Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Seligmann Speaks Out

60 Minutes is placing a desire to publicize facts of the story ahead of CBS’ corporate profits: the show has released unaired outtakes of its interviews with Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann.

Seligmann’s comments about how the reaction at Duke affected him are particularly revealing:

I chose Duke to be my home for four years. And to see your professors … go out and slander you and say these horrible, untrue things about you and to have your … administration just … cut us lose for, for, based on nothing. Duke took that stance that “We wouldn’t stand for this behavior.” They didn’t want to take a chance on standing up for the truth.

I can’t imagine representing a school that didn’t want to represent me.

The reaction of an embittered student? Hardly. If anything, Seligmann downplays the unconscionable treatment he has received since March 14 from the Duke professors who taught him.

Take, for example, History professor Peter Wood. In a June interview with the Triangle’s alternative weekly, Wood posed for a photo—in front of the lacrosse field—and revealed that he taught two of the indicted players, including Seligmann. (Seligmann’s transcript is on-line; he took Wood’s “Era of the American Revolution.”) Wood then described the lacrosse players’ personal character: “Cynical, arrogant, callous, dismissive—you could almost say openly hostile.”

In more than six months of following this case, I have seen only two people use these adjectives—or anything similar to them—about Seligmann: Mike Nifong and Peter Wood.

Five times, I emailed Wood to ask him for evidence to corroborate his claims; five times, he refused to respond. Perhaps Professor Wood might want to examine testimonials to Seligmann’s character. Or, between photo-ops, talk to his former student’s high school headmaster, who told Seligmann in a 2003 letter:

what a great job you have done as an exemplar and a leader here, in just being your friendly, kind, and righteous self . . . I cannot help but notice the respect and admiration your teammates have for you; no, more than teammates, all the kids here, and maybe especially the younger kids.

Then there’s Starn, who taught Seligmann in Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Since April, Starn has exploited the lacrosse controversy to boost his one-man effort to transform Duke into a watered-down version of Haverford, with club athletics and a shrinking endowment as the university’s visibility diminishes. His main focus? Denunciations of the lacrosse players’ personal character. He’s specifically focused on underage drinking by the lacrosse team—as if eliminating intercollegiate athletics at Duke would suddenly make the campus dry.

Did Starn’s blanket denunciations of the lacrosse players’ character apply to his former student as well, even though Seligmann had a perfectly clean disciplinary record? It certainly would appear so: not once did Starn take the opportunity in his many op-eds or interviews to point out that he taught Seligmann and heard good things about his former student from many people at Duke. I e-mailed Starn over the summer to give him the chance to do just that. He didn’t respond.

Then there’s Philosophy professor Alex Rosenberg, who taught Seligmann in Introduction to Philosophy. Rosenberg was a member of the Group of 88, the Duke faculty members who on April 6, produced a statement saying “thank you” to protesters who distributed around campus a wanted poster containing the photos of lacrosse players, including Seligmann’s. Over the summer, I e-mailed Rosenberg, said that I had blogged about the case, and noted that many people outside of the Duke faculty had expressed positive sentiments about Seligmann, and noted my concern that no one who had taught Seligmann had done so. I asked if he had any recollections—positive or negative—about Seligmann’s character.

Rosenberg dismissed my request—commenting that only extremist advocates of the economic status quo could say anything positive about the lacrosse players. He added that he had no regrets about signing the Group of 88’s statement. (Its author, Wahneema Lubiano, told ESPN Magazine that signatories were fully aware that “some would see the ad as a stake through the collective heart of the lacrosse team.”) Rosenberg concluded by breathtakingly asserting that he and the other signatories believed that Nifong was motivated not by the pursuit of justice but by the looming Democratic primary for district attorney. Even with this knowledge, he signed the statement and publicly condemned his former student.

CBS notes, “As for his relationship with Duke, Seligmann says: ‘It wasn’t convenient for them to stand up to the truth. And, you know, I can’t forgive them for that.’” After seeing the performance of former professors like Wood, Starn, and Rosenberg, who could possibly blame him?

As a professor, the behavior of the Duke faculty remains, to me, the worst aspect of this affair. Nifong’s performance will earn him a place in any discussion of major instances of prosecutorial misconduct. But, at least, there have been other prosecutors (not many) in the past who have disregarded legal ethics to the degree Nifong has in this case.

On the other hand, I cannot think of a single other example in the history of American higher education when an institution’s faculty members have not only abandoned their students but gone out of their way to harm their students as Duke’s arts and sciences professors have done over the past seven months.

By the way: in a semester that culminated in his receiving an in-court death threat from a hate group member—as the district attorney looked on and did nothing—Seligmann’s spring-term grades will earn him a spot on the ACC’s Academic Honor Roll.


Anonymous said...

As a Professor Emeritus from a midwestern university, I am disappointed and disgusted by the behavior of the Duke professors you cited in this posting. No wonder when I socialize with non-academics, they ask me about the screwy antics of such academics. Fortunately the majority of my academic colleagues did not engage in such objectionable behavior.

Anonymous said...

Good post. It is interesting and I guess a bit ironic that Seligmann was sufficiently interested in learning about African American history that he was actually taking a course on that subject at the exact time he was caught up in these events.

Anonymous said...

After the Summers debacle at Harvard, nothing surprises me in the world of academia. What I am troubled by is this: Where are the Durham assistant district attorneys in this matter? If I was assigned to this case, I would refuse based upon my professional responsibility obligations which trump my employee duties. Obviously Nifong can't work this case up alone, much less try it solo. I'm curious about the reactions of the other attorneys on his staff.

Anonymous said...

The behavior of the adults in this fiasco is far worse than the behavior of these students. I include the accuser in this group of adults because she was 27 and a mother of two children.
I would not allow my son to return to Duke. These kids have other options. Duke does not deserve to have them. Their courage and character exceed that of the professors and administrators who denounced them.
I only hope they know that normal people see them as they are; good kids who made a mistake. I hope they also know that normal people see Nifong, the accuser, the local press, and the DPD as troubled, inept bureaucrats protected from reality by tenure and civil service.
I don't know when this will end, but it will end. There are enough normal people supporting them and blogs such as yours who will not rest until their freedom and reputations are restored. I can't believe this is America.

Anonymous said...

The behavior of those professors was digusting. And what you reported is only a tiny fraction of the terrible treatment that was dished out to the players last spring. As a Duke parent (not of a lacrosse player) I am aware of other specific incidents where players were either humiliated in class or treated in a completely inappropriate manner. In addition there was at least one incident where lacrosse players were the only students in a particular class given a failing grade. The administration did little or nothing to respond to this behavior, in fact it seems to me they encouraged it by their silence. There was a complete absence of leadership, and as discussed previously on this blog, that goes back to the President... Richard Brodhead. He should not remain President in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Reade is a smart guy. Who would want to return to a school that treated them like Duke treated the accused?

Anonymous said...

I am the mother of 2 Duke students. It is disgusting to me that these are the kind of professors that they are being taught by. The President has to go and I imagine he will bc they are going to drop, drop, and continue to do so. Somebody has to do something, now sooner than later. This travesty has lasted long enough. Duke professors should be extremely intelligent people. Instead, THEY ARE JOKES! I am repulsed to think about what they stand for.

zip said...

Your blog is great. I like the fresh approach. Seems to me what you are saying here is these 3 lacrosse players were the straws that broke the camel's back at Duke. It seems this 'gang of 88' was venting about a lot of issues that had been simmering beneath the surface at Duke for quite some time.

It is common knowledge Duke has had sexism and sexual harrassment issues among faculty, staff, and students for years. Fact is, most of the areas of study Duke is known for (medicine, law, divinity) are historically male-dominated. It is not a stretch to imagine a sexist, and further racist, climate among students and faculty. I think this case caused all that simmering frustration to boil over.

518 said...

I am appalled that Karla Holloway, a professor who has demonstrated an obvious bias against the lacrosse students is on the Steering committee for the Campus Culture initiative and is chairing the sub-committe on Race. She is part of the campus culture problem, how can she objectively assess the issue?

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 3.58:

Thanks for the kind words.

Apart from the clearly inappropriate comments of Ryan McFadyen and the one unidentified player (not one of the three accused players) who made the racist remark Kim Roberts discussed in the 60 Minutes show, I'm not aware of any racist behavior by any Duke students (and, indeed, the Coleman Comm. report shows that there was no documented sexist or racist behavior by the lacrosse players on campus.) And I think, overall, the Duke student body has performed pretty well throughout this crisis--a few bad apples, on both sides of the issue, but clearly not representative of the student body as a whole.

But I suspect that you're probably correct re the Group of 88 origins: they had been agitating for a variety of issues for several years, saw this case come along, and in the early days, when virtually no facts were known, couldn't resist seizing the opportunity to exploit it.

Of course, in their rush to judgment to denounce the players, they've now permanently discredited themselves on any issue--as the 4.40 notes re Karla Holloway and her involvement with the CCI.

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Durham assistant district attorneys in this matter?"

Funny you should ask. At least one of them, a C. Destine Couch, did have a very interesting myspace page. See this link for more


the myspace page has been taken down but here's a cache. (probably not safe for work)

The page includes a photo of the barely clothed ADA and lists his membership in a group called "MILF Seekers".

MILF = "Mothers I'd Like to Fork".

OK not really but you get the idea. In other words, one of Mike Nifong's ADA's was out on the internet trolling for mommy sex. And Nifong had the nerve to call the Duke laxers "hooligans".

Anonymous said...

In looking over a list of the infamous Duke 88, I did not see one professor from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke. I am so glad that my Dukie is not with the professors in the School of Arts and Sciences!

Anonymous said...

The reactions of Duke's administration and faculty (with the notable exception of the law school's Prof. Coleman) have been among the most disgusting aspects of this whole debacle. I hope that Duke's financial supporters have taken notice, and will take action. To Reade Seligmann, I say: have faith, young man. You're learning a hard but valuable life lesson. As painful as it is, you'll survive this ordeal, and you'll be a stronger and wiser person for having endured it. Continue to live your life with integrity, and don't become embittered by those who have no integrity, for they will reap what they have sown.

Anonymous said...

Great article, K.C. The lacrosse players have been abominably used by the Group of 88, other faculty and Duke's administration. Is there any issue here in which F.I.R.E. would be interested?
Texas Mom

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I wanted to add...Were Collin, Reade and Dave nothing more than collateral damage?
Texas Mom

Anonymous said...

Since when do you post in the daytime. I thought you were a vampire. :D

As usual, a very intelligent compelling post.

keep telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

By the way, where's Chemerinsky on all this??? When he was in LA, he was on TV and in print constantly. I'm sure he has problems with Nifong's actions, but I'm curious why we haven't seen him on TV or in press conferences or in legal publications about what's going on in his own backyard.

Anonymous said...

Vile language yes, not disputed. But the McFadyen e-mail was not a racist comment. The night was not about race at all. Nifong turned it into a race issue!! In his mind race = votes.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Johnson, is this statement from Prof. Rosenberg a quote? "[O]nly extremist advocates of the economic status quo could say anything positive about the lacrosse players." Can you tell me when he said or wrote this? If I have an opportunity to ask administrators or department chiefs about it over parents'weekend, I'd like to quote this and get a comment.

Are you going to be able to stay over through the weekend from your ACLU talk in Durham?

Anonymous said...

The behavior of the Duke administration and some of the faculty is inexcusable. They jumped all over these kids and kicked them to the curb without knowing a thing about the evidence.

It's hard to believe Reade is only 20. He is more mature and speaks better then some people I am currently at law school with. I'd pay money to see Nifong question him on the stand. Dave too. They are both very self-confident. Collin is a little different. He seems sweet and rather shy. It's obvious that all three are telling the truth. Brodhead and the Group of 88 should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

In his mind, race=votes. Well, it worked, didn't it? He won the primary.

Anonymous said...

With any luck, the alumni and other supporters of Duke will take away all financial support of the University. The post-modern crap that passes for scholarship at Duke should shock the alumni. I have a few friends who graduated from this "great" university. They should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

Great article!! Reade and Colin
deserve an apology from the Duke
administration. If they don't get
one, which I'm sure they won't, they should enroll elswhere. Also, Brodhead should be forced to resign. He reminds me of Mr. Magoo. Duke needs new leadership.

Jeff said...

While agree at the Duke faculties behavior was particularly egregious in this case, it is certainly not the first time that professors and administrators have acted to harm students. Think, for example, of Sigma Chi's Tex-Mex-themed party several years ago. Of course, it's difficult to expect any less when the Vice President of Student Affairs is Larry Moneta. For an understanding of his anti-student tendencies, just Google "water buffalo incident".

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the Duke faculty's behavior was particularly egregious in this case, it is certainly not the first time that professors and administrators have acted to harm students. Think, for example, of Sigma Chi's Tex-Mex-themed party several years ago. Of course, it's difficult to expect any less when the Vice President of Student Affairs is Larry Moneta. For an understanding of his anti-student tendencies, just Google "water buffalo incident".

Anonymous said...

Either some of you haven't been paying attention or just enjoy dumping on Duke but colleges have been ridiculously liberal and pc for many years now. It is the last bastion of the 60s flower children.
Stories have abounded including the Water Buffalo story at Penn mentioned here. In the past year alone, Yale had the former speaker of the Taliban as a student. Columbia welcomed an Iranian monster but attacked a Minuteman such that he had to flee out the back of the auditorium. Harvard fired its president over a non-pc remark. Throw in Ward Churchill and the nutcase at University of Wisconsin who thinks Bush planned and executed 9/11 and you begin to get the picture.

Anonymous said...

3:04 PM, you criticize Brodhead for not going after certain professors who treated the LAX players badly in class. Do you have any evidence to show that these episodes were brought to his attention? Also, I find your story about failing grades dished out only to LAX players to be a little hard to believe. This kind of conduct could easily be challenged by the students in question and if the grades were shown to have resulted from some sort of prejudice on behalf of the professor, he or she would undoubtedly be disciplined by the university. Accordingly, there must be some other explanation. For example, maybe the LAX students were so distracted by the furor surrounding the rape allegations that they failed to complete their course assignments.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 12.12:

I have seen some of the papers involved. The assignments were definitely completed.

Anonymous said...

If you know Reade personally even before any evidence came out, his supporters (and there were many) where there to back him up. Why? Because it is not in his moral fiber to commit the act he was accused of let alone think it. He is not racist, violent or hostile as Mr. Woods has tried to portray him for his own agenda. To publically and falsely slander a person's character as he did is as egregious a crime as what Nifong and the FA have done. Reade is the opposite of everything Mr. Wood has claimed him to be. The Duke 88, Nifong, the DPD, Brodhead and the pro-Nifong press makeup the cesspool of corruption in Durham. Reade on the other hand has tremendous integrity, character, faith and has a kind and generous heart. He has always worked hard to strive for excellence both academically and physically without compromising his values. He is intelligent, articulate and naturally friendly. He has never taken anything for granted and always helps those less fortunate than him. It is not in Reade's character to be arrogant or mean spirited. His family and friends are very proud of him. It is a frightening thought that the spineless, agenda driven Duke 88 are teaching thousands of students at Duke.

Anonymous said...

If the LAX players believe they were given failing grades because of some sort of prejudice against them on the part of the professor, they should most definitely send a letter to the department chairman setting out their complaint and requesting a formal review of their grades by the department. I would suggest that this letter be drafted by one of their attorneys. If that does not work, they should send a letter to someone in the Duke Administration, such as Robert Thompson or Tallman Trask or even President Brodhead. If the students can show that the grades resulted from prejudice, there is no doubt in my mind that Duke will take action to correct the grades, and the professor will have a lot of explaining to do. Showing prejudice should not be that difficult. For one thing, if your statement that the only students to receive failing grades were LAX players is true, that should set off alarm bells right away. In addition, the work produced by the players will either be reviewed by the department chairman or more likely by a small committee of professors, and if they conclude that the work deserves a passing grade, they will simply overrule the professor who issued the failing grade.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps some enterprising young talent will take this story, write it and produce it for the big screen. A title that might be appropriate: To Kill An Eagle.

Anonymous said...

KC, I was not surprised to see Rosenberg's name on the list of 88. I had him as a professor several years ago and he refused to grade a philosophy paper of mine because he did not agree with my opinion. He said I could either re-write the paper or it would not be counted towards my final grade in the course. I did not change a single sentence. Never had I seen such a childish display of close-mindedness from a professor. Thanks KC, for your insightful coverage of this case.
Duke Alum

Anonymous said...

Sorry everybody but you can't see the larger picture. Duke's professors are smart people (smarter than the population and hence smarter than you) and can see through the BS that you can't. The irony here is that dumb rich people want their children to go to prestigious universities. Unfortunately for them, prestigious universities are filled with people smart enough to recognize that people like Reade and the accused are a big reason our country sucks: rich people always get away with whatever they want.
The culture of wealth, like any insecure social circle, encourages intolerance of other people. So it's no surprise that these rich kids (and you) have not only no interest in other people's experience, but no tolerance for it.

Do you really want the best teachers or would you prefer rubber stamp grades based on financial contribution?

Do you understand the correspondence between intelligence and criticality of the current US culture?

Anonymous said...

To the 4:29 poster above, I can only assume you did not attend Duke. I'm not going to bother taking the time to refute all the incorrect generalizations you made about the university.

Anonymous said...

Mickey S. You sound like a very tolerant, enlightened person. I look forward to living in your America, where I will not have a President, Congress, or judiciary, but rather, a philosopher king.

And I should stop caring about justice, because, hell, I'm not a genius phd, and thus can have no concept of the idea. Sometimes people can be so smart that they can tell you exactly when it's going to rain and why, but they don't have the sense to get in out of it.

Anonymous said...

right on Mike s.

you are the only person on this comment thread that is not drunk on duke koolaid. some of these teachers knew these boys personally and had them in class, unlike most of these people blogging in their defense. these professors know more about them first hand than most of the people on here and felt they had the right to speak out againist their behavior.

and you are right in that these people are rich and they think they can get whatever they want. unfortunately for them, nifong did not get the rich-people-can-do-whatever-the hell-they-want memo and they got charged with a crime. but the sense of entitlement never dies. despite being charged, these individuals feel they should not have to go to trial and that they can instead wage a war in the press in lieu of a jury trial despite the fact that two grand juries in nc charged them with multiple felonies.

Anonymous said...

To Mike S. : It sounds like your jealousy has clouded your brain not allowing you to rationalize. What does it matter if the accused are rich or poor? They have been falsely accused of a crime. What does it matter if they are black or white. They have been falsely accused of a crime and a DA and DPD have broken the law for their own agenda. You are a bigot and a racist. Reade has worked hard his entire life to get the scholarship to get into DukeHe has worked his tail off to keep up his excellent honor roll grades. He has given his free time instead of going on vacation to help under the priviledged. His parents and his high school have taught him to give back and never take anything for granted. So unless you have given up your free time to chop wood, repair fences and roofs, collect clothing, build homes, your opinion is based on something you know nothing about. Your jealousy breeds ignorance and stupidity. You are making an incorrect general opinion on someone you don't even know. Reade has more integrity, character and honesty than Because a person is better off than you intellectually and financially does not mean they deserve to be falsely accused of a crime and condemed for having the brains and finances. Gracious people from all over the world who don't have spare change have found it in their hearts and souls to send words of support and encouragement which is greatly appreciated. Those are the people who are Gods angels on earth, who stand for truth and justice.