Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Steven Baldwin Speaks Out

An extraordinary column in the Chronicle this morning from Chemistry professor Steven Baldwin. He argues,

My biggest concern has always been with Duke’s treatment of the student athletes at the center of the storm. These kids were abandoned by their university. At least one of the indicted students, perhaps all three, was trespassed from Duke property. They were denied the presumption of innocence, despite the mounting evidence that the case against them is made of smoke and mirrors and is fatally flawed procedurally. They have been pilloried by their faculty and scorned by the administration. They are pariahs.

As a Duke faculty member I regard my students in much the same way I regard my children. When my kids do something wrong, I demand accountability. When they break the rules they pay the price, whatever that might be.

With that accountability, however, comes support. My kids know I love them and that I will do everything I can to help them through the rough times. That is what families do. I treat my students the same way.

Duke students should expect nothing less from their university. The day they set foot on the Duke Campus for the first time they became members of the Duke family. For most this was the beginning of a life-long relationship that generates intense loyalties and deep love. The assumption is that the relationship is reciprocal, that Duke holds all of its students in high esteem-loves them-and will support them through the rough times as well as the good. Instead, Duke has disowned its lacrosse-playing student athletes. Their treatment has been shameful.

Over the past six to eight years, I can recall having only a single men’s lacrosse player in one of my undergraduate classes. That young man was bright, focused, respectful and engaged. He earned one of the highest grades in a large, difficult and very competitive class. He is now in medical school, well on his way to a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

I mention this because I believe the young man would not mind my describing him in these terms. On the other hand I do not believe that a faculty member publicly describing any student in pejorative terms is ever justified. To do so is mean-spirited, petty and unprofessional, at the very least. The faculty who publicly savaged the character and reputations of specific men’s lacrosse players last spring should be ashamed of themselves.

They should be tarred and feathered, ridden out of town on a rail and removed from the academy. Their comments were despicable. I suspect they were also slanderous, but we’ll hear more about that later.

Finally, I urge the Duke community to take a reality check. Speak your minds. Do what you think is right. Tell the administration that you are not satisfied with the way they have handled the lacrosse affair. Demand better.

The conception of a professor's duty described in this article is one that I share--and, indeed, one that I considered common to virtually every member of the academy before dozens of members of the Duke arts and sciences faculty over the past seven months showed me differently.

In the lacrosse affair, Baldwin is the first of the nearly 500 members of Duke's arts and sciences faculty to stand up publicly and testify to my profession's best qualities. I sincerely hope others, perhaps unwilling to take the lead on this issue, now will join him and redeem the honor of the Duke professoriate.


Greg Toombs said...

Outstanding, Mr. Baldwin!

There may yet be hope for accountability among Duke's administration and faculty.

Professors who piss on their students are cowards. Professors who stand up to their peers and the administration are heroes in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

definitely add Stephen Baldwin to the hero's list. great article, and I'm sure there are many more faculty members that share his opinion, but have kept quiet because of administration pressure.

Anonymous said...

11:25 AM, you say that you are sure that there are many more members of the Duke faculty who share Professor Baldwin's opinion but have kept quiet because of pressure from the Duke Administration. Do you have any evidence of any kind whatsoever to support the idea that the Duke Administration has been pressuring members of the faculty not to speak up on behalf of the LAX players, or did you just say this because you thought it would be a good way to smear the Duke Administration?

Anonymous said...

Professor Baldwin has the ethical integrity one expects in a college professor. He has rightly demanded that the professors who maligned the lacrosse team be held accountable for their rush to judgement. Finally we hear from someone within the University that is willingly to state on the record that he is outraged by his fellow faculty members actions. You are an amazing man...

Anonymous said...

Professor Baldwin-- thank you.

Anonymous said...

Finally a Duke professor speaks out, and it's no coincidence he teaches the sciences! But i do not believe the administration has pressured others to remain silent. They didn't pressure the group of 88--whose outspokenness has only created more problems for the admin. I'd be more likely to believe that silent professors felt intimidation from the group of 88 than the admin.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect they were also slanderous, but we’ll hear more about that later."

I look forward to hearing more about this.

Those faculty members need a lesson in the difference between "free speech" and "libel/slander" - the right of one and consequences of the other.

They emerged from their cozy cocoon to push their own agenda at the expense of their own students' reputation, and now they need to be taken to task for it.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting (and maybe brave) of Prof. Baldwin to name names--those who would more deserve to "fall on the sword" for the lacrosse event. I don't know much about the roles that some of them played, but Student Affairs (Larry Moneta and Sue Wasiolek) allegedly kept important information from the president and were involved in the "don't tell your parents" fiasco. In addition, they seem to have selectively enforced rules and looked the other way for a number of years--I know of fraternities who have been disciplined severely for minor infractions, while other groups (including the lacrosse players and other fraternities) seemed to get free passes for similar or much worse behavior. This type of biased and selective enforcement certainly contributed to the circumstances surrounding the party, as well as the feelings of some (whether true or not) that the lax players were an "entitled" group.

Kevin said...

Thank you, Professor Baldwin. Some bit of my faith in Duke is restored by your letter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dr. Baldwin. I know this man lives what he preaches. My daughter had this man and needed medical help and he drove her to the Duke Medical Center and stayed until he knew she was fine. He does treat his students like his own. I am certain he is in shock by the treatment of the lacrosse players. One can only hope that now that he has spoken, others will follow. I KNOW there are other wonderful, caring, and independent professors at Duke that share his same thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it struck me as interesting that this guy is a teacher in the sciences.

It seems to me that the sort of fuzzy thinking that is so common in humanities is much harder to conceal in the sciences.

Not that there aren't many excellent thinkers outside of the sciences. Because there are.

Scout said...

Few people in authority and are directly involved in this travesty can be proud of thier behavior.
You, Mr. Baldwin are one of them.
I applaud your candor. I admire your bravery.
Congratulations sir!!!

Anonymous said...

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! Another true hero of the Acadame. We need more heros like Professor Baldwin and Professor Johnson)! That was a beautiful letter!

Anonymous said...

11:25 am: Yes, we have many on the Duke faculty who feel the same as Steven Baldwin but who are not willing to speak up – not just yet. You would be amazed to know who are on the record with their views on the case. I would go as far as saying "Duke's best and the most prominent!"

This is actually the most frustrating aspect of the current situation. If only these people would speak up! Heads will turn and people will take notice. But than again, there is a pretty ruthless administration in place right now. So, perhaps the faculty members are acting with some wisdom and patience. However, it would not surprise me in the least if one-by-one these secret supporters of the “due process” start crawling from under the rocks they have been hiding. In fact, I expect many will speak up after the elections -- especially if Nifong wins.

We have the potential for a real battle between the good and evil! Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

"a good way to smear the Duke Administration?"

The administration doesn't need Dr. Baldwin to smear them. They're doing a pretty good job of smearing themselves all on their own. And anyone who's been a university faculty member knows what happens to people who speak out agains the prevailing groupthink.

Anonymous said...

3:54 AM, you say that there is a pretty ruthless administration in place at Duke right now, and you imply that many more members of the faculty would speak out on behalf of the LAX players but for their fear of this ruthless administration. I would appreciate it if you would provide a detailed explanation of the basis for these statements. In the absence of a detailed explanation, these statements are really nothing but a hatchet job by an anonymous poster and would not be taken seriously by any unbiased person with any intelligence.

Anonymous said...

6:51 AM, read the post again. I am not accusing Professor Baldwin of smearing the Duke Administration. In fact, I admire him for having the courage to speak out as he did, and I agree with much of what he had to say. The smear comes from 11:25 AM who says without citing any evidence whatsoever that there are many more who share Baldwin's opinion but have kept quiet because of administration pressure.

Anonymous said...

To 1:38 PM. Baldwin was forced to apologize today. So, do tell us, do you still think there is no pressure on Duke Faculty who want to defend lacrosse players?

Anonymous said...

Who forced him to apologize? Was it the Duke Administration? You are trying to suggest that the Duke Administration is pressuring faculty not to speak up on behalf of the LAX players. I see no evidence of that, and the fact that Baldwin may have gone over the top with some of his comments and gotten himself into a little hot water does not provide any evidence that what you say is true.

Anonymous said...

An editorial that I wrote appeared in The Chronicle Tuesday that was critical of the way the lacrosse incident has been handled by the Duke administration. Although my position is unchanged, I now realize that some of the language I used in the editorial was insensitive and inappropriate. I truly regret that my words have caused pain for some members of our community.

In particular, in the next-to-last paragraph of the editorial I used some terms that I have now learned have racial connotations for some. I certainly did not intend them that way. I grew up in the western U.S. and, quite frankly, associate the terms I used with the western frontier of the late 1800s. I saw a lot of cowboy movies as a kid.

I deeply regret that what for me is a totally non-racial issue has assumed that character. I wish I had used other language; I wish I had bounced a draft of the document off someone who might have steered me straight. While there is room for disagreement on the lacrosse issue, there is no disagreement on the importance of providing a welcoming environment for all people who study, learn and work at Duke. I have spent much of my career advocating for diversity at Duke by supporting the hiring of minority faculty and the recruitment of minority students.

I am very sorry that my naivety has offended any members of the Duke community. That was entirely unintentional and I should have been more careful in my selection of words.

Steven Baldwin

Professor, chemistry department

Anonymous said...

Professor Baldwin has no need to apologize for his comments. Anyone with intelligence knows what he meant. I'm sooooo sick of political correctness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Dr. Baldwin. I am so sick of the oppressiveness of liberals. When I went to college political correctness ruled like Nazism and too many ill informed instructors were too stupid to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Baldwin,

I was a student in your organic chemistry class in fall 2008. I never saw this editorial during the course, but reading it now and can't say I am surprised. You truly did teach with sincerity and all year I felt as though you cared about how we did.

You are an amazing professor sir, and I feel honored to have been taught by you.