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.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.
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.
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.