Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Travails of Karla Holloway

You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing for sports and the Duke Campus Culture Initiative. That the administration would place Peter Wood in charge of the “athletics” subgroup speaks volumes about Duke’s campus culture. Wood’s statements, however, almost appear temperate when compared to those of Karla Holloway, who chairs the CCI's “race” subgroup. Holloway, a member of the Group of 88, attracted some attention in June, when she wrote a letter to (of course) the Herald-Sun complaining about her burdensome summertime duties as CCI race chair, even as she sent e-mails saying she would be out of her office until August.

But even that public demonstration of self-pity couldn’t have prepared anyone for Holloway’s latest—an article in an obscure journal, The Scholar and Feminist Online. Written in a style suggesting a parody of academic jargon, Holloway’s article dismisses the significance of the legal process; denounces all men’s sports; and assaults women athletes whose behavior has been beyond reproach. That such a document comes from a professor charged with shaping “campus culture” is beyond belief.

Holloway advances four basic arguments:

1.) The courts will not reach the desired outcome to advance her on-campus aims, and so their results must be preemptively dismissed.

“Justice,” claims Holloway, “inevitably has an attendant social construction. And this parallelism means that despite what may be our desire, the seriousness of the matter cannot be finally or fully adjudicated in the courts.” Therefore, since the presumption of innocence “is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts,” judgments about the case “cannot be left to the courtroom.” In a sentence that captures Holloway’s obtuse writing style, she asserts, “Despite the damaging logic that associates the credibility of a socio-cultural context to the outcome of the legal process, we will find that even as the accusations that might be legally processed are confined to a courtroom, the cultural and social issues excavated in this upheaval linger.”

Coming from a professor who is teaching a course called “Language of Constitutional Law,” this viewpoint is chilling. But those who have such a dismissive attitude toward events “confined to a courtroom” are unlikely to champion due process and standard procedures. In this respect, the article helps explains why Holloway had no trouble signing the Group of 88's statement, despite its blatant dismissal of principles of due process.

2.) The culture of male athletics is inherently immoral.

“The ‘culture’ of sports,” explains Holloway, “seems for some a reasonable displacement for the cultures of moral conduct, ethical citizenship and personal integrity.” Who exalts immoral and unethical behavior through sports she never reveals, though they’re usually males (she frets about “the culture of men’s sports in particular, with its elevations and hierarchies, with its often brutal physical contact, and with its body-intense loyalties”) or those who disagree with her ideologically (who she claims define “the ethic of sportsmanship” as tolerating “aberrant behavior”). Holloway contends that Duke must exploit the lacrosse affair to “recognize that sports reinforces exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those ‘othered’ by their sports’ history of membership.”

At least Orin Starn was willing to allow the New Duke to retain club sports. CCI subgroup chair Holloway, it appears, wants to see all (male, at least) athletics banished from the Duke campus.

3.) Women athletes are effectively traitors to their gender.

Ironically for a journal issue that ostensibly celebrates Title IX, Holloway’s article provides an equally bleak view of women’s athletics. Her target? The women’s lacrosse team. As they advanced to the Final Four last spring, women’s lacrosse players wore armbands expressing sympathy with the players targeted by D.A. Mike Nifong, while Coach Kerstin Kimel spoke out on behalf of the character of the men’s players.

Holloway confessed that upon hearing of the players’ actions, “I wanted to write to them to ask if they might, instead, consider writing the word ‘justice’ onto their gear, a word whose connotations run deeper than the team-inspired and morally slender protestations of loyalty that brought the ethic from the field of play onto the field of legal and cultural and gendered battle as well.”

Had Holloway made such a request, the women’s lacrosse players might have asked why she and her 87 cohorts, relying solely on the version of events presented by Nifong, felt entitled to sign the April 6 statement defending not justice but the campus protesters who had publicly branded the lacrosse players rapists. Moreover, Holloway’s reaction seemed out of character for a figure who had previously rationalized her membership in the Group of 88 as that of a professor determined to “understand and encourage the free speech rights” of her students. As far as I know, the members of the women’s lacrosse team are Duke students–but it seems as if Holloway isn’t too interested in understanding and encouraging their ideas.

4.) The “victim” in this affair is . . . Karla Holloway.

Most college professors perform three tasks: teaching, research, and service. At Duke, Holloway teaches two courses per semester, while she has produced such scholarly publications as “Cruel Enough to Stop the Blood: Global Feminisms and the U.S. Body Politic, or: ‘They Done Taken My Blues and Gone’.”

With a likely salary in the low six-figures, she probably would be considered well compensated, even if she, like other faculty members all over the country, also has to perform some committee service. Holloway, however, believes otherwise. Regarding her service with the CCI, she explains,
My decision has vacillated between the guilt over my worry that if not me, which other body like mine will be pulled into this service? Who do I render vulnerable if I lose my courage to stay this course? On the other side is my increasingly desperate need to run for cover, to vacate the battlefield, and to seek personal shelter. It does feel like a battle. So when asked to provide the labor, once again, for the aftermath of a conduct that visibly associates me, in terms of race and gender, with the imbalance of power, especially without an appreciable notice of this as the contestatory space that women and black folk are asked to inhabit, I find myself preoccupied with a decision on whether or not to demur from this association in an effort, however feeble, to protect the vulnerability that is inherent to this assigned and necessary meditative role.
Cutting through the jargon: Holloway doesn’t like the time and effort associated with committee service. Who does? That belief entitles her to no more self-pity than any other college professor in the country, of any race, ethnicity, or gender.


Holloway’s essay contains what might be the single most incredible passage to come from a Duke professor during the last six months. Innocence and guilt, she maintains, must be “assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt.”

This statement is transparently absurd. The inevitable dismissal of charges against the accused players will expose not the “guilt” of their accuser, a black woman, but the ethical and possibly criminal misconduct by two white males, Mike Nifong and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb. Holloway’s reflexive interpretation of events renders her no more able to comprehend Nifong’s behavior than she could understand the willingness of the women’s lacrosse players to celebrate due process.

Describing herself as among the “weary bodies of black and women faculty and students at Duke,” Holloway suggests that the burden of her committee service leaves her barely able to make it through the day. For her own good, then, Duke should relieve Holloway of her service on the CCI. That such an outcome will also benefit the institution shows that good deeds are sometimes rewarded.


Anonymous said...

I am so glad someone is telling Karla Holloway what she needs to hear. Thank you KC for your excellent analyses.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Holloway's comments are idiotic. (And I agree with your assessment of her writing skills, or rather her lack of writing skills. That murky prose is an embarrassment). Freedom of expression is a wonderful thing, but when that expression clearly demonstrates that the writer is a fool, someone (preferably in Duke's administration) should take notice -- and take action.

Anonymous said...

And to think she is teaching a class at the Law School with her writing inability?

Law 572.01, Language of constitutional law
Law school M 04:30 PM-06:20 PM

I encourage everyone to start looking up the classes the Duke 88 teach. Millions of dollars are being wasted on these professors!

Anonymous said...

It is a scarey situation to think that there are professors like Ms. Holloway teaching our students.
The very idea that she is in charge of this Culture Committee should send shivers up all of our spines.
Great post KC...has Broadhead seen her article I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I don't think Brodhead would mind Holloways's article. These are his close buddies; why would he see anything wrong with them? Well, maybe, just maybe, he could conclude there are too few quotations from Shakespeare in Holloway's article. But other than this minor problem he will be fine with it.

Anonymous said...

It seems what Holloway is advocating is a "dictatorship of relativism" in which there are no objective standards for justice, such as truth and evidence; rather "justice" would rest on subjective opinions of victimhood based on race and gender. In this dictatorship, the individual doesn't exist, just the group. This philosophy is frightening.

Anonymous said...

Is Ms Holloway a member of the N.C. Bar? If so, look for her to be appointed Durham County D.A. if the Fong loses!

Anonymous said...

The best thing that ever happened to blacks, women, or any minority was the invention of the notion that people should be judged according to individual qualities rather than by supposed group qualities.
It is worse than ironic that a black woman would be so eager to overturn all of this.
Assuming that Holloway is not just profoundly stupid, the obvious explanation is that she and her ilk have sensed weakness in other groups and feel emboldened to assert a kind of supremacy. As in, "You can see that I am a black woman, so give me what I ask for and don't talk back."

Anonymous said...

Gee, I used to pay hommage to Duke for it's schloarship. I see that in reality all that is required is to write incomprehensible drivel.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Johnson, somewhere in the past months we had an exchange about the academic writing style exemplified in Ms. Holloway's latest piece. I can't remember who we were talking about before, it might even have been her. But this style seems to be encouraged in the academic world and plainspeak is not. Is it possible that it is even more tolerated in her because of her gender and race and the need universities have to find women of color for their faculties?

I actually think that her observation that finding white men innocent in this case means finding a black woman guilty DOES prevent many people from seeing the truth as the facts are presented. It is not quite the point Holloway is trying to make, but the observation has resonance.

Mr. Michaels has started to make a point that CGM might have floated the accusation in desperation and never had the strength to back away from it, given the persistence of the DPD and Nifong. If people need to believe this it is only because they don't want to believe that a black woman, mother of two, could make such a vile accusation unless it were true or that she was somehow coerced.

Racial prejudice has been revealed in this case, but not in the way most writers say. Some commentators (Limbaugh and others) assumed CGM was lying because of her status in life--hooker, stripper, black. Some folk obviously believed the boys could have done it because of the arrogant attitude some athletes, let's admit it, have carried that the regular rules of society don't apply to them. Plus, there is a perception in the public, black and white, that young men in the lacrosse players' position have it made in life and the public would like to see them taken down a peg. There was a prejudice, some of it reverse racist, against these guys from the beginning.

Duke is probably in no more need of a culture overhaul racially and sexually than most campuses, maybe even less. But saying that doesn't men that changes for the better can't be made. Self-segregation between whites and blacks should be discouraged and undermined in some way on all campuses. Casual and rappy racial comments like the "ching, chang, chong" episode recently reported by the asian student writing in the Duke Chronicle should be condemned and it should be socially acceptable to criticise immediately any of one's friends who say such things out loud.

Anonymous said...

The point I was trying to make on the presence of racial prejudice in people ovserving this case is that it made people jump to conclusions before facts were released and continued to cloud people's ability to see the truth when the facts came out, gradually and then finally with the release of the prosecution's discovery material. No one, CGM included, deserves to be raped because of her status or occupation. No one, exalted white athletes included, deserves to be falsely accused of brutal vaginal, anal and oral rape lasting 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with this statement: "The inevitable dismissal of charges against the accused players will expose not the 'guilt' of their accuser ... but the ... misconduct by ... Mike Nifong and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb." Yes, Nifong and Gottlieb have a lot to answer for, but so does the accuser. If the lax players are innocent, the accuser is a slanderer whose false accusations have already caused enormous harm and could ruin the defendants' lives and reputations.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you might understand Holloway's views a bit better, whether they offend you or not, in context. From a review of her book Passed On:

"Bem, whom she and her husband had adopted at age 4, had begun to show signs of mental illness as a teenager. He was serving a 95-year sentence for rape and attempted murder, and facing capital murder charges as Ms. Holloway was doing her research. Working on the chapter about executions, she found that she was writing about "what I expected would be his end, and I had to stop. It was too much." Then, in 1999, he was killed, shot in the back while trying to escape from prison. His death became headline news.

"I had not expected the book to be tied to my own heartbreak," says Ms. Holloway. "It was not until I tried to save myself by going back to the book that I realized I couldn't write it without him." She wove the tale of Bem's death and funeral into the fabric of Passed On and gave the book a second subtitle: "A Memorial."

Anonymous said...


you are right about CGM being the root of this whole evil. She had her opportunity and still does, to TELL THE TRUTH.

Nifong and Gottlieb are greedy pawns in the ugly trail of fantastic lies.

Brodhead should take much of the credit for his spineless response to the Gang of 88 and their reverse racism.

Anonymous said...


Do you feel the Duke administration has communicated fully with you concerning the rape hoax, and the apparently increasingly dysfunctional social scene on the Duke campus (parties pushed off campus, tailgating quashed, zero tolerance, etc)?

do you feel the Duke and Durham PD are looking out for Duke students?

If your child was involved in a similar tragedy to the lax hoax, would you be comfortable with the Duke administration turning its back on your student and leaving you to foot tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills?

If your family is so called "privileged" do you feel your child will always get a fair shake from the faculty?

Just curious...?

Anonymous said...

Good grief...what a self-important Drama Queen...why doesn't Karla climb down from her lofty ivory tower in Duke and join the real world, where people occassionally have to engage in *real* day to day battle? Narcissism is alive and well at Duke University, at least among the Group of 88, for sure...

Anonymous said...

To 5:47 poster, my answers to your questions:

#1. I feel the Duke administation has adequately communicated with me on those issues. I don't expect the administration to be a big source of info on them.

#2 I don't expect Durham PD to look out for (if by that you mean protect) him any more than any other citizen of Durham. It does bother me that DPD or at least Gottlieb apparently targeted Duke students for harsh treatment. I don't know how much I expect Duke to "look out for" him. I expect their facilities to be reasonably safe and that they have people on campus (campus police, a clinic) to help him if something comes up on campus. I don't expect them to bail him out if he gets arrested off campus.

#3 I would not be surprised at being so abandoned. I probably would be unhappy about it. The legal bills would not be Duke's responsibility at all.

#4 He's white and male but not a varsity athlete and isn't wealthy. His whiteness and maleness might be a reason for prejudice against him by a faculty member but there's no more of a chance of that than of being favored by other faculty for the same reason. I expect from the faculty that he will be judged by his performance and not his status.

I'm not sure of the point of your questions or how they relate to the Holloway essay, but those are my answers

Anonymous said...


Just wanted an inside perspective.

There are exceptions to any generalization, but I think a number of the faculty have a real disdain for the Duke students. The administration appears aloof....I could continue but let's leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

to 8:57:

I'm still a little troubled by my answer to #2 above. I started a topic on the FODU open topic board on this if you would like to continue on it. I think we are a bit far afield here.

Anonymous said...

You almost want to go to one of those novelty/craft stores and buy a mini-violin and send it to her.

Anonymous said...

Yes but..Dickie B needs as many AAs on the "research" committee as he can get so she'll be feted and applauded by the feminazis and placaters for her tremendous service on behalf of whining losers and jackasses.

Laika's Last Woof said...

What she said about the innocence of one implying the guilt of the other is absolutely true.

If the lacrosse players are innocent, Karla and all those who protested will have been guilty -- terribly, monstrously guilty.

On some level they know and are terrified.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

send her to Vandy. She'll be in good company with Professor Baker.
His letter was just as offensive, but at least it was readable.

Anonymous said...



Prisoners awaiting trial on first-degree rape or murder charges will no longer be eligible to work outside prison walls, the state Correction Department said Monday.

The change follows the attempted escape of three prisoners from the
Odom Correctional Institute last month and the fatal shooting of one
22-year-old Bem Holloway -- by a correctional officer.

Corrections came under fire when Holloway; Bennie Culver Joyner Jr.,
23; and Wesley Eugene Turner, 22, were shot by guards June 28 while
trying to escape from a work detail in Northampton County. Turner and
Joyner were wounded.

Holloway was in prison for the attempted murder and rape of 2 Raleigh women. But he also was awaiting trial on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in separate slayings in Robeson and Bladen counties. If convicted, he could have been sentenced to death, and death row inmates are not allowed off death row.

Anonymous said...

Pardon my repost (I wrote this for Liestoppers, but it is even more relevent here, especially given that professors such as KC Johnson--and there are a few, albeit mighty few--are more to my liking than the more common obfuscators, those who purposely muddy their work in an attempt to hide their fundamental mediocrity...):

As I was reading Holloway's "work," redolent, as it is, of Marxist vocabularic creations meant to obscure rather than enlighten, I was thinking back to my undergraduate days and wishing that I had more often raised my hand and asked "What the h*ll is this cr*p?"

One of the crimes perpetrated by professors against students is embedded within the very "power structure" claimed by the "victims" (and can a tenured professor at Duke really be seen as a "victim"?), i.e., students, even now and to a large extent, assume that whatever a professor says is more or less true, and that any inability to comprehend is more a matter of student limitations rather than professorial idiocy.

I learned the deck was stacked when, after an introductory "Lit Crit" class with multiple instructors, I turned to one of the professors and asked, politely, "Um, honestly, was that a whole lot of bullsh*t?" To which said professor responded not with indignation, but with a sort of tender pity, the kind one might employ when dealing with the developmentally delayed. I forget exactly what he said, but it was along the lines of "But no, my confused wanderer, perhaps you ought to read the book again."

Holloway and her kind become academically cynical without even realizing it; the innocence of college students (both intellectually and, here, legally) is not even up for consideration.

"Youth is wasted on the young," my mother would often say. And while there is truth to the statement, also true is the idea that the youth are unprepared for the intellectual and emotional predators that have infiltrated college faculties. Colleges have moved from the model of patrician guider (functioning "in loco parentis") to an adversarial ("contestatory"?) stance in which college students either must be "enlightened" (usually young women) or "re-educated" (usually young men) or, failing that, punished (e.g., lacrosse players).

Jay said...

How can an obviously illiterate dummy-there is no other word to describe her farcical, incomprehensible drivel-like Karla Holloway hold a chair at a formerly distinguished university like Duke? What have we come to?

Anonymous said...

Holloway is plainly mis-spelled. It must be Hollow-ay. A few adjectives come quickly to mind -- inane, biased, not-so-subtly racist, and unworthy of serious regard.

R. Cutler, retired U Mich prof and v-p.

Anonymous said...

The majority of the comments suggests the exact point those who study race & gender issues sometimes attempt to make. Those that occupy neither a gendered nor a raced space sometimes have no understanding of what it is to occupy such a space (and I know some will probably attack me for this statement and say it makes no sense rather than actually tryign to figure out what it means). Then instead of acknowledging the lack of understanding, you all instead attack the person. Her comments are actually quite understandable and are not indicative of an "illiterate dummy" as one person suggests. Take a step back and just listen without reading with such a defensive stance and perhaps you will then be able to comment not on her writing (which again is quite compelling) but rather be able to say at the very least, "You know I don't understand her position but I am not a Black woman so perhaps that might account for some of the lack of understanding."

Anonymous said...
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Laika's Last Woof said...

"... those that occupy neither a gendered nor a raced space sometimes have no understanding of what it is to occupy such a space ..."
Actually the Duke case has opened our eyes, and now we know exactly what it means to occupy such a space.

It means nursing an ongoing sense of grievance justified by historical crimes perceived as acting upon you in the present.

It means looking for ways to attack innocent people to satify your sick craving for attention, a Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. It means living in a socitety which encourages that dysfunctional behavior no matter who it hurts or how unhappy it ultimately makes both victim and perpetrator feel.

Those of us not living in a "victim space" would be rightly chastized for giving in to paranoia and outrage, constantly on the lookout for ways to be offended. But for those in the victim box there are no checks or balances, no limit to the extremes of hate and anger with which you scar your souls and, in your fit of unjustified rage, the damage you will do to the innocent to fill that hole in your psyche that can never be filled.

shirley temple said...

And I just read that Ms. Holloways son is in prison for rape??? Has anyone else read this?

This woman needs to be fired and banned from teaching ANYONE. She should be forced to work as a Wal-Mart greeter and have a taste of real world 101. Arrogance and ignorance, perfect combination for a "social disaster"...

Anonymous said...

I like articles like this. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for article! Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

your analysis is very unfortunate and impoverished. It's easy to write off Dr. Holloway's language as obtuse instead of acknowledging your own inability to understand the complexities and nuances of her argument. It's okay to say that you don't understand. It's certainly not okay to over-simplify an argument so that you are able to respond in your own half-baked way, as you do here. This compromises your own integrity.
"Justice inevitably has an attendant social construction. And this parallelism means that despite what may be our desire, the seriousness of the matter cannot be finally or fully adjudicated in the courts.” This quote is a profound statement about this country's response to major legal events. Why do we continue to discuss the OJ Simpson trial when it was decided over 10 years ago? Why do we continue to discuss abortion when the highest court in the country already affirmed women's right to choose? Why do we still battle with the inequities of segregated schools when separate was long-ago declared not equal? It is because these cases have social and cultural implications that go far beyond a guilty/not guilty verdict or a majority vote. This is not dismissive of due process, but is a realistic interpretation of how our legal system works. Decisions made in courtrooms do not always soothe the conscience of the American public.
I would say more, but there is only so much that you can direct towards the ignorant. Also, nice touch enabling the comment moderator.