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
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.