Sunday, October 08, 2006

Laughter and Forgetting in Durham

[Note update below.]

In March 1948, shortly after a coup that installed totalitarian rule in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Communist Party (KSČ) convened a celebratory gathering in Prague’s Old Town Square. Tens of thousands braved chilling temperatures to hear KSČ leader Klement Gottwald speak. The new communist foreign minister, Vladimír Clementis, standing beside Gottwald on the podium, gave up his fur hat to shield the prime minister’s bare head from the cold.

Four years later, a wave of anti-Semitic show trials occurred throughout the Eastern Bloc; Czechoslovakia experienced the most spectacular purge. In late 1952, the government denounced Clementis, KSČ first secretary Rudolf Slánský, and twelve other prominent Communists as “Trotskyite-Zionist-Titoist-
bourgeois-nationalist traitors, spies, and saboteurs.” Eleven
of the fourteen arrested leaders were Jews. All were found guilty in show trials; eleven, including Slánský and Clementis, were executed.

The trials’ outcome required creating a new, politically correct, version of the past. Propagandists eliminated the executed party members from communist history books. Clementis, for instance, was airbrushed from the photograph at the Prague demonstration hailing the coup. In the KSČ’s version of history, all that remained of the former foreign minister was the cap that he had placed on Gottwald’s head.

The true story of Clementis and his fur cap comes from the opening of Czech dissident Milan Kundera’s novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. To one of the novel’s characters, the tale showed how “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” For historians, Clementis’ fate illustrates the willingness of totalitarian regimes to alter the past to align with their contemporary political interests; and, from the other side, the need for scholars to resist such efforts.

In recent days, the spirit that Kundera condemned has resurfaced on the Duke campus. The administration has airbrushed from the past events and people whose actions or even existence, like Clementis in Prague, they would prefer to forget.

The first sign came with the Duke Alumni Association “talking points,” which pretended that more than 80 years of efforts by professors and academic institutions to protest procedural abuses in the criminal justice system simply didn’t exist. “Within our democratic system,” the DAA document lectured, “it is the role of the legal system—not of universities or others—to determine when it is appropriate to charge people and have trials. The district attorney and others with responsibility for this process have an obligation to act fairly and responsibly in pursuing the truth.”

In the world of the alumni association’s “talking points,” Harvard Law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who believed that academics have a particular obligation to voice their dissent against procedural abuses of the criminal justice system, never used his academic talents and prestige to rally opposition to prosecutorial misconduct in the Sacco and Vanzetti case. Nor, apparently, did professors and academic institutions in the early 1960s fight against Southern prosecutors who abused due process to file trumped-up charges against African-Americans. And even in the lacrosse case, the DAA’s blanket statement removed from history the recent actions of Duke Law professor James Coleman. Far from assuming that in all cases “the district attorney and others with responsibility for this process have an obligation to act fairly and responsibly in pursuing the truth,” Coleman delineated Mike Nifong’s pattern of procedural misconduct and demanded that the D.A. give way to a special prosecutor.

The Duke Alumni Association’s actions, however, look mild when compared to an examination through the Duke website. In June 2006, Duke president Richard Brodhead reluctantly revived the men’s lacrosse program, in remarks that made no mention of official Duke findings that the team members had very strong academic records, an impressive rate of community service, and showed no evidence of sexist or racist behavior on campus. In due time, Duke officials also restored the men’s lacrosse website on the Duke Athletics homepage.

But, very much like that photograph of Gottwald from the March 1948 rally, Duke has airbrushed from history those whose existence the institution now considers politically inconvenient. The website features printed versions of both the 2004-2005* and 2005-2006* rosters, which list the players on the team, their heights and weights, their hometowns, and their year in school. These rosters are, in effect, historical documents. Yet they do not contain the names of three students—Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann—who played for Duke during both seasons. According to the Duke website’s official version of events, Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann were never on the Duke men’s lacrosse team.

A search through the box scores or final stats likewise will yield no evidence that Evans, Finnerty, or Seligmann ever played for the team. Duke has disabled the links to the box scores, which routinely list a full roster of all players and, of course, those who score goals. The website’s only evidence that Evans, Finnerty, or Seligmann ever played for Duke men’s lacrosse comes from a line buried in the writeup of the 2006 Butler game: “David Evans recorded a game-high eight ground balls.”

That sentence, it seems, is the Duke equivalent of Clementis’ cap—a stray item that accidentally survived the censors’ airbrush. Duke is an educational institution, supposedly committed to a search for the truth. That its official version of history would airbrush people and events in a manner reminiscent of Stalinist Czechoslovakia is shocking.

I confirmed that neither defense attorneys nor the players’ families ever requested (or even knew about) Duke eliminating the three players from the official history of the men’s lacrosse program.

I don’t claim to know the motives of Duke administrators who denied that professors and academic leaders long have crusaded against due-process violations in the criminal justice system. Nor can I imagine why anyone associated with Duke would have chosen to erase the names of Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann from the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 lacrosse rosters. But Brodhead’s Durham is not Gottwald’s Prague. In a society where information is free, I am confident that righteous forces will prevail in “the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

[*Update: As of approximately 3.35pm, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann were restored to their rightful places on the Duke 2004-5 and 2005-6 rosters. (I saved versions of the airbrushed rosters for my own records, and am happy to supply them to anyone who needs verification, since the links above now proceed to the corrected rosters.) A small victory in “the struggle of memory against forgetting.”]

[**Update, 12.15am, Tuesday: I received an email from the Director of Internet Operations for the Duke University Athletics Association stating, "In March, at the request of the men’s lacrosse parents, we deactivated all players in the system. " The site was reactivated in September, but players not on the 2006-2007 roster were not included in previous rosters. The process, I was told, was completed on Sunday. There was, I was told, no effort at "deleting anybody from the history books."]

Hat tips: S. McN., C.S.


Anonymous said...

The 2003-2004 roster lists one lacrosse player. The 2004-2005 roster lists 24 players. The 2005-2006 roster lists 34 players. Shouldn't you investigate why all the rosters are grossly incomplete before assuming that there is an attempt to "forget" history?

Anonymous said...

If you look at the women's lacrosse schedule for the 2004-2005 season, the box score link is also disabled. Is Duke trying to forget the women's lacrosse team also? Thanks for the fair and balanced reporting. There is a place waiting for you at FOX News. Of course, when you have an agenda, you should not let something like checking the facts get in your way.

Anonymous said...

By the way, thanks for being part of the problem and not the part of the solution. Anyone with any common sense knows Nifong has mishandled the case. I am sure people have filed complaints. Let the legal system take care of his misconduct. Moreover, it is hard to imagine that the players are guilty and a trial or dismissal will bear that out. Your amateur investigation actually hurts everyone. Your bias does not allow you to comment objectively and you tend to shoot your mouth off before getting the facts.

Anonymous said...

6:07AM poster:
What have YOU done to be part of the solution? Have you written one letter to the editor, given a campaign contribution to defeat Nifong, filed one complaint yourself? How absurdly arrogant in a case inundated with egregious prosecutorial abuse, that you should promote the absurd idea that "the legal system will take care of his misconduct." Nifong is part of the legal system and his corrupt, soul-less prosecution continues to bear down on three innocent young men and encumber their families , emotionally and financially.

In the pompous security of your own little current life, you may not be able to understand the admiration so many of us have for Prof. Johnson and this blog.He has made an outstanding, heroic contribution to this case...and it is no doubt that the reason so many NOW understand these boys are because of his effort, his work, his commitment.

I would also imagine if you or someone you loved were falsely accused of a crime, caught up in an emotional witch-hunt of the media and academic "Agenda.Harpies" would pray to God someone like Prof. Johnson would step forward and "shoot off his mouth."

Anonymous said...

6:07 AM poster:
Are you Richard Brodhead? Only someone so obtuse would rely upon and have confidence in a "justice" system as evidently corrupt as Durham's. Professor Johnson is a hero. He has done much good in the face of this travesty... and I expect that you have done very little.

Anonymous said...

Those anonymous above remind me of the blind men and the elephant. Certainly anyone following this case knows full well a gross miscarriage of justice is underway. Thank you for your great service to truth, and to those of us with Duke affiliation who are dismayed and sickened at the dishonest rationalization on the part of Duke faculty and administration.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous 6:07 AM poster. May I suggest that you go back and crawl under whatever rock you crawled out from? You got some nerve to suggest that KC has been a part of the problem and not a solution. Thanks to KC’s coverage, at least some people realize what a travesty of justice this whole case has been from the very start.
I don’t think anyone would say the same about you.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 1.50 and 6.07: I made no comment on the 2003-4 roster. As to the other rosters, I suppose it is a coincidence that Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann simply disappeared from both years' rosters. I'm not a statistician, but I suspect the odds of an innocent explanation for such an event are extraordinarily high.

As to the 6.07's comment re Nifong: "Let the legal system take care of his misconduct." That, obviously, is a very passive view to take toward prosecutorial misconduct, one that I don't share.

The point of my post, however, was that the DAA's claim that it is improper for the academy to protest procedural abuses in the criminal justice system willfully ignores more than 80 years of history.

Anonymous said... . Your thoughts on this article KC. Appreciate your effort!

kcjohnson9 said...

Will be doing a post on the Neff story to be up by 1pm today.

Anonymous said...

6:07 "Anyone with any common sense knows Nifong has mishandled the case. I am sure people have filed complaints. Let the legal system take care of his misconduct. Moreover, it is hard to imagine that the players are guilty and a trial or dismissal will bear that out."

Unfortunately there are many that have only followed this case through local media. While the N&O has begun to show Nifong for who he is and what he'd done, the H/S continues to prop him.

Many with common sense still believe the Nifong's early and many beliefs and theories... and believe the 'something' must have happened.

KC has been key, along with LieStoppers and JohninCarolina for reporting what MSM has largely failed to report. How dare you ask what HE has done to be part of the solution. What have you done?

Durham resident.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the history lesson, and your ongoing comments about the hoax.

But this last piece is beneath you IMO. It seems you're running out of commentary. Better you comment less frequently than put out such silly comparisons.

Daddyx4 said...

do not concern yourselves with the poster from earlier who seems to relish an opportunity to finally poke a hole in something (lord knows, there is nothing else to hold on to for facts or support) by attempting to dismiss the obvious actions by the duke admin. what a joke. keep it up...oh, and while you are at it - you may want to check out these, once you can pull yourself out of the ignorant black hole you have been sheltered in:

and might learn something. like that kc johnson is right, the roster was changed and revised subsequent to events - including box scores (how unbelievable).

furthermore, as i have always followed duke lacrosse pretty closely, i also have personal knowledge that the roster for the 2005-06 season was complete earlier this year - as in january, 2006, when i began reviewing the website, etc. for the upcoming season and at the first game.

i fear that our courageous "anonymous" poster is incredibly frustrated at these venomous and "unfounded" attacks on the duke admin and president. the face of obvious facts, he/she/it will bellow and howl, attempt to obfuscate and misdirect, and cast nasty allegations about...all for naught.

Anonymous said...

Richard Brodhead and the rest of the university administration have once again embarrassed Duke. It's time for him to resign.

Duke parent and alum said...

To 6:07 am

You say you know that Nifong has mishandled the case and the legal system should take care of his misconduct. And you say, " it's hard to imagine the players are guilty and a trial or dismissal will bear that out." So you're saying that it is ok for a prosecutor to bring charges against innocent people with no shred of evidence? Brodhead and people like you can easily say, "Let the trial prove these boys innocent." Do you not understand that three young men and their families' lives are runined as they sit and wait for a trial. Colin and Reade are suspended from Duke. They spent their young lives working hard to go to a school like Duke and to play their sport at Duke. And you and Brodhead can push their lives aside and say, "Wait for a trial" when you admit that the prosecutor has mishandled the case. And what about the trial? We already know that the prosecutor and his police have twisted and fabricated their own lies and the lies of the AV to try to make a case. Do you and Brodhead realize how much this horrific travesty is costing these families? Do you actually think that these boys can have a fair trial in Durham? There is nothing fair about the justice system in Durham. It is a complete farce and I'm stunned that the Duke administration does not realize that Duke is in Durham and there is no covering that up. It would behoove Brodhead to make statements about the corruption in Durham and attempt to bring about major changes. I wouldn't want another child of mine to go to Duke and be stalked by Gottlieb and crew.
Thank God for professors like KC Johnson, Gaynor, Coleman, Anderson . With the exception of Dr. Coleman, we appreciate having professors from other Universities support and stand up for these boys as professors and the administration at Duke are too spineless to do so.

Jim O said...

Anybody who posts anonymously to attack someone who is wiling to express his own tjought under his own nqame is a gutless bastard. That's what you are, 6:07. Why should we give a crap wat you think?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, learnedhand. Using the link you provided, I easily discovered that 2005-2006 roster definitely contained names of Collin Finnerty and David Evans. So, it is a clear evidence of trying to erase history. As if Dave and Collin never even went to Duke. I guess it was not enough for Duke to turn its back on them, now Duke is trying to erase the evidence Dave and Collin were ever there. Maybe they hope everybody will just forget the accused ever went to Duke? After all, it’s too long to wait for the trial to “prove them innocent.” Better pretend the accused never went to Duke to begin with?

Anonymous said...

To 6:07am
How dare you to say let the legal process in Durham take care of everything!!! If we left this mess to be cared for by the Durham DA and co. we would continue to have another 500 Duke students arrested and 3 innocent young men would be sent to prison. Wake up and we all need to insist and pressure the Duke admin. to acknowledge what is going on down there. The only thing they will look at is the drop in rankings, When they drop out of the top 10 in best schools they might get concerned. We are from the midwest and have sent and encouraged many students to go to Duke. We would not encourage anyone to go there now!!!! THANK GOD for KC Johnson!!!! I don't know what we would do without him!

Anonymous said...

Get your rosters while they are hot. Indeed the rosters have been updated. I looked at cache of 2005-2006 roster saved by Google. No Collin, Dave, or Reade. I think KC made history. You un-erased it. Or rather Duke un-erased it-perhaps because they saw your article. Thanks, KC.

Anonymous said...

Now all three names are there. They've just added Reade like minutes ago. Oh, the magic of the internet.
KC, looks like your post made them do it.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone noticed that 2 Yale football players and some of their hockey players got arrested the other night. Didn't anyone notice what the Yale administration response was? We are not canceling any games and there will be no action against these players until there day in court. They stated the boys are innocent until proven guilty. Isn't that novel?

kentuckyliz said...

They ran off the lacrosse coach, too. Has he been erased from institutional memory and the team's website? Was he restored?

Mold don't grow in the sunshine. Thanks for your efforts on this site. It is very important!

Anonymous said...

Yes, all three lacrosse players names were restored. What K.C. neglects to mention is that so were the names of 19 other players on the 2004-2005 roster and 10 other names on the 2005-2006 roster. If administrators were simply trying to "forget" the names of the Finnerty, Read, and Seligmann, then how come they also removed 29 other names in the process? A lot of players were left off the roster for whatever reason.
Also, if the administrators were trying to remove the names of the three players by disabling links to the box scores, then why did they also disable the box score links for the women's lacrosse team?
At least in this case, there is no compelling evidence of a conspiracy. There is only a person who wants to find one so he has a vehicle for a ridiculous analogy (that he includes, I suppose, to show off his intellect or something). Anyone can find a conspiracy, you just have to avoid inconvenient facts.

Greg Toombs said...

Can you image Brodhead and other Duke administrators' embarrassment, in the event charges are dismissed this fall, if/when Collin and Reade rejoin the lacrosse team for the spring 2007 season (assuming they want to return)? If Dave were to be on the sideline for a game at the beginning of the season?

Or, thinking (and hoping) even further ahead, when Duke makes the NCAA tournament and national TV?

Oh, the horror, the horror...

Anonymous said...

TombZ: I personally think because of the possibility of that huge embarrassment the Duke administration is working double-duty to do everything they can to see to it that these kids get convicted. They are desperate and they will do anything to secure such an eventuality. It scares me to death to think what they are capable of doing. But, here is the thing. One little misstep, one little extra lie, one little cover up, and the whole thing will collapse on its face. It always happens, no exceptions!

Brodhead and Steel, haven’t you learned anything from the whole Nixon incident? I pity you both. Your days are numbered, before you know it this gigantic lie that you helped foster and keep alive will collapse. You will be the two most embarrassed men in America. It is not far, it is coming.

Anonymous said...

Jim O'Sullivan,

I see many comments on this website in which anonymous posters stick it to Brodhead and the Duke Administration. Would you agree that those anonymous posters are all gutless bastards and that we should not give a crap what they think?

Anonymous said...

Professor, I would say that the Tuesday, 12:15 AM, update to your article convincingly demonstrates that the main point of your article, namely, that Duke wants to airbrush from history the names of those whose existence it now considers politically inconvenient, is completely wrong and that the many shrill comments from your readers patting you on the back for discovering this evil conspiracy are also completely wrong. Would you agree?

In the article, you say that you confirmed that the LAX team parents did not ask Duke to eliminate the names of the players from its website and never even knew about it. However, the message from the Director of Internet Operations referenced in the update flatly contradicts these assurances from the LAX team parents. So who is lying, the Director of Internet Operations or the LAX team parents? Also, why did you check only with the LAX team parents and not with Duke before publishing your article, especially when you knew that there were not just three names missing from the website but 29 names? Could it be that you are serving as a mouthpiece for the LAX team parents and that you were so eager to take another shot at the Duke Administration that you did not care what Duke had to say about the matter? Whatever happened to fair and balanced?

Anonymous said...

5:21 PM, as I understand it, the episode at Yale involved a fight in a bar or restaurant between one football player and one hockey player. I think it goes without saying that Yale is not going to cancel its entire football season and its entire hockey season just because one player from each team got into a fight. This seems like a real no-brainer.

However, I wonder what the response would have been if the captains of the Yale lacrosse team had staged a party attended by all or most of the team which featured rampant underage drinking, strippers, vile comments about broomsticks, racist remarks about thanking your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt, disgusting emails about killing strippers and skinning them and subsequent allegations of rape against multiple members of the team. Do you seriously think that in this situation, the Yale Administration would have done nothing and would have just let the team go right on playing games as if nothing had happened? If this is what you think, then I think you are a little naïve.

Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no reasoning with KC and his groupies on this blog. Regardless of the facts, they are going to find a conspiracy by the Duke administration. When facts come to light, they simply dismiss or ignore them.
The sad part is that whatever accurate analyses KC might actually stumble upon are necessarily called into question by his overt bias and obsessive desire to implicate the administration in a conspiracy to convict the players. Unbelievable, that is unless you are a KCoolade drinker.
It is extremely unlikely that the players are guilty. Too bad people like KC and his supporters have to polarize the support of the players by using this case as an opportunity to attack what many believe is a prudent and, under the circumstances, reasonable response by the administration.
One final comment, note how all the little KCoolade drinkers are going to attack what I say and ignore the fact that KC and his minions lied about the so-called attempt to erase history. And they lied because the truth as documented in the first two posts of this thread was ALWAYS there for them to see.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone other than 10:17 AM really believe that "the Duke administration is working double-duty to do everything they can to see to it that these kids get convicted"?

Anonymous said...

5:35 PM, I agree with you that this website has had the unfortunate effect of polarizing those people who support the LAX players by dividing them into those who support the manner in which President Brodhead has handled the LAX situation and those who are critical of his performance. I believe that the LAX players are innocent, and I agree that the DA has committed a massive breach of legal ethics and deserves to be disbarred. However, I have been outraged by some of the criticism of Brodhead that I have seen on this website, most of which in my view is completely without merit. I am convinced that many of the people posting on this site are LAX team parents or friends of LAX team parents, that they are mad at Brodhead for canceling the LAX season and not meeting with them when they thought they were entitled to a meeting, and that they have decided to seek revenge by posting anonymous negative comments about him and agitating for the trustees to remove him as President of Duke. To me, the idea that the trustees would remove Brodhead as President of Duke because he cancelled the LAX season and has not been speaking out aggressively on behalf of the players is just ludicrous and reflects a biased, shallow, and one-dimensional analysis of the situation. Fortunately for Duke, Brodhead has not allowed himself to be distracted by this nonsense and has instead focused his time and energy on more important matters. In the last few months, as anyone who reads The Chronicle is aware, Brodhead has helped to raise a record amount of money for Duke; he has been the principal architect of a strategic plan which will guide Duke for the next 5 or 6 years and hopefully solidify its reputation as one of the top universities in the country; he has traveled to China to expand Duke’s presence in that important part of the world; and he has traveled to the Middle East to help the new Duke Islamic Studies Center establish connections there and lay the ground work for a new study abroad program that will provide a wonderful opportunity for students interested in Middle Eastern Studies. Duke is extremely fortunate to have such a brilliant and capable man as its President. I am confident that the trustees of Duke understand this and that they are not about to remove Brodhead as President of Duke just because he has not done the bidding of the LAX team parents.