Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dowd and Duke

A hot-button issue in higher education today is the Academic Bill of Rights, sponsored by conservative activist David Horowitz. Last year, I co-sponsored a resolution opposing both it and campus speech codes at the American Historical Association conference. (The AHA rejected the amendment, because the group refused to go on record against politically correct speech codes.) My position in part came from a belief that one of ABOR’s central concerns, that professors use the grading process to retaliate against students, is rare.

Grade retaliation does, however, occur, as I discovered in a case on my own campus. And the allegation is at the heart of a lawsuit filed Thursday against Duke, and Political Science professor and Group of 88 member Kim Curtis.

The basics of the allegations are as follows: in a spring 2006 class, Curtis taught two members of the lacrosse team, one of whom was graduating senior Kyle Dowd. The course required three papers, each worth 25 percent of the final grade, with the remaining 25 percent of the grade devoted to participation. (That percentage is unusually high, given the subjective nature of grading participation.) For his first paper, Curtis gave Dowd a C+. His second paper was due on April 5, at the height of the media frenzy orchestrated by Nifong. (The Group of 88’s statement appeared the next day.) For this paper, Dowd received a C-, even though he had met with Curtis before writing the paper for suggestions on improvement.

By this point, Curtis had adopted one of the most extreme anti-lacrosse positions of any Duke professor. Not only had she signed the Group of 88’s statement and attended rallies denouncing the players (background, in this photo), but on March 29, she emailed fellow Durham activists expressing outrage that defense attorneys had (correctly) stated that no DNA match would occur to any lacrosse player. “The self assurance,” wrote Curtis,

in the statement issued yesterday by the team that they will be exonerated by the results of the DNA testing makes me wonder if we’ve gotten the full story about who was at the house that night. Were there others present who in fact carried out the rape and who are being protected by everyone else who was there? How do we know who was there?

Ponder the implications of that statement. In writing, a Duke faculty member had suggested that Dowd and the other lacrosse player in her class were accomplices to rape.

The two players then suffered identical fates in their third paper. Curtis gave both an F on the final paper.

It could, of course, all be a coincidence, with the two events below entirely unrelated:

  • Curtis publicly suggested that two students in her class were accomplices to rape and publicly signed a joint statement denouncing them.
  • Despite these actions, Curtis was able to fairly grade the work of two people she had suggested were accomplices to rape, and these students just happened to turn in a final paper so bad that it merited an F.

I took a look at Dowd’s three papers—each worth 25% of the overall grade. Let me say at the start: subjectivity is an element to all grading, especially grading of papers. No two professors will analyze the same paper in an identical fashion. But it’s not hard to detect failing papers. In short, subjectivity and differing grading scales can explain why a paper to which one professor might give a B would receive a C from another faculty member—something that happens all the time in higher education. But subjectivity can’t explain how such a paper could get an F.

Two things immediately come to light from Dowd’s papers:

  • First, if 100 professors graded Dowd’s third paper blind, I suspect that 95 would assign it a grade somewhere between a B and a C, with the outliers probably giving it a B+ or a C-.
  • Second, if 100 professors compared Dowd’s three papers for the course, I suspect that between 90 and 95 of them would consider the third paper to be the best of the three, and it’s hard for me to believe that any would analyze it as significantly worse than the other two.

Perhaps Professor Curtis has an innocent explanation for why the two students who she publicly suggested were accomplices to rape saw their final grades plummet to an F after she made the accusation. I emailed her repeatedly asking for a comment; she did not reply. Political science chairman Michael Munger also said he couldn’t comment on the case.

Curtis’ decision to fail Dowd almost blocked his graduation. Only the extraordinary intercession of a fair-minded member of Duke’s administration allowed Dowd to graduate, by arranging for an additional transfer of a course he had taken at Johns Hopkins. But Duke initially refused to do anything about Curtis’ grade, for reasons that appear unclear, before eventually changing the grade to a D. The official justification, peculiarly, claimed that Curtis had miscalculated Dowd’s grade, but did not suggest that she had engaged in grade retaliation. In fact, as one blogger noted, the move suggested that "there is no question that the Fs she gave the lacrosse team players were unwarranted. The university found that there had been a 'calculation error,' and changed the student’s grades. So the question of whether she engaged in grade retaliation purely out of personal and political spite is settled. She did exactly that."

It’s unclear to me why Duke allowed this case to progress to a stage where a lawsuit would be filed. First, the claim of retaliation seems quite strong. Second, as John in Carolina has noted, the Dowds’ lawyer, Joseph E. Zeszotarski, is highly regarded, and has served as past chair of both the Criminal Law Section, North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Criminal Justice Section, North Carolina Bar Association. Finally, the filing of the suit is bad for Duke’s image.

Over the last several months, an impression has grown that the institution’s faculty place their personal, pedagogical, or ideological agendas ahead of the well-being of their own students. That impression had begun to dissipate with President Brodhead’s recent statements demanding that Nifong recuse himself—and then especially with the important and courageous statement by 17 Economics professors that they would welcome all Duke students, including student-athletes, into their classes.

And then came reminders, old and new, of the Group of 88’s questionable behavior. Thursday’s filing of the Dowd suit brought to light what appears to be one of the ugliest incidents of classroom conduct from last spring. Yesterday’s defiant, unapologetic op-ed from Cathy Davidson proved that the Group of 88 remains as resolute in its position now as it was nine months ago today, when the statement appeared.

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of Duke’s arts and sciences faculty agrees with the Economics professors’ affirmation that “we welcome all members of the lacrosse team, and all student athletes, as we do all our students as fellow members of the Duke community, to the classes we teach and the activities we sponsor.”

Unfortunately as Davidson’s op-ed yesterday made clear, a vocal minority feel very, very differently. And as to grade retaliation—even one instance is one instance too many for any university, much less one with the academic prestige of Duke.

Hat tip: J.T.

*--modified to make point that Davidson spoke only for herself in the article.

[Update, 12.29am: A commenter noted: From Living a Nightmare:

Though none of his four spring instructors had signed the advertisement, Carrington still spent hours in contact with his teachers--explaining the situation, feeling out where they stood, asking for help and guidance along the way, begging that they not jump to conclusions and judge him based on what was being said in the media.

Carrington was fortunate. His professors were flexible, supportive and helped him coordinate his work around meetings with attorneys and situations when the team left campus due to safety concerns.

Walsh, however, saw the other side of the spectrum.

After missing an assignment for a class while meeting his lawyers in Maryland, Walsh received a poor grade on the makeup project he had been assigned, and he paid a visit to the teacher to discuss it.

Once in the teacher's office, Walsh said his professor lashed out about how his team "wasn't right" and that sophomore Ryan McFadyen was "sick in the mind" for sending an e-mail she believed to be entirely inexplicable, in which the sophomore joked about killing and skinning strippers.

Upset with the teacher's inability to empathize with his personal situation, Walsh recalled that he said, "Well, I'd just hoped you'd have some sympathy, it's not the easiest time in the world right now."

"Yeah, well if you guys really were innocent, I would feel sorry for you," he remembered the teacher telling him.

"I couldn't look the teacher in the eyes again," Walsh said. "I never want to see her again."

John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said, "We did hear rumors early on, reports early on, that some faculty members were permitting a potentially hostile situation within a classroom environment."

Duke took steps to make sure all involved--lacrosse players, athletes and women and minority groups--were being treated fairly. Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, sent an e-mail to certain faculty members April 3 urging caution in the face of a "traumatic" situation on campus.

Still, the hardest thing for Walsh to grasp was hearing stories from his friends about situations similar to his involving teachers that "threw us in the guilt boat right away."]

I wonder if Walsh was the other student in Curtis' class. [He was not--KC.]

But it sounds like this was a problem with more than one professor and with more than just a few students.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your views and research on these issues. I look forward to your postings.

Anonymous said...


I've been following your blog for months now. You do an outstanding job of dispassionately evaluating the evidence and providing fair, even commentary.

That's why I would gently suggest the following statement oversteps your otherwise commendable restraint:

"Yesterday’s defiant, unapologetic op-ed from Cathy Davidson proved that the Group of 88 remains as resolute in its position now as it was nine months ago today, when the statement appeared."

We only heard from Cathy Davidson. We haven't not heard from the vast majority of the other group of 88 members. This only proves that one member (Cathy) of the Group remains resolute. It otherwise proves nothing about the large majority of this group. Let's not make the mistake of attributing to the whole group the isolated actions of a few. Indeed, this is precisely the mistakes that many made in judging the LAX players; let's not stoop to that level.

Otherwise, excellent job. I continue to follow the case and your work with great attention.

Anonymous said...

Hi KC,

Everybody keeps on mentioning how prestigious Duke is. I would have to say that Duke is no where close in prestige to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. In fact, I feel there is a huge gap between HYP (plus Stanford, MIT, Caltech...) and Duke.

People should stop blabbering about how prestigious Duke is, because it really doesn't deserve the prestige and it's way over-rated.

Michael said...

I wanted to take a look at the papers myself but I'm glad that someone in the community had a chance to review them. If they are public or if you have permission to redistribute, let me know.

From Living a Nightmare:

{Though none of his four spring instructors had signed the advertisement, Carrington still spent hours in contact with his teachers--explaining the situation, feeling out where they stood, asking for help and guidance along the way, begging that they not jump to conclusions and judge him based on what was being said in the media.

Carrington was fortunate. His professors were flexible, supportive and helped him coordinate his work around meetings with attorneys and situations when the team left campus due to safety concerns.

Walsh, however, saw the other side of the spectrum.

After missing an assignment for a class while meeting his lawyers in Maryland, Walsh received a poor grade on the makeup project he had been assigned, and he paid a visit to the teacher to discuss it.

Once in the teacher's office, Walsh said his professor lashed out about how his team "wasn't right" and that sophomore Ryan McFadyen was "sick in the mind" for sending an e-mail she believed to be entirely inexplicable, in which the sophomore joked about killing and skinning strippers.

Upset with the teacher's inability to empathize with his personal situation, Walsh recalled that he said, "Well, I'd just hoped you'd have some sympathy, it's not the easiest time in the world right now."

"Yeah, well if you guys really were innocent, I would feel sorry for you," he remembered the teacher telling him.

"I couldn't look the teacher in the eyes again," Walsh said. "I never want to see her again."

John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said, "We did hear rumors early on, reports early on, that some faculty members were permitting a potentially hostile situation within a classroom environment."

Duke took steps to make sure all involved--lacrosse players, athletes and women and minority groups--were being treated fairly. Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, sent an e-mail to certain faculty members April 3 urging caution in the face of a "traumatic" situation on campus.

Still, the hardest thing for Walsh to grasp was hearing stories from his friends about situations similar to his involving teachers that "threw us in the guilt boat right away."]

I wonder if Walsh was the other student in Curtis' class.

But it sounds like this was a problem with more than one professor and with more than just a few students.

Anonymous said...

12:11 -- What relevance does your post have to this thread? Zero. Take your blabbering elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

12:10 --
You make a good point. However, the continued silence from the other members of the 88 strongly suggests that they have not altered their position.


Anonymous said...

"And as to grade retaliation—even one instance is one instance too many for any university,... "

One? It would appear reasonable to suspect that there are at least three- Dowd, the other Curtis LAX player and Walsh.

And Curtis really didnt seem to feel any compunction about getting away with screwing over Dowd- suggesting that she felt she had nothing to fear from an audit process and/or she had gotten away with this before. The department in the form of Munger seem to have no trouble in falling into line with the grade retailation.

You might want to rethink your position on how rare this is.

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 12.10:

Comment well taken--I've modified the post, to the following " . . . Davidson proved that a professor widely considered to be among the Group of 88's more temperate members remains . . ."

Anonymous said...

As part of a personal project the last 9 months, I have many of the Duke 88 on record (in emails and various other ways) and KC has documented the public writings on the lacrosse case of at least 10 of them, to my knowledge.

All of the G88 I know about are more judgmental, more vindicative and more unyielding than Vice Provost Davidson.

Sorry to report that.

Anonymous said...

Duke most certainly is an institution of high standards - where else do you get lynch mobs exhorted to their duties by such highly-credentialed individuals as the estimable Ms. Davidson?

Anonymous said...

We know that Rosenberg and Baker haven't backed away from their positions...I'll put my money on the vast majority of the 88 being recalcitrant.

Was very interested to read KC's evaluation of the three papers...the key issue is that the third is, if anything, the best of the three, and not markedly lower in quality. Grade retaliation is the only plausible explanation.

Anonymous said...

Any idea what the reaction would be among the 88 if they were accused of paying niggardly lip service to the concept of innocent until proven guilty?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Kyle Dowd could put up all three of his papers somewhere so we can all see for ourselves ...

Anonymous said...

For the first time ever, I disagree with KC.

I think that like academic fraud and fakery (which is endemic, particularly in science), politically-motivated grade retaliation (in little and big ways) is common in colleges.

But it is almost impossible to prove.

This is one of the most stunningly winnable examples I have ever seen.

I applaud the Dowds for having the courage to do this.

Anonymous said...

JLS says,

Professor Johnson: Are the three papers posted online maybe as attachments to the lawsuit or were you given copies of the papers privately?

kcjohnson9 said...

I was given the papers privately--in part, because I didn't feel comfortable posting on the issue otherwise. Grade retaliation is a serious charge, and if I had looked a the papers and deemed the F on the third paper in any way reasonable, this isn't an issue I would have touched. I am, after all, a professor too, and I'm fully cognizant of the dangers of frivolous claims on such matters--i.e., when a student does a bad paper and then claims unfairness by the prof.

As the lawsuit proceeds, the papers no doubt will be made public, but have not been done so at this stage for legal reasons.

Howard said...

How times change. I was a veteran when I went to college and there were a lot of us around campus. There were some attempts to intimidate us from the campus Left, most of us were ready to brawl with anyone and most of us were trained to hurt people so things were distant and verbal. But almost all of the teachers hated us, let the class know "who we were" and targeted many of us. But that was a different time. I got a D for being a vet and I just told the prof I was going to beat the shit out of him unless he changed my grade to what it deserved (I had the proof that he went after me). One of the guys handled a female teacher by letting her know that her car was likely to have problems, unless. But we were all at least 22 years old and many were 26 and more. There is a big difference in how a grown man handles this stuff and how 17 to 21 year old draft dodgers handle it (I think way down deep they know they are cowards). I'm just posting to let you know that "grade revenge" has been going on for decades and all the culprits have been left. Horowitz is right, some of the classes I took were flat out agit-prop, even courses like 17th century art ended up "vote Democrat." I hope this law suit breeds hundreds of them in lots of universities. They have it coming.

Anonymous said...

Oh I agree that seeing the papers would be interesting. But does it matter? Is anyone still defending that the F grade for the course was accurate? The university has tried to hide behind "calculation error" which is thin cover when you are only dealing with four numbers and two months to check them. At this point its only PR spin away from stipulating to the points in Dowd's suit.

And in all fairness, wouldnt we have to see papers from other students for the same assignments in a range of grades to get and an idea of what the final papers grade 'should' be?

On the other hand, how desperatly was Kim searching for plagerism in Dowd's paper last May/June when she was caught out! She must have been sweating this. I dont suppose that the university keeps any logs on the tools the use to cross check papers. Sounds discoverable.

cf said...

This site is so compelling, KC, I can't get anything done.
This is truly astonishing.
I have long reached the point where I hope the University is forced to pay out millions of dollars to all the affected students and the teachers/professors who engaged in this conduct are fired.
In NO OTHER institution in America where this conduct be permitted. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.
In a business of this size and government the rules about treatment of personnel and consumers of services are so arcane and elaborate such a thing would never be considered.

Anonymous said...

JLS says...

re: 12:30, I have frankly been shock by the poor credentials of the two gang of 88 members that have gotten so much publicity in the last couple of days. While UMass and SUNY Binghamton are good graduate programs, they not Harvard and Chicago by any means and certainly not what I expected as the typical degree of professors at a social climbing institution like Duke.

Sadly I suspect the less high powered the PhD at Duke the more likely the prof got their position via being very radical left.

Anonymous said...

JLS says,

I am an economics prof myself. I certainly understand some of your concern as student under that huge outside pressure last spring might well have let their work slip. Additionaly like most profs ordinarily I am not sympathetic to student claims of grade retaliation. Still I can say much about what is in this suit even without having read the papers.

This woman:

1. Apparently failed on two people on the last paper, two lacrosse players.

2. Took a public stance against two of her students and then they failed her course which they previously had been passing.

3.Failed two students who passed the course without their class participation part of their grade. I don't use a class participation part of grade, but if I did I would be very very hesitant to fail a student who passed without the class participation part of their grade.

4. as you said had an unusually high percentage of the grade, 25%, based on a very subjective measure ie class participation as if she wants flexibility to mistreat or reward students based on something.

Now I can not comment on the papers as I am not an English prof and I have not read them either. But I can certainly comment on the above and they certainly make my curious about what was going on in that class.

Anonymous said...

cf- Unfortunately, there are many instances of this very kind of PC run amok in other academic institutions. For example, a male student yelled to some black students who were being excessively noisy to "shut up, you water buffalos!" at U Penn. He was expelled. He fought the expulsion and won but it was a long battle.
Harvard just went through a mess with (non PC enough)Larry Summers and how about that Cornell West? CU has Ward Churchill. Yale had to give back a $20 million gift to the Bass family when the school misused the funds and did not set up the Western Civ department the money was designated for.
Honestly, I could go on and on. David Horowitz wrote a book about the liberalism in academia today. It's depressing.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate KC's analysis of Dowd's papers, Says a lot about KC's rep & work that the Dowds were willing to provide them.

My guess is that KC's post is as close as we'll ever get to seeing the papers, though - I suspect that this suit will be settled out of court for mid-5's, and the terms will not be made public.

Anonymous said...

12:49 AM

Ah! Fond memories. I actually got thrown out of a class for the same thing you got the D for. I handled it in the exact same manner as you – in the dark in a school parking lot. Worked wonders. The little twirp of a teaching assistant was absolutely terrified of me after that.

We also got to enjoy the SDS and their silly sitins for whatever great travesty they protesting on a given day. So you’d walk through them, they’d scream and grab your leg to stop you, and you’ve give them a nice kick in the head.

This was in NYC where the cops hated those clowns. If they screamed for an assault arrest the cops would suffer temporary blindness, not seeing anything. and unable to make the arrest.

Fun times for all.

Anonymous said...

KC - What happened to the other lacrosse player curtis failed?

Anonymous said...

Re: my 1:11am:

By mid-5's I mean between $500-600k, not 5 figures! ;>)

'tis unfortunate that we'll probably never know.

Anonymous said...

How glad I am that I got my degree in another country where I didn't have to sit in on any shit courses. I did all science although I would have loved to have done some real literature, like say Shakespeare or Colleridge, you know, those dead white males.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit off the theme of the thread, but I listened while the talking legal heads on Fox News discussed the lawsuit today.

Generally, I had the impression that few (maybe none) of them had actually read the complaint before voicing their opinions. Most thought the suit was going nowhere.

On the other hand, when I read the complaint, I had the opposite impression. Universities sometimes settle far weaker suits than this. KC has probably seen academics go weak in the knees when the prospect of litigation comes through the door. In any event, I hope that that proves to be true here. Duke needs to lose a lot of money on this and other suits because of its moral collapse and because educators like the 88 in other universities need to learn that the ivory tower can be breached.

Anonymous said...

Dowd graduated on time with his class at Duke. After review by the university, his grade was changed to a passing grade. He did not lose the job in NYC. Bottom line: there are no damages, and Duke did nothing wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lets suppose that grade retaliation was unheard of but defandant Curtis decided to embark on her first episode.

When Dowd notified her of his absence by email on four different occasions, why didnt she take the elementary step of warning him that this could effect this participation grade.

It is interesting, or possibility revelatory, that defandant Curtis felt safe enough in her actions that she didnt take 60 seconds to cover herself with a paper trail.

I cant imaginbe how anyone can claim "Duke did nothing wrong". It boggles the mind that people think it acceptable for Duke to acceptable tution money and issue fraudulent grades. In what universe is ok?

Anonymous said...

To 1:17 AM:

Brilliant post. I especially like the last sentence in which you state that you hope Duke is forced to pay a lot of money for this case not because the case has any merit but because of its moral collapse and because the 88 need to be taught a lesson. I could easily paraphrase that sentence to say that I hope the LAX players spend a lot of time in prison not because the charges against them have any merit but because of their moral collapse in hiring strippers and drinking beer when they are underage and also because they need to learn that you just cannot shout racial epithets in public.

Anonymous said...

JLS says:

re 1:17 if you are spending other people's money, why not settle? Testifying as I know from experience is not an easy task. So if you can just give away someone elses money that you would not get to personally have anyway, whether state appropriations or endowment funds, why not settle.

re 1:18 Have you read the suit? They are claiming mental anguish and fraud. Are you claiming being put in the position to have to call your parents and tell them that you are not graduating cases no anguish? Are you claiming graduating afterall completely scrubs having to make that phone call?

Anonymous said...

JLS says...

re 1:27 Do you know what punitive damages are and what the social purposes of punative damages are?

Anonymous said...

To 1:25 AM:

Duke did not issue a fraudulent grade. They conducted a review and changed it to a passing grade.

30yearProf said...

[quote] the important and courageous statement by 17 Economics professors [/quote]

Still waiting for the Duke law faculty to make a statement about due process.

I think I'll skip the law school annual fund this year.

cf said...

Curtis was forced to engage counsel to resolve this matter,the teachers'(88) conduct also subjected him to harrassment; her comments to the class about him constituted slander, etc. etc.

Yes, I do hope Duke is forced to pay out millions because it may be the only way to force universities to come to grips with the atmosphere they have for too long tolerated. (I am aware of Horowitz' work and am a contributor to FIRE).
Now, that may open the door further to the processes by which instructors/professors are hited and promoted. I cannot believe--in fact, I don;t believe--that this sort of atmosphere is not repeated in hiring/tenure decisions and thus self-propagates this nonsense

Anonymous said...

The claims against Duke are very weak. Even if we assume that the professor acted with malice, Duke did not. As soon as the situation was brought to the attention of the university, they bent over backward to give Dowd an additional credit for his work at Johns Hopkins so that he could graduate on time with his class. They also conducted a review of the work he did in the class and changed his grade to a passing grade. They acted properly at every step of the process and even bent over backward to make sure the kid could graduate on time. The claims against the professor individually may have some merit, but the damages would be minimal. I am sorry but the emotional distress claim really is a joke and would not ordinarily be the subject of a lawsuit. I think what is really going on here is that the Dowd family thinks that this would be a good way to punish Brodhead for canceling the LAX season and firing the coach, or maybe they think Duke is vulnerable because of all the bad publicity of the last several months and that it will just throw some money at them to get rid of the case. I think it takes a lot of gall for the Dowd family to join Duke as a party to this lawsuit when it is clear that Duke did everything it could to correct this situation and protect their son from any harm. The only explanation I can think of is that they have some ulterior motive as described above. If I were Duke, I would fight this case all the way.

pantapon rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

To 1:31 AM:

There are no punitive damages against Duke because Duke did not act with malice.

pantapon rose said...

Grade retaliation rare??? Maybe if it's just tit-for-tat retaliation, but there are more than a few professors at Duke that students know not to get into conservative views in their classes or their grades may suffer.

Anonymous said...

I am glad and proud that Ms. Davidson describes her opponents as right-wing hooligans. I am glad that Mr. Rosenberg in his vindictive reply calls his opponents followers of David Horowitz. Indeed, it was Ann Coulter who wrote an article in April that can be written today without reservation.

And it was predominantly liberal professors that took the accusations at face value. And it was Jesse Jackson who offered the accuser stipend - not because she was a single mother, or had to strip to get through college - but because she accused three white guys of rape.

KC - You've done outstanding job following this issue. And if you describe your views as center-left, I respect that. However, you have to agree, that for many people what you would call "common sense" equates to "right-wing". Hopefully, you will accept it!

You started your article with David Horowitz's ABOR and the fact that you voted against it. It seems from the rest of your article that you now think that it might have been a mistake. Otherwise, why did you even mention it in the opening - but not anywhere else? Or am I reading too much into one paragraph?

Anonymous said...

Just remember Duke is used to dealing
with lawsuits over in the medical center.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but the talking heads on Fox were right...there is very little likelihood that this case will survive a summary judgement motion. Court don't want anything to do with reviewing a professors grades and determining if they were correct. Also, what is the plaintiff's remedy? He already gradudated, so the most severe harm has already been taken care of.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you, KC, for not supporting the academic bill of rights!

I had my own moment of truth at a very Midwestern, presumptively conservative state university in the spring of 1969, second semester of my freshman year. I had a speech class in which I delivered a talk on why the U.S should develop an ABM system, then a controversial topic. I received the only "F" in the class for this assignment. I thought it was an excellent speech and IMHO, I am a decent public speaker. That same semester, I had to attend my calculus tutorials immediately before NROTC drill, which meant I had to attend the tutorial in uniform. My tutorial instructor had hair growing from his scalp to well below his buttocks and I most assuredly flunked that class. The math was hard but I ultimately survived two years of calculus through differential equations, no thanks to the vicious little pr&^k that was my second semester tutorial instructor. Love and peace apparently have their limits.

I learned, however. Guard your political views. Next semester I took an introductory psych class where our text was the autobiography of Malcolm X. (fortunately the instructor never saw my drill uniform) Several very smart people who were also honest were failed by the instructor for what I considered blatant political prejudice on the part of the instructor. However, I received a "B." I had figured things out.

KC, your assumptions as to the the good faith and good intent of most college instructors are, in my limited experience, unwarranted and unjustified, when it comes to their tolerance for the expression of conservative political opinion.

That was thirty years ago (oh my!). How much worse are things now?

Anonymous said...


I am struggling to see where your brain went off the track
- do you not agree Dowd was infact issued an "F" in the course on May 5th?

- do you not argee that that was the incorrect grade based on his work in the course?

- do you not agree that the incorrect grade was intentionally issued to Dowd by Duke's employee as retaliation for his membership in a group that was disapproved of by an element of staff?

- do you not agree that the erronous grade was not corrected until July 17th? And that Dowd's repeated attempts for a remedy through the university process were rebuffed?

As far as we know, from KC's review of the third paper, a "D" is STILL an incorrect assesment of the work Dowd submitted and paid Duke for. Hence item #3 in the lawsuit asks for relief in the from of changing the 'D' to a 'P'.

Why, 6 months later, can not Dowd not get the grade he paid $4,000 for?

1:53: Read the suit:

"As soon as" the problem was brought to the university's attention they ignored and stonewalled in the form of Munger.

"They also conducted a review of the work he did in the class and changed his grade to a passing grade. They acted properly at every step of the process..."

There is no evidence (yet) that they conducted a review of the Dowd's work. Where did you get that from? Based on their statements all that was necessary was to take the grades awarded by Curtis and calculate them correctly. Sounds like 10 minutes work. Why couldnt have this have been done by Munger or Curtis on the numerous times he brought this issue to their attention.

Frankly, finding "extra" Johns Hopkins credits at the last minute leads me to believe that someone realized these Poly Sci people were out of control.

Anonymous said...

I would think that the jury dynamics in Durham would also work against Dowd. On the one hand, you have Duke, an important local institution which is the largest employer in Durham and which according to all of the Brodhead bashers on this website basically took the side of the accuser in the LAX mess. On the other side, you have yankee white boy from New York who is whining that he suffered emotional distress because a professor at Duke who also took the side of the accuser gave him a bad grade. Do you really think that a jury in Durham is going to have enormous sympathy for the yankee white boy and award big damages against Duke and the professor? If you do, I have a bridge in San Francisco I would like to sell to you.

Anonymous said...

"Duke did not issue a fraudulent grade. They conducted a review and changed it to a passing grade."

wow. good point. sort of like how Nifong didn't actually withold exculpatory DNA because the defense was eventually forced to preduce the raw data.

regardless, why is anyone even discussing the merits and/or possible damages arising from the Dowd suit? you don't think these guys are still teammates? Dowd, while no doubt pissed and wronged, is still making a tactical move for the rest of the players to exploit. he's not operating in a selfish vacuum.

Anonymous said...

To 2:23

Thank you, Professor Curtis. We appreciate your input.

cf said...

This case will be settled. Read my lips.
Duke will not want to go thru discovery in this matter..there is a great deal more likely to turn up.

Anonymous said...

I posted at 1:17.

Duke should pay for its moral collapse because that lead to its causing harm when it had a duty to avoid it. The university collects a good bit of money from its students and promises to adhere to certain standards when dealing with those students. Duke publishes those standards knowing that they create a legal relationship between the university and the students it attracts by, in part, promising to follow those standards. When it, or one of its members, deliberately breaches those obligations a plausible cause of action in contract, and possibly tort, can arise.

Can the suit survive a motion for summary judgment? Is there a contractual relationship between the university and its students? Is that contract breached when a professor fails a student in violation of the published policy of the university? If the answer to the latter two questions is 'yes' than the answer to the first if probably 'yes' as well, and the only remaining question is what are the damages? If a part of the student's tuition paid for a class that was supposed to be graded fairly and the class was graded unfairly, doesn't he have a claim for, at least, that portion of his tuition? Similar arguments could follow on the other claims for damages.

In a way, it is not much different from paying for a truckload of fresh tomatoes only to get a delivery of rotten tomatoes. Duke collects a big payment, but it is delivering rotten tomatoes. That is why they should lose. And that is why I think they may want to settle before a trial. How long will they want this stinking mess in the public eye?

Anonymous said...

From a commenter at the Liestoppers Board:

Don't get bogged down in evaluating the strength of the Dowd claims in the abstract (and a firm of the reputation of Poyner Spruill would not be involved in filing frivolous claims). The case, and others like it, will not be thrown out before substantial discovery is allowed, and discovery is what Duke cannot tolerate. Each bit of information, no matter how small, will be cross-referenced with everything else that can be learned. Then smart men and women will use that palette of information to paint a picture. And very little will be confidential.

Large law firms with complex litigation capabilities are awesome machines. They move slowly, at great cost, and their targets are never the same afterwards, win, lose or draw. Duke will pay anything to end this yesterday. I'm a retired general counsel and that's my opinion.

Anonymous said...

From another commenter on the LieStoppers board:

Teachers unquestionably have the right to conduct classes and assign class grades based on their best professional judgment. Also, teachers have every right to publicly express their opinions on this or any other matter. But no one has the right to use the power of their position to intimidate, punish, or coerce a student to give up their rights in a legal inquiry.

Kyle made it clear to Dr. Curtis that he had to miss class to meet with council. She made no immediate objection, or request for him to reschedule future meetings, but later gave him an "F" for class participation. Why? That's what we need to know. She was not a neutral party, but an outspoken critic of the players. You simply do not punish students for meeting with council when their future is at stake. This is not just a grading issue!

Anonymous said...

I like the jury dynamics.

They will be hardworking people of modest means.

On one side you have a young clean cut kid who worked hard in school and had a lot of hopes/dream/ambitions pinned on a job in the big city. All emperiled by Kim and Duke. And there will be testimony from the mother about how they were all so excited that their boy was goning to graduate from Duke. And then the blow came. She had to be medicated. Maybe their is some testimony about how they spent years driving him around the state when he was in highschool on the traveling lacrosse team.

On the other hand you have an aloof institution sitting on a billion dollars. Munger sends the kid an "eat shit" note when he tries to find out whats going on. Kim has an obvious history of inflamatory and not very defensible statement. And who knows what else comes out in discovery?

Who is the jury supposed to like again?

Anonymous said...

Duke: The Anatomy of a Hoax

Thanks Bill Anderson.

Anonymous said...

It strikes me that the best approach to abuse by the Gang of 88 and other Duke professors is for those affected to litigate against them personally. I would doubt that Duke indemnifies employees--tenured or not--for the consequences of speech or actions not directly related to the conduct of their jobs.

While these poseurs purport to be all about ideas, priciples, etc., ad nauseam, they way to hurt them is to take their money.

Does anyone know if Duke grants ayone non-professional indemnity?

Anonymous said...

Can someone spell out what the Trinity Park connection (referred to over at LS) is between G88'ers Cooke, Davidson, and Curtis? Some sort of lesbian-feminist cabal?

Curtis is an absolute snake. On a positive note, the kids that she has screwed over will be eternally sensitized to the poisonous radical atmosphere in the humanities. The pendulum may be starting to swing back...

Anonymous said...

12:10, the point about the Davidson op-ed is that she is an administrative figure at Duke. She is presumably one who lesser faculty lights would listen to and follow. She, like Brodhead has abdicated her responsibility to lead fairly in favor of her political passions.

Ms. Davidson holds not one but two named chairs. Should she continue to?

Anonymous said...

Dowd has already won his lawsuit.

His goal was to expose Kim Curtis and he did exactly that. Now she is on the receiving end of being accused of something wicked and we all know how much power an accusation has in our society.

Forever, she will be known as the teacher who betrayed her integrity and her ethics. Her students, her peers, and her management will never respect her in the same way again.

Not to mention the enormous headaches that she will now have to go through: hiring an attorney, having to defend herself legally (and professionally), being spotlighted in the media, no doubt she is receiving an avalanche of email and phone calls. In short, her life will be turned upside down.

Mission Accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Quoted in the Chronicle:

Dangerous Academics at Duke
By David Horowitz | April 27, 2006

[Author's note: On March 7, 2006, I spoke to more than six hundred students at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. My speech was interrupted throughout by about thirty students (all women) led by three faculty members (also women) including the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Anthropology Department, a tenured professor named Diane Nelson. The next day the Duke Chronicle published an email that Professor Nelson had sent through the university email system urging student demonstrators to strip to the waste as part of their protest, a suggestion that had no takers. Anti-Horowitz T-shirts were distributed from the Director of Undergraduate Studies office].

Good evening. This is my third visit to Duke, where it has been my experience for students to be generally civil and faculty generally hostile. I had a good meeting with your president this morning, who treated me to what I would call Southern hospitality except, as you know, President Brodhead is from Yale. I’m going to apologize in advance for harsh words I say about Duke tonight. Like every major research university, Duke is not one school but a collection of schools. There are many wonderful opportunities at Duke to study medicine, and engineering, and there many other fine professional programs at Duke as well. My words tonight solely are directed to the state of affairs at Trinity College, which is the liberal arts school at Duke, for reasons that will become abundantly clear.

Many departments and programs at this institution – Anthopology, Women’s Studies, African and African American Studies, Literature, Philosophy, English, the Multicultural Center, the Major Speakers program, the Institute of U.S. Critical Studies, and the John Hope Franklin Center – were not happy about the prospect of my appearance and rejected the requests of the students who arranged this evening to co-sponsor my event. In fact, only one academic department, Political Science, thought it might be a good idea to have an intellectual dialogue at Duke by extending a rare invitation to a conservative like myself to appear at an institution of higher learning.[1]

Things would be quite different, of course, if I were a convicted terrorist, like Laura Whitehorn, a former member of the Weather Underground who was invited to speak at Duke in 2002 by the African American Studies Department. The professors who invited Ms. Whitehorn presented her to unsuspecting students as a "human rights activist," until the conservatives on campus placed an ad in the Duke Chronicle informing the Duke community of her criminal record.

Or, I would be welcomed by several liberal arts faculties at Duke if I were a Jew-hating Palestinian terrorist like Professor Sami al-Arian -- the North American head of an organization responsible for over 100 suicide bombings of innocent civilians in the Middle East. If this were my credential, I would have been invited by a collection of Duke departments who put together a symposium on "National Security and Civil Liberties" and invited Professor al-Arian as the keynote speaker for their event, speaking as a civil libertarian of course. This event took place in 2002. Too bad Professor Al-Arian can’t come back this year, because he’s in jail.[2]

Or perhaps if I were a self-declared enemy of Israel whose main claim to fame was writing a book describing the Holocaust as an industry which money-grubbing Jews exploit to enrich themselves further, like Professor Norman Finkelstein, I would also be welcomed by academic departments here, as he was recently. "

Anonymous said...

6:16-- Exactly! I think that was one of the motives behind the lawsuit. I have read that Mrs Dowd was one of the LAX mothers who received emails telling her how "horrible" her son was. As a mother, I know that when you mess with my baby...there is going to be hell to pay!

Anonymous said...

No matter how this turns out, it is really scary to see how much power professors have over the future of their students.

Most people cannot afford or do not have the connections to bring legal proceedings so they suffer from what happened.

This goes on at local community colleges and prestigious universities. Im sure professors who like students give them better grades then they deserve.

I am learning that I was really naive to think if I went to school and did the work, I would be treated fairly. Considering my personality and right wing leanings, I was lucky to graduate and feel very lucky to have a law license and pratice that allows me to help people because there are many people out there who could never stand up to a horrible place like Duke.

Anonymous said...

from a non-lawyer/retired professor: Curtis is a Visiting Assistant Professor. How many years has she been at Duke? Does she have an annual contract? Has it been renewed for the next academic year? She is in mid-career in a non-tenure track slot. If she loses this position, she would probably have a difficult time landing on her feet in the academic world. She may pay a huge price for her behavior.

Anonymous said...

Horowitz makes an excellent number of points about the state of higher education in the US today. People would be well-advised to listen to him more often.

Anonymous said...

I really hope this starts a nationwide debate about academic bill of rights and the constant intimidation and harassment carried out by left-wing activistists at campuses around the country. Of course, so called "civil rights" organisations fight back and support the intimidation based on race, gender and politial views.

Maybe something good eventually comes out of this mess.

It would be in the best interest of this country to shut down those dubious pseudo-science departments. Let Cornell West, Ward Churcill and Jesse Jacksons on this world preach but somewhere else please.

Anonymous said...

As to a cabal btw Curtis and Davidson, it is far more
likely that Curtis gave Davidson a heads-up on her impending lawsuit and that Davidson published her oped when she did as an attempted smoke screen.

Of course, she missed by a day (damn you, Steve Ford)
and the AP picked up the Dowd story anyway.

So it was an exercise in futility,

The other TP theory - that apparently does have legs - is the idea that the TP Neighborhood association-engineered its Sarvis-led police crackdown on renting students was part of a plan to flip real estate.

There is actually pretty good documentation on that, including some financial involvement of some DPD.

I have corresponded with some of the Trinity Park players on this, and they appear worried.

Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

"Will African-Americans with legitimate grievances be willing to demand justice in the wake of this public debacle?"

It seems to me that Davidson implicityly recognizes that this "victim" was not legitimate. Isn't that worthwhile?

Anonymous said...

I am glad there has been a hearty discussion on this one. There are some things that interest me in this case:

1. How do Dowd's papers compare against papers written by OTHER students who received high grades?
2. Mike Munger is NOT a leftist, believe me. He and I had personal contact long before the party and long before the lacrosse case began. Thus, how did he let someone like Curtis run amok in his department, especially a "visiting professor" who does not have the same clout as a tenure-track professor.
3. How did Duke initially react to the claim, and did anyone speak to Munger or Curtis, or did the university just change the grade?
4. Did Curtis ever tell anyone that she had retaliated against the lacrosse players? Chances are she did not, but I still am curious.

I clearly see this as a grade-retaliation case, and I have the suspicion that as this case goes on and we find more things, Curtis' situation is going to look worse and worse.

Duke cannot claim a "no harm, no foul" here. This is pretty much like Nifong's "no harm, no foul" claim in the hiding of evidence. The ACT ITSELF is the offense.

An analogy would be found in the Martha Stewart case. She first asked her assistant to make a change in a document regarding her sale of Imclone stock, and then changed her mind and there was no alteration of the document.

Yet, she was charged with a crime in that specific instance, and the jury believed that when she started to alter the document, AT THAT MOMENT she had committed the crime, even though in the end the document in question was not altered. In the Duke and Nifong situations, we see the act being committed, and even though Duke did enact a small change in the grade, nonetheless, the original act was committed, and Duke bears liability because of the doctrine of vicarious liability.

My suspicions are that there is much more to this case, and much more to Curtis and her antics. Has she done this before? How has she treated other students who do not agree with her extreme left-wing views? Has anyone in authoritiy ever had to deal with her relationships with students?

Make no mistake about it, grade retaliation is one of the most grave sins a college professor can commit. If that is what happened, and Duke let it happen, this will be a blow against the university.

Furthermore, Duke has let itself be damaged by a VISITING professor! This is someone with substandard academic credentials, or at least credentials that would permit her to teach at Duke, especially for 10 years. Granted, because of the paucity of her academic achievements, she never could have been considered for tenure-track.

But why Duke has permitted her to have this kind of influence I will never know. The people there are about to be sorry they ever let her set foot in a Duke classroom.

Anonymous said...

1:53 AM,

I would have some sympathy for your position if Duke had changed the grade to a "C". Changing the grade to only a "D" was a second slap in the student's face and a way for the teacher to save some face. This matter is a minor zit when compared to the gut-shot wound of the three accused players, but it's a reprehensible zit nonetheless.

Anonymous said...


As a historian I would very much like to see you contrast and compare the Duke Administration's reaction to the tumult and turmoil that culminated with the takeover of the Allen Building in 1968, with Brodhead's handling of the lax hoax. My opinion is Duke emerged a stronger institution following the seemingly dark period of the late Sixties. With the current Administration's dependence on PR consultants to spin the truth while failing to adequately respond to the damage created by a vocal minority of the faculty, it's hard for me to see Duke learning from this current travesty.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Kim Curtis is scheduled to teach this coming semester?????

I hate to say it, but the academic world is so screwed up that Curtis is now probably on her way to an endowed chair at Harvard!!

Anonymous said...

to bill anderson at 819 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: regarding your comment about how do the essays of Dowd stack up against the other students, most professors return the essays to the students, so we may never be able to answer this question. A question that I have is how does she grade participation? In discovery, I assume the lawyers will be looking at this closely. I suspect that Curtis does not document this very well, not just in this course, but in other courses in past semesters. Also, are there other students who misssed 6 classes and failed the participation component of the grade (25%)? We all know that there is a subjective element to grading, and as professors, we try to standardize the process to make this process fair and transparent. I too knew professors who based a substantial portion of the grade on participation, but it is exceedingly difficult to track the students' contributions on a daily basis when you have a class of 40. So I think the participation grade will be a can of worms when it is opened, and it could be embarassing to Duke as this continues to be publicized.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but the academic world is so screwed up that Curtis is now probably on her way to an endowed chair at Harvard!

Princeton and Yale probably get involved and make better offer. Didn't Princeton lure Cornell West from Harvard? Anyway, they both would be proud to have Curtis, especially now as her left-wing credentials are shown the be impeccable.

Anonymous said...

To 9:11:

My guess is that there are other students in the class who are sharing their papers with the plaintiffs, although that is pure speculation on my part. This one does have the potential to stink.

By the way, I just went to the Duke Political Science site, and Curtis' name is nowhere to be found on any of the professor listings. She is NOT listed as a visiting professor or anywhere else, at least that I could find.

I would like to say that her academic career might be over, but I can see plenty of leftist colleges and universities wanting to hire her. However, this suit hanging over her is one in which she is accused of committing academic fraud. Those are not the words, but if one does the act of which she is being accused, that is a form of academic fraud, and not something that is going to look good on the record.

Furthermore, she is about 50 years old, and it is not easy to get hired as tenure track anywhere at that age unless one is a "star."

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, Curtis is now the star of the leftist PC movement speaking against the white oppressors.

Anonymous said...

Her ugly picture should be shown on the cover of Newsweek and NY Times.

Anonymous said...

The Dowd-Curtis case is another demonstration of how detached some circles of academia are from the rest of society. In the business world, most major corporations have very strict policies that prohibit the assignment of poor performance ratings as a retaliatory measure. Managers who engage in that sort of activity are at the very least severely disciplined, if not fired on the spot. In addition to promoting a culture of fairness and basic human decency, corporations implement these policies to avoid legal issues like the Dowd lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

to Bill at 921 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: She is listed under affiliated faculty. Also I find her vitae a bit strange. It does list her degrees and research, but nothing about teaching experience etc. One other thing that I have not yet seen is syllabus for the course. The syllabus is often seen as almost contractual, so I wonder what it says about grading policy, particularly class participation (and attendance). And a question that I raised earlier, does she have renewable one year contracts? How difficult would it be for Duke just not to bring her back next academic year? And last time I checked, she was scheduled to teach a course in the spring.

Anonymous said...

As a Duke grad and a current Duke parent, there is no doubt in my mind that Curtis engaged in grade retaliation.

There are very liberal professors at Duke who do not retaliate and mark down students based on their political philosphy. You may be surprised to know that Peter Wood is one of those professors

My senior year I wrote a ten-page final paper for his class (I wrote it from a consertive viewpoint). Instead of just giving me a grade on the paper, he wrote six full pages completely disagreeing with my premise, my analysis, and my conclusions. As I read his remarks, I just knew that I was going to get an "F". To my surprise at the very end of his remarks, he wrote: "Well Written" and gave me an "A-".

While I am very disappointed in his early comments about the Duke lacrosse team, I doubt that he would have engaged in the same retaliation as Curtis. His public statements, however, probably helped fuel the fires among some of his liberal brethren, who then engaged in verbal and grade retaliation in their respective classes.

Anonymous said...

For all those that say "no problem--Duke changed the grade":

How about if I punch you in the face and flatten your nose...then it heals up 3 months later...I therefore did nothing wrong!!!

Anonymous said...

to 901 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: I just went to the course schedule for this new semester , (spring 07), and she is teaching (?) "Ecological Crisis and Political Theory" (PolSci 183).

Anonymous said...

Grade retaliation is only to be expected from a woman professor (or a gay one)

Anonymous said...

I live in Durham. If I get on the jusy I will give them what ever they want. Duke has no chnace with me on the jury.

Anonymous said...

bill anderson,

"3. How did Duke initially react to the claim, and did anyone speak to Munger or Curtis, or did the university just change the grade?"

- Dowd receives his final grade and contacts Curtis on 5/5 and asked if she had not received his last paper.
- 5/7 Curtis replied via email that she was out of town said that he got an 'F' because he made strong stattments in the paper and because of and F in class participation because of abscences he had informed her of. This was an oppertunity for her to look over the calculation error. She said that they could meet 5/10.
- 5/6 Dowd mails Munger for assistance.
- 5/7 Munger mails back:
"We are not going to meet. There are no grade appeals.
-5/8 Munger appearently remembers his training on the grade appeal process and mails Dowd entitled "Wow! no wonder you guys were mad..." and sends information on appeal.
- 5/10: Curtis meets with Dowd but rebuffs him. She appearently doesn't bother recalculate the average of the 4 numbers as part of an effort to explain to the student his grade.
-5/10: Dowd speaks with "several Duke administrators" regarding the grade. They tell him that Curtis now justifies the 'F' grade because Dowd confused characters from the book in his final paper. This is a different rationale for the grade.
-5/10: Duke administrators "find" extra transfer credits. My opinion for this miracle is that they realized quickly how transparently obstructinist Munger and Curtis were being and had to find a way to circumvent them.

The grade appeal process continues until July 17th when after all those months a "calculation error" is discovered and the 'F' is changed to a 'D'. In my estimation calculation error is not plausible and is simply a smoke screen. Are we really supposed to believe that raw grades are converted via a pencil and paper process? Or even manually with a paper tape?

Judith said...

Kim Curtis has engaged in retaliatory grading before, and I have written about my son's case on several blogs. We was a ROTC student and an athlete.

She failed him for turning the second paper (of three) in the same class ONE DAY late. He continued to attend class and perform adequately. She then failed him for the entire course with no explanation.

During the summer, after classes ended, she brought charges against him of Lying with the Duke Judicial Board.

His hearing was scheduled in August, before classes even started, and he was unable to mount an effective defense. He was suspended for two semesters.

I wonder whether the Dowd's attorney will subpoena emails between Professor Curtis and other faculty and administrators about the lacrosse case and Kyle's grade. I am sure that they would provide some interesting reading.

ICvalve said...

Apparently, like many, I have been obsessed by the horrific actions of Duke's abandoning its own students over the LAX allegations since last spring and, after eventually stumbling across KC's remarkable blog, it has reached the level of interfering with other previously important activities in my life.

I have a question:
What hurdles would the Dowd's have to successfully negotiate to force Duke into a courtroom. Assuming they could bring themselves to refuse generous offer$ to settle the suit out of court, what risk do they incur of having the suit dismissed by some agency in the legal process prior to discovery or open procedings and thus risk accomplishing/receiving nothing?

ICValve, Duke School of Medicine, '75

Anonymous said...

We can laugh at the utterly stupid pretension of her efforts to sound profound, and we can cry because this crap permeates institutions like the sewage that it is.

Kommando Kim's partial cv:

Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science,specializes in political theory with particular concentration in contemporary continental work and feminist theory. She has written Our Sense of the Real: Aesthetic Experience and Arendtian Politics. She has also published articles on multicultural education, ethical debates among feminists over new reproductive technologies, and the early women's liberation movement. She is currently at work on a book on the feminist movement in the United States that examines the relationship between theory and practice.

Curriculum Vitae

Recent Publications (More Publications)

1. K.F. Curtis, Rapture and Rupture: Ruminations on Enclave Politics, Political Oblivion, and the Need for Recognition in the Early Women's Liberation Movement, Constellations (Submitted, final stages of review) .
2. K.F. Curtis, "Aesthetic Experience and the Public Sphere", in Zwischen Forum and Basar (2001), Graz, Austria: Forum Stadpark .
3. K.F. Curtis, "Free Speech Under Attack", The News & Observer (October 24, 2001) .
4. K.F. Curtis, "Multicultural Education and Arendtian Conservatism: Memory, Historical Injury and Our Sense of the Common", in Preserving Our Common World: Essays on Hannah Arendt and Education, edited by Mordechai Gordon (2001), Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press .
5. K.F. Curtis, Our Sense of the Real: Aesthetic Experience and Arendtian Politics (1999), Ithaca: Cornell University Press .

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt Curtis retaliated against Dowd by giving him an "F" but I fail to see how Dowd really had damages. He DID graduate and the grade WAS changed (even if he thinks it should have been higher.) The few days Dowd was worried he might not graduate don't, IMO, warrant monetary damages. I DO think Curtis' behavior should be reviewed carefully by Duke (or any other employer) but I don't think this lawsuit has merit.

Furthermore, to 1:25 and others who think that Curtis should have warned him that missing class could affect his grade--that's almost ridiculous. If Curtis told the students up front that class participation (and/or attendance) was 25% of the grade, they are expected to remember that. Missing the last 5 classes of the year is OBVIOUSLY a big problem under any circumstances. While I can understand that he may have had some conflicts because of legal issues, I find it very hard to believe that he had 5 meetings with his attorneys that ALL conflicted with the time of this class. And if he did, he should have asked the attorneys to reschedule. My own son had a teacher freshman year who said if you missed more than three classes, you would lose a letter grade for each additional class missed--no excuses accepted. He missed 4 classes over the semester, all for legitimate sports conflicts, he informed the teacher about each conflict, and he lost one letter grade. That didn't make us happy, but it wasn't "unfair."

In my opinion, even if Dowd's final paper deserved a "C", he still could legitimately have earned a "D" in the class if the teacher used a percentage for each component (e.g., he earned a 75 for his three papers and a 50 for class participation.) We don't know how much he participated during the classes he attended.

IMO, this case smacks of bitterness, not substance. I'm not saying the Dowds shouldn't be bitter--certainly I would be. But our society suffers from too many lawsuits being brough due to bitterness. Quite frankly, if I were Dowd's employer, I'd be worried about what this meant for the future.

Anonymous said...

Even if her answer to the complaint is filled with basic denials of each count, it should be something to read. What's she got to answer? Two weeks?

Anonymous said...

While I do think Curtis may have acted against this student, I'm wondering if anyone on this board has ever been threatened by a student that was unhappy with a grade given to them.

I was threatened and harassed over e-mail because I gave a graduate student less than an A.

I hope people realize that it goes both ways--and oddly enough, I thought my administration was not supportive of me.

Steven Horwitz said...

Yes, retaliatory grading happens, but:

1. It does not justify threats back against faculty. As a faculty member (and administrator), I'm stunned to read stories of students who used threats of physical force or property damage against faculty or teaching assistants. That is WORSE than the ethical lapse of retaliatory grading.

2. Horowitz's ABOR is NOT the solution to this problem. I'm a libertarian who went to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, so I know what it's like to be in a hostile intellectual environment. But I also know as a faculty member that the ABOR will create an absolute nightmare in classrooms, including the classrooms of faculty who are doing their jobs well. There are few things that could destroy the great deal of good that still goes on in higher ed than the ABOR.

If you really want to change the culture of academia, you need to do two things:

1. Put your money where your mouth is and only support those institutions and programs who are doing work you think is good.

2. Encourage young people with conservative and libertarian ideas to stick it out and get that PhD and go into teaching. Best job in the world, and if you're good at it, you can survive and flourish no matter your politics.

And a great big thanks to KC for all of his amazing work exposing this travesty of justice.

Anonymous said...

This video alleges that there are two other professors that gave their LAX players (and others) a hard time in their classes.

It also provides pictures of a few of the professors for those that don't know what they look like.

YouTube Video

Anonymous said...

I don't know how rare, or common, grade retaliation is.
From my own experience on campus forty years ago, I would guess grade retaliation would be much more common if students were not generally savvy enough to avoid giving the profs an opportunity.
Reading, playing, and gaming professors is a major part of the college process, made necessary primarily by the existence of profs like Curtis.

Anonymous said...

re: 10:47

Yes, I've heard of students complaining about their grades and bringing in their parents to lobby for a higher grade.

This is for those students that think that the grade is all they need and that's all that they need to work towards and that getting certain grades will provide them with a guaranteed job.

This instead of a goal of learning and enjoying learning with the grade being secondary.

Students need to meet with their professors if there are grade problems fairly early on. And open communication is needed. The Duke LAX players knew this and tried to work things out but things didn't work out.

Anonymous said...


"Missing the last 5 classes of the year is OBVIOUSLY a big problem under any circumstances"

What if the circumstances are that you are being unjustly accused of a felony that could have you in prison for 20 years and your own instructors and administration are publishing tirards against you? Or if people publishing wanted posters with your picture on it? Are you allowed to consult with a lawyer then?

As to my point in 1:25: KC had stated that he doubted much grade retaliation (which you agree happened) goes on. In this case Curtis showed a great deal of confidence that she had nothing to fear and that the student has no recourse against her frauds. To me this means it is probably not the first time she has torpedo a grade of student who background she didnt approve of. She didnt even take the step of trying to establish an appearence of covering herself when notified in advance of Dowd's absence.

To me that speaks to the fact that she preceives that she is in an environment where she can punish students with impunity. And possibly has.

To me it is quite just that she has ended up as a defandant.

Anonymous said...

If there was grade retaliation and the grade ( F or D ) does not reflect what he truly deserves, it can continue to harm him in the future if it stays on his transcript. What if Mr. Dowd plans to apply to grad school? Will his GPA and transcripts not be part of the things that the admissions office use to decide if he should be admitted. What if Mr. Dowd has to apply for a future job at another company, will they ask for a copy of his transcript? This grade (F or D) can still cause him future damage. I think he deserves to have his grades reflect his work at school.

Anonymous said...

Kim Curtis is teaching 8 classes in Spring 2007. Here is a link where you can review all the courses, including Curtis, G88 are teaching.

Spring 07 Classes Taught by G88 Members

Anonymous said...

It looks as though I missed her name. Sorry about that. Duke is going to be so sorry they every let this person set foot in a classroom.

Anonymous said...


The scenario you described (3 "C" papers, plus and "F" in participation = "D") was not what happened.

1) She receives a paper which can be strongly argued (from her previous grades of his previous papers) is worth of a "C" (or better). She scores it with an "F".

2) Coincidentally the only other player who received an "F" was also a Lacrosse player.

3) Even with this retaliation, she continues with her punitive actions by "miscalculating" his overall grade.

4) Yes, you could argue that Duke is conceiveable off the hook when they stepped in to change the grade to a "D", but that doesn't justify or excuse what Curtis did.

Curtis must be held accountable for her actions. Even if the court system doesn't find merit to this case, I'm sure the people who run her department will.

Anonymous said...


I was once waiting in line to talk to a math professor behind a student who was pleading for an adjustment in his grade. The rationale was that he "had to" get a certain grade in this course or the Malasian government would remove his sponsorship and he would be sent home. That was the only argument being presented! The professor explained the grading process again and again, looked over any problems on papers the student felt he didnt get adaquate credit for, but at the end of the day it was a guilt trip on the professor that the consequences for the student would be great and would be on the teacher's head.

To that point I never even realized that this kind of things went on, but after that I did notice that there were a fair number of students who took the assigned grades as a jumping off point for negoiations. Dealing with these people must be the worst part of the job.

Which is aside from the fact of the retaliation that Kim possibly engaged in with the two LAX players in this class and an ROTC student.

Anonymous said...

As a former department chair and still active academic, this case is a chair's worst nightmare. 25% on class participation. Are you kidding me??? One had better hope she has detailed documentation for participation. I had one member of my department use tick marks every time a kid talked. She had better have a book full of tick marks. Most profs I know use class participation in the 5-10% range. We use it to either boost or not boost those grades that teater between a B and B+. If the kid worked hard in class, talked a lot, and participated an 86 then becomes an 88 and she gets a B+. If the kid has an 86 and was a log all semester, she gets the B. Maybe not entirely fair, but I think that is how the world works.

Like most of the other academics on this list, though, I think most of our colleagues work very hard to bracket off our own beliefs and prejudices. Most of us view ourselves as professionals. Professionalism requires grading a paper on the merits of the argument, not on whether I like the direction of the argument.

Finally, as a chair, we get in-service training all the time about how the actions of our staff do have implications for the university as a whole. One cannot seperate the faculty member from the university. She is their agent. In my tenure as chair, the only times I ever had real problems with stuff like grade changes and the like were with adjunct and non TT faculty members. I would not (and did not) rehire adjuncts who caused me problems. There are too many potential adjuncts out there to hold on to one that is a headache. I would say she is probably going to have to find a new visiting position someplace else. Though even there, I wonder what kind of chair might not get nervous about hiring her. Chairs may (or may not be) politically liberal. In my experience, we are all functionally conservative. We don't want the boat rocked. We don't like headaches. We want calm. She no longer says calm, she screams PROBLEM. Problem = more meetings. We loathe meetings.

Anonymous said...

to 7:36 am

Can't agree more with your possible theory regarding the flip theory. There was a very "close" relationship between the TP Association leadership and the local real estate agent. Anyone know:

1) Who did Duke negotiate with in the purchase of the 10 TP properties? Which real estate firms were involved?
2) Who was the DPD contact at TP Assoc. requesting the ALE raids on TP student housing?
3) Who was Gottlieb's contact at the TP Assoc? He was assigned to that District.

Does anybody know? I'd like to do the research but I need some info.

As always, follow the money............

Anonymous said...

She is only teaching 1 class that puts her in front of kids. The rest are independent studies that may or may not have students.

Anonymous said...

When you read Ms. Dowd's writings, she comes across as an ignorant, hate filled bigot. How did she get a job at Duke? How many more similar profs are there hiding their incompetence behind academic freedom.
No longer does the academy teach students how to think. Ms. Dowd is driven to teach people exactly what to think and to demand conformance.
Lets hope the lawsuits will drag her bigotry out into the open where we can all see her for what she really is.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree Dowd is loathsome and a waste of time.

I have four boys and my older two have already gotten letters from several colleges. We've talked about Duke and the way the university threw these kids to the wolves.

Even though these Duke boys are 18 and 19, they are still kids and not experienced with organized racists and feminists groups.

People talk about the actions of normal boys wanting to see naked women dance, but no one is emphasizing the actions of mature and supposedly educated instructors inflaming mob behavior upon their own students.

Anonymous said...

Kyle Dowd is the recent Duke graduate. Ms. Curtis was his teacher.

Anonymous said...

to 1238 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: Your comments struck a chord. Some years ago when I worked as a Fulbright Professor in China, a common complaint about Chinese higher education system was that students were being taught what to think instead of how to think. This was a common topic of conversation among the Chinese faculty, particularly those who had been to the west for a year or two. And now we have our own form of student indoctrination by 88 idiot savants.

Anonymous said...

Michael Munger continues to be an interesting case. I suspect the university has made it clear -- particularly to department chairs and the like -- that comment on pending legal matters is now off limits, so you can't expect him to say anything. But consider this: the first avenue of appeal to a student who thinks a prof has graded unfairly is the department chair, in this case Munger. Apparently it wasn't Munger who reversed the "calculation error". And although Munger has said on his blog that the Group of 88 was "out of line", if he felt an ethical violation had taken place (section c of the AAUP Statement, or a violation of Section 6 of the Faculty Handbook), it would have been his responsibility to take action -- at least two of the 88 were in PoliSci. It appears that in fact, where he had a responsibility to act, he did not.

As I say, he's a bizarre, perhaps narcissistic figure who strikes me as trying to play both sides.

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

2. Encourage young people with conservative and libertarian ideas to stick it out and get that PhD and go into teaching. Best job in the world, and if you're good at it, you can survive and flourish no matter your politics.

However, conservatives regularly complain --- and the political makeup of the academic faculty points out --- that conservatives can't get jobs as professors because those that do the hiring won't hire them.

You don't get 30:1 ratios of liberals to conservatives in any academic field accidentally.

Anonymous said...

to John at 1248 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: Regarding Munger, chairs in academe often have little authority or power. They don't function like a manager in a typical organiztion. And faculty have a great deal of autonomy. One post I read earlier this morning from a chair wrote about how chairs take the path of least resistance and don't want to create a lot of extra paperwork etc. In that case, not extending Curtis' contract would be quite attractive since she has created a hornet's nest of extra work and headaches for Munger.

Anonymous said...

John Bruce,

Consider this:

"John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said, "We did hear rumors early on, reports early on, that some faculty members were permitting a potentially hostile situation within a classroom environment."

Duke took steps to make sure all involved--lacrosse players, athletes and women and minority groups--were being treated fairly. Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, sent an e-mail to certain faculty members April 3 urging caution in the face of a "traumatic" situation on campus.

So had Munger already recieved a caution that there might be this kind of problem developing? If so why did he ignore Dowd with his 'eat shit' letter on May 7th? Sounds like he and the department acted with malice too.

The Dude said...

Several points regarding another excellent post by Prof. KC

The grade retaliation is but a small part of the big picture. I think there is more than a prima facia case laid out already. This encompasses Duke, Broadhead and everything they have done over the hoax. these issues will not go away with a dismissal of the charges. A change of venue is being sought and the schools profs can't even be fair to some parties that are not even charged??? You tell me.

The school did nothing to help the persons in the grade retaliation. They did nothing to help with the accussed but now they are shitting their collective panties. The liability is tremendous. I can't wait for the accussed to rake in their millions of $ on Duke and nifong. Duke can't hide or go bankrupt!

Then the students who were treated differently via grades. Duke is gonna pay, not nifong.

Then the entire Lax team which was forced to submit to a fraudulent DNA exam and photos which did not list the probable ause for each person??????? Then Duke hired an attorney to give advice against the Lax players own interest.
Who do you think is going to pay $ for this! Think Duke!
Duke allowed searches and questioning of their students despite the fact they had lawyers. Do you really think Duke is not going to pay for this in a big way.

Duke will end up with a much bigger bill the Durham(Nifong). I believe nifong and company will pay personally(time in prison, pension removal, firing from jobs, etc).

No one can protect them now. Even the judge is going to do the right thing. No choice. he is in the national spotlight. The hicks are now exposed but they are too stupid to understand the consequences of this yet.

Anonymous said...

to John at 103 from a non-lawyer/retired professor: I find the letter from Munger on May 7 to be puzzling and indefensible. To his credit, he changed his tune the next day. I suspect Munger's role in this whole sorid grade incident is probably benign. He should have handled it differently on May 7, but chairs all too often get complaints about grades. Most students who have grade complaints often just want to vent, and then don't follow-up with the written appeal. Don't get me wrong, I am not defending Curtis if she discriminated against these 2 young men. If action were to be taken against Curtis at Duke, the 88 idiot savants would be screaming about her due process. Ironic, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Two things come to mind in this case. One, given the rampant grade inflation in higher education, it is likely that the C grades on the first two papers were lower than deserved because of the white male and jock status of the student.I hope the attorney checks out the class grades on the first two assignments by race and sex.

Secondly, the student may legitimately claim gender and racial discrimination and a hostile environment created by the instructor. Surely, Duke has a policy against that as do the state and federal governments.

Anonymous said...

To 11:41...I DO think it seems Curtis used grade retaliation, assuming Dowd's version of events is accurate (and I doubt it's the first time she has done it.) I DON'T think a lawsuit is justified, however, because Dowd suffered no damages.

My example about 3 C's and an F was meant to illustrate that Duke may have raised the grade to an appropriate level. (Frankly, if he never participated in class, and she gave him a 10% for class participation, even an "F" for the semester could have been statistically justified, although it might not have been fair.) I don't think we can assume Dowd deserved a "C" on the paper--with all due respect to KC's assessment, because we don't know what the teacher said about the assignment--maybe she said "if you make assertions and don't support them with cited research, you will get an 'F', and maybe Dowd didn't know this because he didn't go to class. The fact that KC thinks the paper was better than his other two doesn't mean Dowd addressed the assignment as the teacher instructed.

We've read numerous examples of unfair grading on this board today--many occured years ago. It is not a new phenomenon, and not limited to duke. Hopefully it doesn't happen often, but undoubtably it does happen. That is why universities have an appeal process, and in this case the grade was raised.

I really don't think there is any excuse for missing every single class in April. While he surely had to deal with some legal issues, his classes WERE his priority, and surely his attorneys would have understood that he could not meet with them every time that class was supposed to meet.

Having said all of this I repeat that my instinct is that she gave him an "F" at least partly because he was a lacrosse player (and I suspect the fact that he didn't attend class in April made her angrier.)

Anonymous said...

The real fact is that in many, if not most, classes athletes actually get helped in their grades. They get tutors to help with their homework and their papers. Many professors cut them a lot of slack--there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about athletes who do minimal work in classes but magically get grades equal to or higher than their non-athlete peers who do the work.

I think if you start analyzing grades given to jocks and non-jocks, compare class attendance and maybe even look at some actual work, you will find the opposite of what's suggested in 1:44's post. I wouldn't go there--not for this case.

Anonymous said...

To 1:56 PM:

I agree. If rampant grade inflation led to a C+ and a C- for his two papers, they must have been pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

Grade retaliation is nothing new. When I was a junior at the University of Minnesota I was required to take the fourth and fifth quarters of French on pass/fail to fulfill my foreign language requirement. The university did not fully accept high school language instruction toward the requirement. The fourth quarter was taken during summer session, and I passed with what should have been an A, had it not been pass/fail. The fifth quarter was taken that fall, when the campus was disrupted by the protests against the Vietnam War and in support of McGovern against Nixon. My instructor was a very pretty young woman who seemed very friendly to me. I slacked off in the class and my average grade bounced between B+ and A- as the quarter progressed. Then one day I walked into class with a huge Nixon photo campaign button on, and I saw the instructor react in shock and anger when she noticed my button. She was wearing an equally large McGovern button. From that day on, my grades for daily homework and tests were either D+ or F. I compared notes with others in class and they got high grades for the same work. The campus ombudsman told me that the Faculty Senate was stacked with strident ideologues, so I should just withdraw from the course before I got a FAIL. No appeal could possibly succeed.

Anonymous said...

(To serve as MOTO,) If the timeline really ran as 10:33 AM describes it, it seems like Munger was given some 'advice' between his e-mails of 5/7 and 5/8.

Anonymous said...

To 1:56 and 2:04;
My son is an athlete at a large D-1 university. He is not on the FB or BB team...he gets minimal help with tutors and he is literally on his own with professors. I can assure you, unless the lacrosse team brings in the kind of fans (and $) the BB or FB team does, there is not much help these athletes get with prof's and or grades.

Anonymous said...

The real fact is that in many, if not most, classes athletes actually get helped in their grades. They get tutors to help with their homework and their papers. Many professors cut them a lot of slack--there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about athletes who do minimal work in classes but magically get grades equal to or higher than their non-athlete peers who do the work.

I think if you start analyzing grades given to jocks and non-jocks, compare class attendance and maybe even look at some actual work, you will find the opposite of what's suggested in 1:44's post. I wouldn't go there--not for this case.

Maybe for athletes in revenue generating sports (at Duke, read men's basketball --- most schools, throw in football as well).

In non-revenue generating sports --- no, that does not tend to be the case.

Anonymous said...

I graduated from Duke in May and, while the grade retaliation in Dowd's case is the most obvious and extreme I've heard of, it was generally understood among Trinity students that the politics we projected in class and in papers were a major, if not the primary, factor for many - not all, mind you - professors (or, as was frequently the case, the TA's who did all their class-related work for them) in determining our grades.

One exercise in anti-western thought (conducted, as it turns out, by an ivory member of the 88) in which, Curriculum 2000 being what it is, I was enrolled stands out as an apposite example. In one of the class's earlier papers I had the foolish gall to argue that significant differences exist between America's role in the current war in Iraq and France's role in the Algerian War of Independence. Not, a rational being would think, a particularly difficult point to argue. Rationality is a sadly rare commodity in those parts, however. Apparently disappointed that my indoctrination was incomplete, she gave me a grade well below what I felt I deserved. Having caught on to her game, I took hardline "no blood for oil" stances thenceforth and wound up quite satisfied with the resulting grade. It would have been nice to hold on to my integrity, but I guess you've got to give something to get something.

Anonymous said...

It would have been nice to hold on to my integrity...

Just damn.

Anonymous said...

"I agree. If rampant grade inflation led to a C+ and a C- for his two papers, they must have been pretty bad."

2:04 PM

You missed the point, 2:04. If everybody is getting A's and B's these days, a C is a bad grade. Given the instructor's anti white male, anti jock bias, it's not hard to believe she was gigging the kid before the rape charge.

Anonymous said...


"I think if you start analyzing grades given to jocks and non-jocks, compare class attendance and maybe even look at some actual work, you will find the opposite of what's suggested in 1:44's post. I wouldn't go there--not for this case."

The issue is not that "many" or "most" jocks and some universities get inflated grades. There is no evidence that I know that shows Dowd ever benefitted from grade inflation. The issue is that this specific agent of Duke university intentionally damaged Dowd. That someone, somewhere in Dowd's class may have an unearned benefit is not an effective defense againt those claims.

Of course discovery will explore past and related actions by Curtis in this class and others. I am sure that copies of all submitted papers are now kept in a plagerism database to be cross checked in the future.

It would be natural to have an impartial pannel attempt an assesment of all papers in that class to try to determine what an impartial grade would be. It cant be possible to be totally accurate, but if we see papers that are significantly worse awarded passing grades, that will be damning.

Likewise, "participation" does not mean only "attendance". What are similar gardes given to other and past students based on their attendance? If there is a numerical component, has anyone elses actually gotten a '0' in that catagory? And since everyone knew that participation was required, isnt it likely that Dowd would have contributed in the 24 classes he did attend? How could he have gotten a zero based on the supposition that he did attend and contribute.

Finally, we have the email trail and database trail of Kim and Munger. What exactly did they exchange over the weekend? What happened that suddenly jogged Mungers memory that there was an appeal process? When Dowd went outside the department, what was Curtis' response to administration enquiries? And did she get any emails from cohorts congratulating her on "rethinking" and "social arrangements radically re-worked " vis-a-vis Dowd's plans of taking a job in NYC?

Not good for her.

Anonymous said...

I really do not understand how Dowd can collect damages from Duke for fraud or breach of contract or intentional or even negligent infliction of emotional distress. I assume that Duke has a procedure that basically states that if a student receives a grade which he thinks is unfair, he can file an appeal with the department chair or some other person at the university, the university will review the situation, and a final decision will be made. If we view the enrollment of Dowd at Duke as creating a contract between Dowd and Duke, then those procedures would have to be part of the contract and as long as Duke follows the procedures, which it did, then there is no fraud or negligence, or breach of contract, and certainly no basis for the award of punitive damages, which requires a finding that Duke acted with malice. I can see how there might be some minor claim against the professor which might be settled for some minimal amount like $10K, but I really do not see any liability on the part of Duke. On the contrary, the complaint indicates that Duke bent over backwards to make sure Dowd was able to graduate on time.

Anonymous said...

Duke does not have the kind of rampant grade inflation that you would find at Princeton, Harvard or the other Ivies. While there are some departments that seem to have grade inflation (history, cultural the jocks tend to take....) most departments at Duke do not. And the lacrosse players at Duke do get a whole lot of help...they have unlimited tutors in any subject they want. They get priority scheduling so they can ensure they get the easiest professors.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the reason why Munger initially refused to meet with Dowd about his grade is because Dowd had not given him enough facts to enable him to understand the situation. Dowd probably sent him an email which just said that he wanted to appeal the grade he got from Curtis, and Munger responded with an email saying there is no appeal. Then Dowd probably wrote back and said you do not understand, I am an LAX player, she is part of the 88, she gave out only two Fs and they were both given to LAX players, etc. Then Munger writes back and says something like "wow, now I understand why you are so upset." I see nothing evil about any of this. As soon as Munger had a clear understooding of the facts, he followed the proper procedures.

Anonymous said...


"if a student receives a grade which he thinks is unfair, he can file an appeal with the department chair or some other person at the university,"

He did go to the department chair and that person blew him off. There is no evidence that that the department ever did anything to fix the problem caused by their employee.

Its not called "bending over backwards" backwards when you give the student the grade he earned and paid for over 2 months late. And the "D" may still be unfair!

I doubt the proper procedure for a department when a student asks for help in understanding his grade when his instructor is out of town is to blow them off. I find it impossible to believe that he refuses to discuss or meet with a student who would be in distress over an issue like this a week before Graduation Weekend. In fact the Undergraduate Bulletin says:

The faculty and administration of Trinity College attempt to be genuinely responsive to all such matters and a student should not hesitate to seek assistance from faculty and administrative officers in resolving problems

The only reason Dowd ever got any jutice was that he went over Curtis and Munger's heads.

Anonymous said...

To the retired prof who feels that department chairs have little power, nevertheless, if there's an alleged ethical infraction or an alleged case of grade retaliation in the department, isn't the chair the place you to go report the problem? If the university system is meaning to say that nothing will be done, OK -- except that department chairs, as I understand it, do get extra pay for that work. It must go to something other than the background noise of petty corruption.

Beyond that, I'm having problems getting to the pdf of the suit, but it sounds as if Munger replied to Dowd's complaint by saying, literally, "eat shit". This sounds like Munger. However, wouldn't this be a clear-cut case of a violation of Section 6 of the Duke faculty manual, where profs are expected to adhere to high standards in dealing with students?

Sounds like if Duke's faculty manual meant anything, someone should be asking why Munger was department chair. Except, oh yes, he sorta-kinda lets people like Curtis do as they please. . .

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

Oh, wait, OK, I see in a 10:33 post that Munger said "We are not going to meet. There are no grade appeals", but recanted this the next day. Not "eat shit", but close, and certainly reflects a lack of knowledge of university policy. I still think this would be a violation of a policy that calls for "high standards" in dealing with students.

I suspect that Curtis had some type of leverage on Munger, too -- maybe just "we're faculty, he's just a student", but maybe some other back-channel leverage.

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

The confusion may have been introduced by me.

The complaint is here:

do a copy/paste of the two seperate lines into your browser.

I characterized Mungers response as 'eat shit' and I think that is accurate although those are not in any way the words he used. He said:
"We are not going to meet. There are no grade appeals. Instructors assign grades and that is all there is to it"

In fact there is a grade appeal process:
(start highlighting with your mouse and go all the way across ast the end of the box)

Not only is there a process, it has a number of avenues for redress, he is supposed to be one of them, and they are supposed to be "genuinely responsive".

How does some one not know about a process that they are part of and have been trained on? Especially given the 'caution' note that he had likely received from Robert Thompson earlier about this very thing? For me at least it leads to the conclusion that Munger was acting in bad faith.

Anonymous said...

Even if Munger's initial reply was unsympathetic, and even if Dowd had to go over the department chair's head, the grade was raised, and Dowd did graduate. There were no damages. The notion that he had damages because there was a day (or a few days) during which he thought he possibly might not graduate is silly. There are far worse problems in the world, including the ones facing his three teammates. Dowd should not be suing.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Curtis was causing trouble of the sort that the retired prof says leads to meetings, yet she seems not to have suffered any ill effect (in my days as a TA, meetings were very, very bad news) suggests someone was covering for her, quite possibly Munger.

To the retired prof who feels department chairs are powerless, as I understand it, insubordination continues to be a way you can dismiss a tenured prof (see the fairly recent Nona Gerard case).

Independent as faculty may feel they are, refusing to follow the instructions of a superior is insubordination. That, I assume, might include refusal to participate in the established grade appeal process. A department chair may not want to be controversial, but again, the chair is earning money for the job. Don't want the job? Quit!

Certainly in private industry, where it's easier to fire people, there remain flagrant cases where for whatever reason, people violate policy with impunity and keep their jobs. I suspect this is the situation here, and I would guess that a history of such abuse exists with people like Curtis.

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

to John at 419: I know the LAX player wanted an instant answer. However, when students have grade complaints, chairs tell them to talk to the professor first, and if there is no action, then file the written appeal. I cannot explain the email by Munger on May 7. I would like to have access to all the email. Munger needs to hear from both side before anything can be done, and Curtis was out of town for a few days. I still feel that Munger was probably a benign figure in this sorid affair. But that is just my gut reaction. We don't have all the facts yet, including all the emails. The real issue is did Curtis discriminate against the LAX players, and if she did so, I hope that she loses her job then. However, as I mentioned previously, Curtis and her supporters will ironically argue that she is entitled to due process before any job action is taken.

Anonymous said...

Leftist wackos are certified victim group (CVG), protected by ACLU so they cannot be fired..certainly not by white oppressors.

Anonymous said...

re these people who feel it he wasnt damaged.

First of all he was left to twist in the wind on if he would be graduating with his class for 5 days from 5/5 to 5/10 when the administration had to work around the Poly Sci department. It was another 2 months until 7/17 his grade in the course was addressed.

He still is being damaged by a probably unfair 'D' grade.

Curtis and Duke cannot continue doing this even if you think there are more important problems in the world. That has nothing to do with legal liability.

I think at this point you are deluding yourself if you think that Dowd wont get a recovery.

Do you think that Duke wants in print all over the country some of Curtis statements? How about the fact that she is teaching not because of qualifications but because they need someone to represent the feminist viewpoint and she is it:

How about this from an admissions counselor:
"This story seems to never go away," Goodman said. "It seems like it's the O.J. Simpson trial of the college world."

Do you really think Duke wants stories like this running in "US News" for the durration of a Dowd trial?

Curtis is a predator and needs to be removed from the class room. She can still produce her unread papers from some other position.

Anonymous said...

It's time for the heavyweights in the Duke political science dept. to make a public statement. There silence is deafening.

Anonymous said...

I think it was pretty blatant grade retaliation. I am not a lawyer so I don't know how good the legal case is in this instance. Regardless of the legal merits of the case Duke should realize that this type of behavior by a professor is not acceptable. The case also does expose some of the blatant bias of some of its professors and how those biases translate in actions that can have negative consequences for students.

In my opinion, an important part of education is the critique of your opinion and the logical arguments that support that opinion a professor can provide. To me that is an effective way to learn. Most of us who did well in school learned to assess how the professor worked early on and do what it takes to get good grades. I could BS my way through a course to get a good grade from a prof if needed. But, I don’t think you learn as much when you have to approach a class in that way.

From my own experience, I have been fortunate with my professors in undergrad and grad school. For example, the first time I voted at 18 yrs. old I became a precinct chairman and election judge in a precinct where my government professor was the precinct chair of the opposite party. I made an A in that class even though my paper was pretty much an in your face opposite of his position. I knew the man in my role as precinct chair so I figured I could get away with being up front about my opinions. In my American Political Institutions class I challenged my socialist Princeton educated professor concerning his opinions on the value of the space program and got him to admit I was probably right. Of course that was more than 20 years ago.

More recently (2005), I graduated with a 3.89 GPA when I returned full time to grad school after spending 20 years in a fortune 50 company. As an older student I did question a number of ideas that professors presented. The biggest issue I saw was getting real people in real businesses to see the value of their theoretical work and actually put it into practice. I told them in my opinion you are going to have to sell it at the top and have it filter down to the managers and project managers. Most of the technical folks and managers I know don't read the academic journals. They might read Computer World if you are lucky and barely have time to keep abreast the various technologies that rapidly change. Most of my professors appreciated input from my experience. By the time I graduated, I had heard one of my professors repeat some of my opinions to others almost word for word. The same professor had put together a presentation geared to CEO’s / high level managers on his work as well. Of course these professors came from either the medical field as MD's or RN's, cognitive science, or computer science fields. Overall, I felt like I learned a lot from them but that they also learned something from me and at least valued me as a person if not my opinions.

Anonymous said...

Even if Dowd graduated, if it took the Duke admin to split the baby and pass him for Curtis's course with a D, his GPA would be adversely affected, so he's damaged there. Not damaged big time, but there's some damage. But then you have punitives. Without seeing the e-mails, we don't know what was said, but just Munger's initial attempt to get the student to go away would count as bad faith -- mitigated quickly, based on the evidence we have -- but it still took an administrator to step in, as far as I can understand the story.

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

With no leadership from Broadhead, why should the entire Poli Sci dept issue a statement. Personally, I think the lack of comment from all depts. (excluding the econ dept) at this point in this pathetic sequence of events, speak volumes.

It really boils down to one simple thing – public character & courage, and the appalling lack of both as demonstrated by faculty, administration and alumni.

The Dude said...


You said it better than most on that side of the issue. i think the persons taking the position of "no harm. no foul" are missing the point.

There are policies, procedures, Federal Laws, etc... You don't even have to prove damages in a lot of these cases. you just have to prove something happened in violation of the particular regulation.

Not only does this lady and Duke have financial liability to Dowd for leaving him "twisting in the wind"(emotional distress), she has violated many other regulations which may leave her open for liability. Perhaps her lawyer should amend and file under "retaliation". Dowd was probably a potential witness to something. He had a lawyer. He gave DNA. He may have taken some of the camera photos or HE MAY HAVE GIVEN A STATEMENT TO EITHER nIFONG'S PEOPLE OR THE dEFENSE. It doesn't matter what he said. it matters that he was a potential witness. Retaliation against a potential witness is a crime(even in jerkwater N. Carolina)

I am not sure of the exact N. Carolina laws, but I would be willing to make an educated guess that Dowd doesn't even have to prove intent on Davidson's part. Just the mere fact that he was a witness and she was an involved party by choice will be enough. If this lady thinks they can excuse this with grade inflation or any comparisons, she is a fool. The courts will nail her to the wall and she (including all involved facualty will be deposed. this will ALL end up hurting Duke. They should get rid of this moron ASAP. Perhaps she can teach with Wendy Murphy.

Anonymous said...

Again, to the retired prof, I'm not sure if Munger is a "benign" figure. Recognize that he's been running a vanity campaign for Governor of NC and is probably much to preoccupied with this, his (at least three) blogs, his speaking engagements (he's something of a cult figure in academics) -- I doubt if he has all that much time to spend on trivial tasks like being chair of Duke PoliSci.

This is probably just one of the points of failure that brought the system down. I don't see no benign here.

John Bruce

The Dude said...

Perhaps her lawyer should amend and file under "retaliation".

Should have been his(dowd)'s lawyer. Sorry

Anonymous said...

For your amusement Munger's comments:

He thinks that the season should have been suspended, because of underage drinking, strippers [hey thats exotic dancers to you], and racial epithets. And there may have been transfats present.

Thats just silly and he is pandering to someone. Excepting the strippers, I am guessing that 90% of college parties have drinking and someone says the 'N' word. If they sent monitors to Spring Break they could probably expell the whole undergraduate school.

Oh yeah and Nifong: " Nifong should be removed from office and disbarred." Because he was abusing his office. Kind of like a certain Poly Sci Ass Professor.

"I would go so far as to say that the city of Durham should have to pay most, or all, of the legal costs of the three young men.

If the actions an agent, Nifong, of the citizen of Durham means they have to pay, then logically the actions of agent Curtis means that Duke should pay damages too.

Anonymous said...

violence feminist style !!!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks that it is well...a little tacky for another lacrosse team player to be filing a lawsuit over how he was treated while there are three still facing jail time (if they seat a jury of HER peers)? Is there some pressing reason it had to be done now? Some strategy in place? Or just "Better get in line sooner rather than later." ?
Let's see Colin, Reade and Dave cleared of all charges first.....then the other lacrosse players can line up and air the problems caused by the situation. Until then, it is like screaming over a paper cut while someone else is standing quietly next to you has a gaping knife wound.

Anonymous said...


The timing to me appears to be good. It come right after Duke invited Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann to return for the spring term. To me, the law suit by Dowd helps me understand some of the factors Finnerty and Reade must considered when making their decision to return. Can they be assured that they will be treated fairly by members of faculty and administration? How about by members of the group of 88?

At least they've received the assurance that they will be treated fairly from at least 17 profs, but the Duke 17 are not the one who should have been giving them these assurances, it should have been the group of 88.

I do understand why it might seem like bad timing and tacky, but I still think it is a good strategic move even if its a tacky tactical move.

In the end.
1)the suit should not affect the ongoing trial.
2) And if others have been subject to the same treatment, it help them know that they can do something about it before all evidence and and opportunity disappears.

Anonymous said...

i suspect the timing of the suit is anything but accidental

A coordinated effort (now that Finnery and Seligmann have been readmitted) to warn Duke and every single one of the 88 that their every move will be scrutinized.

Brilliant in its own way.

With lawyering, you get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

I am starting to think that all this was predictable. I was curious by what KC meant by speech codes so I googled it. The third google link was about an organization called FIRE (from what I could gather a small type of ACLU mainly concern with university issues ?). What I found interesting about their sites was that they had a Due process" section and in that section they had a challenged a few cases Columbia and Brandeis University about due process in University for people charged with sexual offences. After reading a good number of the article, I came to the conclusion that the reaction of the group of 88 (accusing before any due process in a sexual assault case) was inline with policies that seem to exist at some universities. Even a prestigious university like Columbia seem to have fallen pray to this king policies. I do not know if these types of policies are widespread, but its seems to me that some university are intentionally promoting the attitude that if some is accused of a sexual offence, they are guilty. I believe the Duke 88 would be the types of faculty that would agree with the policies like the ones that were made at Columbia and Brandeis University and I now believe this is why the group of 88 will never issue an apology, doing so would have consequences greater just admitting wrong doing in this particular case, admitting they were wrong would make it harder to push for policies that deny due process when it does not suit their ideological needs.

In short, I now think the action of the group of 88 seem to have been somewhat predictable and expected and should not really surprise the accedamic types. Of course I am being an arm chair quaterback here, but I'm not in academia and went to university 20 yrs ago so I don't really know if its as bad as it look, but it does not look pretty from where I sit.

Anonymous said...


An important 20th century novel, one that most high school students have to read, is "To Kill a Mockingbird." While I am not schooled in the secret codes of literature, I thought that some of the lessons in that book was not to judge people by their backgrounds and to certainly not make false accusations of crimes, especially serious crimes, such as rape. These lessons seem to be lost on the group of 88, esp. the lit. profs.

Anonymous said...

Regarding TP,

A previous poster researching the possibility of a plan to flip real estate in the Trinity Park area may want to see if there is any connection between John Dagenhart who was the President of the Trinity Park Homeowners Assosciation as of March 31, 2006 (per a NYT Times article published on that date), his wife Ellen Dagenhart who managed Marie Austin Reality Company, and Duke. (I remember them from a Free Republic discussion months ago and simply Googled to find out basic information posted here).

The Dagenharts apparently are active in the Durham community and seem to have been involved in community activities with prominent Duke individuals. For example, Ellen served on the 2005-2006 Durham Arts Council Board of Trustees along with Cynthia Brodhead, Mike Woodard, (and Sioux Watson from the Independent Weekly). The Dagenharts and both Richard and Cynthia Brodhead and Robert K. Steel served as members of the George Watts Hill Leadership Circle 2006, a group that works for historic perservation. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is easy to see why Duke leadership could have been more "connected to" and more concerned for "the community" than for their own students.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to Duke. The only time I spent in North Carolina was part of a summer at Ft. Bragg, hanging with what is clearly a higher class of people.

So I say this from the outside.

Duke is broken. They hired Brodhead, despite his record of trying to avoid trouble by throwing somebody under the bus irrespective of facts. They hired the profs in the Gang of 88. They paid the profs to teach garbage courses and actually gave kids credit for taking them. Various majors may actually have required some of those courses.
Duke has a student body with the critical thinking skills of a kindergarten. Now, I know that the 18-22 year old demographic can be awfully bright, but apparently they regress when in the extended adolescence of college. However, Duke doesn't seem to have figured out how to stop the regression.
Duke's problems are not this case, but the underlying institutions which put Brodhead & Co. in their various offices.
If Duke is well and truly hammered over Dowd and other issues, if the alums send their money and kids elsewhere, perhaps--I speak with no great expectation--somebody will wake up. And fix Duke. or not. In the latter eventuality, its deserved catastrophic drop in reputation, funding, and attraction for top-tier kids will serve to protect society from Duke.
And, perhaps too much to hope for, the effect will spread to other universities.

Anonymous said...

9;45 right on Brother. Excellent article. Why does it appear that Duke is making no effort to xorrext the situstion?

Anonymous said...

9:45 AM:

Thank you for giving us the right wing wacko point of view, as if we have not heard it before.

Anonymous said...

William Buckley once said that he
"would rather live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone directory than in one governed by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty."

Undoubtedly true in the case of Duke too. But why? On their own merits these professors would seem to have a great deal of inate intelligence, critical thinking ability, verbal facility and a generally wide knowledge base.

But you shudder to think of what type of society these people would construct....

Speech codes and the rest of it in academia are just the start of it.

What causes this disconnect between academic knowledge and the ability to govern? Is it because acedemia rewards take of novel positions and being able to defend them in verbally principle? Is it a sense of intellectual superiority leads to megalomania (I have had those instructors). Or is it being cloistered in educational environment and building up resentments against accomplishments of those in the business and technical fields. Do they feel the need to position themselves as counter weights to soceity and therefor go off into completely unworkable positions?

Living under the Rule of 88 government would be terrible and would probably make the Great Leap Forward look well conceived and yet I am interested in some of the courses they are teaching this semester.

Anonymous said...

To Richard Aubrey:

You state that Duke has a student body with the critical thinking skills of a kindergarten. In reality, I suspect their critical thinking skills are a lot sharper than yours.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the commenters who say why would Dowd's lawyer file the lawsuit if he did not have a case? That is exactly the same logic used by the Nifong supporters who say Nifong must have something up his sleeve otherwise he would not be pursuing the case.

Anonymous said...

Professor Curtis is married to Professor Romand Coles.

Anonymous said...

Stop laughing. Dowd has retained a real lawyer and real law firm.

They dont have an election coming up and arent race mongering. They are motovated by an expectation of recovering damages, therefor their involment is indicitive of the strength of the case.

See how the logic is different?

Dukex4 said...

2:57 -- Thank you for this information -- that explains why Curtis is still at Duke as a visisting prof for 10 + years. Nothing like the full employment act for professors -- to hire me you also have to guarantee a job to my less than scholarly spouse.... so I wonder how many of the 88 got their jobs this way?

Anonymous said...

To 5:01 PM:

I doubt that Dowd's lawyer has taken the case on a contingent fee because the odds of a large recovery are so low. If he is on an hourly fee, he presumably will file any lawsuit the client wants him to file as long as he can make a good faith argument in favor of his client's position so that the lawsuit is not deemed frivolous, which would expose him to sanctions.

Anonymous said...

I was able to get into the pdf of the suit. It basically alleges breach of contract -- the various bulletins, accreditation standards, course syllabus, etc., establish a contract between Duke and the Dowds. Duke breached that contract by allowing Curtis to grade on the basis of race, sports team membership and scholarship status, in violation of the terms of the various statements, binding on Duke and Curtis. Duke and Curtis engaged in fraud by misrepresenting that Dowd had failed the course, when he hadn't (tellingly, his class absences were not in violation of Duke policy). The multiple explanations Curtis gave for why Dowd "failed" the course were fraud, and Duke did nothing to correct the problem. Duke inflicted emotional distress by telling Dowd and his family that Dowd wouldn't graduate. But suddenly let him graduate. (Think mock execution.)

Doesn't sound frivolous to me, and in fact the plaintiff is basically expecting Duke to adhere to its published standards on grading, appeals, and so forth.

It's an additional problem that Duke and other institutions inflict the unqualified spouses of faculty on undergraduates. I had that problem many years ago myself, a faculty wife read the papers for a course I took and was basically trying to show how hard she could treat the students so they'd hire her as a prof full time. Nothing new here, but it really ought to stop.

John Bruce

Anonymous said...

If Curtis had given Dowd an F based upon her own political biases (which she probably did) and Duke had refused to allow Dowd to graduate and had refused to review or change his grade that would be one thing. But Duke did allow him to graduate and they did change his grade. You cannot hold Duke liable for fraud based upon the actions of the professor when Duke reversed and negated the actions of the professor.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes you can. Curtis is Duke's agent. She is employeed by them to deliver a contracted eduaction to the customer student. Part of that value is a fairly assigned grade, which was not done in this case.

The Poly Sci administration already had a caution that a recriminatory environment was in place, and yet their response was completely lacking.

I believe that a jury will have no trouble holding them liable. And for that reason Duke will pay up before they are ever held accountable on the public record.

Anonymous said...

This jury is in Durham, NC. Now they are to be trusted with a decision? Better hope Duke makes a deal.

Anonymous said...

This jury is in Durham, NC. Now they are to be trusted with a decision? Better hope Duke makes a deal.

Anonymous said...

To 3:51 PM:

Dowd got a fairly assigned grade - a D.

Anonymous said...

To 4:23 PM, back in January:

Dowd was assigned an "F", not a "D". Clearly that was *NOT* a "fairly assigned grade".

(C+)+(C-)+(F)+(F) = D

She gave him, by contrast, an "F".

The university had to adjust the grade after the fact, in their first of two changes of his grade, to get to the "D" which you support as "fairly assigned". If it was "fairly assigned", it has the unusual characteristic of not having been assigned by the instructor...

After that correction, you can argue that the "corrected" grade was "fairly assigned" only if you believe that the final paper was genuinely worth an "F", and his participation was genuinely worth an "F".

Given that his early grades were in the C range, and the grades assigned at the end of the class were uniformly "F", it certainly looks suspicious.

Cap that off with the fact that she managed to average it down to an "F", and all presumption of good faith has to go out the window.

In retrospect, Duke agreed to change it from a "D" to "Pass", as he was requesting. That doesn't make a huge statement for the grade being "fairly assigned".