A toga party? A Honey Boo Boo party? Honestly, KC, you need to get on some big boy pants if that horrifies you. By your standards, Saturday Night Live should be taken off the air, our local AA baseball team should be closed down (they use sumo suites for entertainment between innings) and any non-Catholic that enjoys St. Patrick's day should be beaten. You really need someone to help you lighten up.

Anonymous said...

Duke is a Southern school run by Southern good old boys, of course its going to look the other way when racism rears its ugly head. All the school and its faculty care about is maintaining or improving their ranking, getting fat endowments and bringing in tuition dollars. The only major difference between this school and other "elite" universities is that Duke does not fear retribution from its neighbors because it has the full support and collective denial of the community.

dfbaskwill said...

Tempering the atrocious actions of some at PSU is the news that the student-run charity raised $12.3 Million this weekend at the Dance Marathon. A total of more than $100 Million since my days there. All the monies go to the fight against childhood cancers. Heads held high.

Anonymous said...

Horrifying? The Holocaust was horrifying... this party, not horrifying.

Ray Blehar said...

First, KC, about the legal requirement of PSU officials to report the 2001 incident. A fair reading of the law in effect in 2001 states they should "cause a report" to be made. By contacting The Second Mile, whose ED was a mandated reporter, that should have caused a report to me made.

Second, two PSU officials have stated, one under oath, that they recalled making a report to the local child welfare agency. Mr. Freeh did not do anything in his investigation to verify this report. As you may be aware, he was prohibited from doing anything to impede the ongoing investigation of PSU officials. As such, discovery of exculpatory evidence would have been, ahem, frowned upon by the PA AG.

You are correct to state that the Paterno report did not address the failure to report by PSU officials. That was indeed by design. The Paterno family rebuttal was strictly focused on the actions of Joe Paterno, not PSU writ large.

As for the veracity of the Freeh investigation, I suggest you visit http://www.notpsu.blogspot.com

BTW, you are mentioned on the last page of the full report. You statement about factual errors in the Freeh Report has been proven false twenty times over.

Jay Knott said...

I usually agree with K.C. Johnson, have read the Duke book, and used it in a semi-academic paper I wrote about fake hate crimes.

But it puzzles me how K.C. can reconcile his exposures of the excesses of 'political correctness' with criticism of Brooklyn College's hosting of speakers from the 'boycott Israel' movement (see above blog post).

Dishonest p.c. language was employed by defenders of Israel, not critics of it: "the department’s sponsorship serves to condone and legitimize anti-Jewish bigotry, creating a hostile environment for Jewish students on our campus". This is just the kind of language used by the African American studies people who said the Duke three were guilty, and numerous other examples of the totalitarian campus left.

K.C. claims there are "powerful anti-Israel forces on campus". They are not as powerful as the pro-Israel voices who produced the above-cited hyperbole!

Anonymous said...

Scary that Duke students can raise money in the millions with a dance charity - for child cancer? How do they do it? Betcha if one of those children get harmed by Duke's medical or professional neglect - those million dollar donators will be highly upset if the kid or the kid's parents seek justice and change for others as needed? hmmmm ... Never met them myself. Who are these million dollar donators, and why should some kid care about them if Duke doesn't care about the kid(s) or the kids' parents? Just wondering?

KC Johnson said...

To Jay:

To the best of my knowledge, a grand total of three faculty members (in a faculty of more than 500) publicly criticized the PoliSci department's action; dozens of professors signed petitions defending the PoliSci department. Perhaps that balance means that "powerful anti-Israel forces on campus . . . are not as powerful as the pro-Israel voices"; I'd disagree.

As for Freeh: he used the administrators' own, contemporaneous words; and his critics' argument continues to be that we should adopt wildly counter-intuitive interpretations of these same documents. I disagree.