Monday, September 11, 2006

Sounds of (Selective) Silence

From time to time over the past five months, I've noted my astonishment at how Duke's faculty--reflecting an academy long known for its support of due process, especially for matters that affect itself--has remained silent in the face of D.A. Mike Nifong's habitual disregard of standard procedures.

For a sense of the selective nature of this silence, take a look at this item from the Duke webpage. In 2005, a Duke graduate student in cultural anthropology, Yektan Turkyilmaz, was placed on trial in Armenia. The charges resulted from procedurally dubious conduct by Armenian authorities and seemed politically inspired: Turkyilmaz, a Turk, had been researching the Armenian genocide.

Based on the institution's behavior in the past several months, President Richard Brodhead should have championed a trial, in which Turkyilmaz could have the opportunity to be "proved innocent," coupled with a presidential statement that he could not comment on the procedures, however irregular, used to bring Turkyilmaz to trial.

In fact, Brodhead wrote to the president of Armenia, asking him to intervene in the trial. “As the leader of a great country," Brodhead wrote, "you have the ability to intervene in this matter and to determine the appropriateness of the actions of your government and the Armenian prosecutors and police. You also have the ability to release Mr. Turkyilmaz. With respect, I urge you to do so.” Did Brodhead suddenly lose interest in protecting civil liberties for Duke students between 2005 and 2006? If so, why?

Turkyilmaz's advisor, in turns out, was Professor Orin Starn--who, coincidentally, also taught a student accused in this procedural monstrosity, Reade Seligmann. Over the past few months, Starn has deemed it more important to make factually dubious attacks on Coach K than to question in any way the procedurally irregular fashion through which local authorities have treated Seligmann.

In the Armenian case, Starn seemed more concerned with upholding due process. The Duke website said that Starn "was planning to go to Armenia to attend the trial. Starn said Turkyilmaz bought the books from a used-book dealer and didn’t know it was illegal to remove them from the country." I guess Turkyilmaz, unlike Seligmann, was fortunate that his experience with procedural improprieties didn't simultaneously provide a temptation for Starn to exploit the crisis to pursue an anti-athletics agenda.

Brodhead and Starn, it appears, seem to view it as within the responsibilities to protest injustices against Duke students when doing so doesn't contradict their agendas on issues dearer to them. Perhaps this morning's Chronicle will focus their attention. The lead story discusses how Sgt. Mark Gottlieb has a pattern of questionable behavior in dealing with Duke students--of differing races, genders, and ethnicities.

Students quoted in the article claim that Gottlieb:
  • lied in their reports;
  • displayed an attitude of ethnic bias;
  • engaged in excessive force;
  • failed to respect their constitutional rights
Do Duke students need to move to Armenia to have Brodhead and the Duke faculty pay attention to authorities refusing to respect due process?


Anonymous said...

The truth continues to shock and amaze me - Your readers are grateful for your research! A DA and his goons have run wild....

Anonymous said...

There is something Hail Freedonia about Brodhead's letter.

"As the supreme leader of the great mythical country known as Nifongia..."

Anonymous said...

"Do Duke students need to move to Armenia to get justice?"

Either that or they can become terrorists and they will gain instant sympathy from Brodhead and the Group of 88.

Anonymous said...

Spot on!!!! Keep up your good work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson, I greatly enjoy reading your blog -- and those to which you have referred me.

I invite you to have a look at the Duke Student Affairs website -- particularly as it relates to the students rights in any disciplinary process. As a colleague of mine points out, Gitmo inmates get fairer treatment.

To help facilitate your -- and your readers' research:

Please be advised that this isn't the easiest website to navigate from the standpoint of ease of information discovery (I wonder why that is [tongue-in-cheek]).

I note with particular interest that if you are being dragged to an administrative hearing on [pick an infraction], you can't even bring the attorney of your choice, you have to pick someone who is a member of Duke University as an "adviser" of "choice."