Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Group of 88's Imagined Reality

In their increasingly desperate attempt to redeem their reputations, the Group of 88 has succeeded only in digging themselves a bigger hole. The latest example came in an article published yesterday in Diverse, in which Group members rationalized their actions in a way that appeared detached from reality.

Reporter Christina Asquith’s scrupulously fair article featured quotes from four Group members (Wahneema Lubiano, Karla Holloway, Mark Anthony Neal, and William Chafe) but did not cover up the arts and sciences faculty’s performance from last spring. She noted, for instance, that “even as DNA tests came back in the players’ favor and evidence surfaced of prosecutorial misconduct, at least a dozen Duke professors weighed in via op-eds and essays presuming the guilt of the players as a symbol of more widespread problems on campus.” Asquith also spoke to several of the Group’s critics—including Steve Baldwin, FODU’s Jason Trumpbour, and me.

Some of the Group’s more peculiar claims:


Chafe complained to Asquith that his March 31 Chronicle op-ed has been misinterpreted, since it “didn’t have any reference toward the guilt or innocence of anyone.” He suggested that, as a history professor, he was duty bound to provide a historical context to help the campus consider the lacrosse case.

Of course, Chafe could have chosen any number of historical contexts to frame the discussion. He could have, for instance, chosen the Tawana Brawley case—the classic example, before events in Durham, of a high-profile false rape allegation. Or he could have chosen the Scottsboro Boys case—the classic example of racially driven prosecutorial misconduct.

But Chafe made another selection. He suggested that the whites who lynched Emmett Till represented the appropriate context through which to interpret the actions of the lacrosse players.

Can Chafe possibly suggest that contextualizing the players’ behavior by citing the perpetrators of one of the worst cases of lynching in American history did not imply “any reference toward the guilt or innocence of anyone”? I’m not sure which option is more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter; or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.


Wahneema Lubiano, principal author of the Group of 88’s statement, explained the statement’s origins in the following manner:

Black students were being told, “There isn’t any racism or sexism, and if you talk about that, you’re attacking the lacrosse players.” Every time we raised it, people told us to shut up.

Intensive media coverage began on March 24. The statement appeared on April 6. What evidence exists that black students, or any other critics of the lacrosse team, were being told to “shut up” during this two-week period? To take some examples:

  • March 27: As these photos make clear, African-American students were well represented at anti-lacrosse campus protests. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
  • March 28: Lacrosse player Bo Carrington was surrounded by an angry group of African-American students as he walked across campus. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
  • March 29: The AAAS forum that allegedly produced eight of the eleven anonymous student quotes in the Group of 88’s ad took place. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
  • March 30: Lubiano and African-American professor Houston Baker (joined by another extreme critic of the lacrosse player, Peter Wood) dominated a faculty meeting devoted to attacking the team. Lubiano, Baker, and other lacrosse critics certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.

Can Lubiano seriously contend that in the two weeks before the ad’s appearance, black students were told to “shut up,” or that the most extreme critics of the team among African-American faculty members did not dominate campus discourse? I’m not sure which option is more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter; or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.


Asquith writes that “some professors, like AAAS professor Mark Anthony Neal, say they were careful not to jump to conclusions about the players’ guilt. Neal, specifically, posted a blog article that took Blacks to task for dismissing crimes against Black women. But it hasn’t insulated him or other professors from criticism.”

Yet here is Neal, in his own words, from April 13:

Regardless of what happened inside of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd, the young men were hoping to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed. If these young men did in fact rape, sodomize, rob, and beat this young women [sic], it wasn’t simply because she was a women [sic], but because she was a black woman.

At the time, of course, Mike Nifong was portraying the “crime” as not only a sexual assault but as an assault motivated by race. In his statement, Neal asserted that the players wanted “to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed.” (The players, in fact, had not requested black dancers, and had been told the agency would send one white and one Hispanic dancer.) And Neal appears to have accepted wholeheartedly Nifong’s suggestion of a racial motive.

Does Neal really maintain that his accepting Nifong’s suggestion that race played a role in the players’ hiring of the accuser did not constitute rushing to judgment? I’m not sure which option more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter, or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.


Chafe added, by the way, that critics of the Group of 88 are part of “a whole industry out there seizing on the opportunity to pillory a group of faculty members as leftist, racist, elitist, avant-garde Marxist people.”

If, in fact, such an “industry” existed, one wonders if Bill Chafe is actually serving as a covert operative in its service. His comments to Diverse portray him, yet again, as a caricature of an elitist willing to advance his personal agenda on the backs of his own institution’s students.


Anonymous said...

Keep the pressure on the group of 88/87 make-it-up-as-they-go-along hand waving revisionists posing as academics.

The rehab tour looks like a bust.


Anonymous said...

When will Duke and the trustees take action on the group of 88?

Anonymous said...

Duke just officially elevated Angry Studies to departmental status so they are supporting Gang88.

To Duke leadership Marxism is the answer.

President Brodhead railroaded innocent white man when he was Yale so he has long history in Angry Studies.

GS said...

Brodhead needs to go.
He is allowing a group of far left radicals destory Duke's rep.

I feel sorry for the other Duke profs, they are watching the tarnishing of Duke by a group of marginal profs.

Duke needs to clean house, starting with Brodhead.

Anonymous said...

JLS says...,

Nice report as per usual Professor Johnson. Sadly while a bit on the defensive, the 88 gangsters still think they call the shots at Duke and I see nothing to suggest Brodhead or the Board are not in sympathy with them or at least will not rein them in.

BTW, did you read the Herald-Sun article on Sunday, I believe, noting that Nifong had shown up in the to Federal Appeals Court cases already?

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic...

The last few attempts I've read at anything coming close to justifying what the Group-of-88 and potbangers did spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on one of the more minor issues of this whole case - people making racial slurs. Two recent letters in the Chronicle and one article in ESPN online *partially* focus on this.


Dont any of these people know that this whole racial epithet issue in the lax case was started by Kim Roberts calling one of the players "a little d*** white boy".

Are they really that desperate to find some justification for what they did?

It would serve them better just to shut up...

Anonymous said...

JLS says....

BTW, Ms. Asquith is wrong in at least one place in her article. The economics faculty did not offer any support to the lacrosse players. They merely said that all Duke students are welcome in their classes without regard to race, sex, membership on sports teams etc. That is a pretty small step, that the gangsters can not seem to take.

Anonymous said...

This is another excellent post. Because I am also a history professor, I particularly appreciate you focus on Chafe. Nevertheless, in future discussions of Chafe's role, please consider dropping your repeated emphasis on his improper identification of the date on which whites lynched Emmett Till. Getting that date wrong was an oh-so-minor error (even for a historian of Chafe's previous stature) that had nothing to do with the absurdity of Chafe's comparison. By making you seem to have it in for Chafe a bit too much, continuously mentioning the minor error actually draws attention away from your very damning point about the ridiculous, prejudicial, rush-to-judgment nature of his comment.

The Random Rambler said...

Will Lubiano count this as an example of being published for getting tenure?

kcjohnson9 said...

To 12.38:

Point well taken. Dropped the reference.

Anonymous said...

JLS says....

Yeah it was pretty funny that the article commented about checking up and finding that a forthcoming book had never been published. I would say that is something no scholar could object to.

Heck I sent a paper to a outlet in Italy once as a young assistant prof. I got back a letter that even the foreign language department could not make head nor tails of. It sounded a bit like an acceptance but I have no idea if they ever did publish the paper and I have never listed it on my vitae.

Anonymous said...

Chafe added, by the way, that critics of the Group of 88 are part of “a whole industry out there seizing on the opportunity to pillory a group of faculty members as leftist, racist, elitist, avant-garde Marxist people.”

Pretty good estimate, Chafe, but...pillory? Let's change that to "correctly identify", change leftist to "lying", take out the avant-garde, go a little easy on the Marxist, and add "Stalinist" and "ultra-feminist".

Oh, and change people to "hypocrites".

Len D'Amico said...


To describe Asquith's article as "scrupulously fair" is a stretch. Please note:

(a) the callout under the Weekly Standard cover illustration:

"the collapse of the case has made for a conservative backlash - and welcome fodder like neocon Bill Kristol's 'The Weekly Standard' "

(b) this text in the body of the article:

"[Johnson] was denied tenure at Brooklyn College, supposedly due to his conservative politics and brusque personality. He eventually received tenure."

The casual reader is left with the impression that this case has pitted the left vs. the right. You have described yourself - a number of times - as liberal (the classic kind, IMO), and I have found commenters on this blog to be both conservative and liberal - with a modicum of radical ideologues.

Asquith thus mischaracterizes this case with a political bent, when it is nothing more than good vs. evil.

Hiding behind an ideological agenda occurs all too frequently when all that's required is to stand up for what is right and wrong. Surely, the vast majority of conservatives and liberals can at least agree with that?

Anonymous said...

We need to keep in mind that with people like Lubiano, even a slight disagreement with her is to be seen as a vicious act of racism and whatever-ism. By saying that we should look at evidence, that was tantamount to saying that blacks should "shut up."

Now, to the rest of us, saying that evidence matters is a logical and moral thing to do, but with someone like Lubiano, it is engaging in activity which disagrees with her. Because Lubiano is a "victim" who wallows in her "victim" status, to disagree with her is to further victimize her and perpetuate the flavor-of-the-month stereotype.

As for Chafe, his original Emmett Till statement was so out-of-bounds that he deserves whatever criticism he receives. There is no excuse for what he said -- none. His "I am a historian" comment only digs the hole deeper, or at least it exposes him as a distorian.

Anonymous said...

"I’m not sure which option is more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter; or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality."

Actually KC, I'm not sure which option is more frigtening; that Chafe is a tenured Duke professor or that Chafe is a professor at all!

Anonymous said...

Chafe has made no minor error. He placed himself front and center in the vanguard of the Hoax, even posing in front of the lacrosse field to accompany his public libel of his own students. He may be an historian, but he is a rat full of low cunning and arrogant intellectual and moral dishonesty. I think people focus somewhat on Chafe in that he should know better, and is choosing this moment, as K.C. suggests, to advance his agenda on the backs of our students. sic semper tyrannis

Anonymous said...

These foolish faculty members must live in a world in which they are never held accountable for their comments.

I would imagine that each has a "no tape recordings" policy in their classrooms.

KC - thank you for holding these people accountable for their outrageous statements. If only Duke President Brodhead were so responsible.

In Brodhead's world, the only people who are held to account are students, whether they are responsible or not. Apparently, there is no comment that a professor at Duke could make that would be sufficiently irresponsible so as to draw Brodhead's rebuke.

Anonymous said...

K.C.'s comments have been a wonderful source of information. The ongoing criticisms of Duke faculty have some merit but they include a lot of reaching for conclusions that are not very well substantiated and at times seem exaggerated. I think they are off track as related to the real criminal charges remaining against the falsely accused students.

Anonymous said...

gs at 12:26
"I feel sorry for the other Duke profs, they are watching the tarnishing of Duke by a group of marginal profs."

I have mixed feelings, gs. Clearly the 88 are a small minority of the Duke faculty and may speak for only themselves.

Nonetheless, evil usually gets a toehold when others sit around and watch. From what I understand, even at this point, few faculty members have spoken up. And it is not as if they have no examples (Coleman) of courage. That the 88's behavior touches on issues that should raise the hackles of scholars makes this all the more disconcerting.

Six months ago, I might have agreed with you. But, given current knowledge, most of the faculty and administrators strike me as being craven weenies. It is just too easy for everyone, even the 88, to do the right thing. Yet, we continue to wait.


Anonymous said...

Hi KC,

Many, many thanks for the work you are doing.

One of the recurring themes is that the LAXers were called racists for having black strippers, when in fact they asked for white/latino strippers.

Has this been independantly verified? I can see it becoming a he said/she said otherwise.

Anonymous said...

There continue to be comments that imply that Duke can do "something" about the Gang of 88's statements. In general, Duke cannot. Faculty's speech is protected by contract (academic freedom) unlike the speech of most employees. (This is not a First Amendment issue, which prohibits governmental interference with free speech, but a contractual issue.) Duke cannot control what its faculty says; therefore, Duke as an institution is not responsible for what they say. Whatever the Duke administration did that was wrong, it is unfair to blame it for stupid or evil statements made by Duke's faculty.

KC is doing the right thing, which is to expose the tendentious, self-serving, self-pitying nature of the gang's drivel. No need to make them martyrs for academic freedom, a case that Duke would lose.


Anonymous said...

I think this case is interesting in that it galvanized people for different reasons. I am glad KC is focusing on the Group of 88. It is very helpful to me that KC is exploring the Group of 88 - their disconnect from reality, their lack of scholarship and the advancing of their agenda on the back of the case. I came to this case b/c I was revolted by the egregious prosecutorial misconduct. The case has so many aspects that it supports "specialization" among the LAX supporters. MDEsq

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with JeffM comment that anything a faculty member says is protected by academic freedom. If they are voicing their opinion on political or social issues I would agree. But when it comes to making comments that are defamatory against University students or employees upon which the University can be held liable then, no, they are not protected and it can be construed as misconduct. Contractually or otherwise there is no set of laws that separate these employees away from other employees. They must be held accountable for their actions and thus far the administration has not done that to any degree, and therefore, sides with them.

Anonymous said...

It all boils down to this- MANY academics are out of touch with reality.

It doesn't get any simpler than that. As academics we live inside research where we can construct a large part of what once was- since the people who could explain it are long dead. These prof. have constructed a reality around these events that fit their preconceived notions of race and class and fit them into a larger narrative that also fits their own perceptions.

No fact is strong enough. No recantation could change this. They will forever see the world in this manner short of an epiphany.

-J. Kaiser

Gary Packwood said...

Anonymous 9:02 AM JeffM

Academic Freedom

Any discussion about freedom has been debated for hundreds of years. That is a good thing.

I have the freedom to ask that a civil jury hear my complaint about what has been said or written about me as an intentional act of harm ...by a professor or for that matter an institution of higher education.

Civil court is all about money. If you intentionally harm me I want to be compensated...except for your pension of course if you are a professor.

If you need to sell your home in order to compensate me...that is good with me!

It would also please me to know that professors or institutions that intentionally harmed me spent hundreds of hours with their attorneys trying to figure out a way they can defend themselves.

I would know for certain that they are not harming anyone else while sitting with those attorneys planning how they are going to make their defense in front of a jury...day after day after day after day.

You suppose the leadership of Duke is providing the G88 with this type of information?

One can only hope.

Anonymous said...

8:50 “The ongoing criticisms of Duke faculty have some merit but they include a lot of reaching for conclusions that are not very well substantiated and at times seem exaggerated”

I’m coming around to your point of view; these courses aren’t exaggeration of society, and instead, they represent mythology. On the other hand, it maybe the Gang of 88 and their abettors are off track...on well, everything.

Who could possibly have “problematics” with their mythology?

AAAS 297S-01
Interdisciplinary analyses of the problematics of teaching about social hierarchies, especially those of race, class, and gender. Curricular content and its interaction with the social constructions of students and teachers

How the body has come to define the human in language, law, science, politics and economics. The body's relation to identity and subjectivity. The representation of the body in particular cultural discourses and the social history and dynamic in which that representation has taken place

EDUC 150S-01
The evolution of North American colleges and universities as gendered institutions, the demands of women for higher education access, and the organization of disciplines in the contemporary university. The roles of multiple actors (faculty, students, administrators, publics) as well as the dynamics in different sectors (academic, student affairs, athletics, fund raising).

SXL 115S-01
Topics include homosexuality and theory, history, law, religion, education, the arts and literature, the military, and the health sciences

Anonymous said...

Why would these people say something so obviously bogus?

One is that they are delusional enough to actually believe it. There have been attampts ("victimhood") to explain the source of such a powerful delusion, but that doesn't seem to fit. Once in a while, you actually encounter the real world with its sharp edges and at least some judgment is required. Possibly this is learned and relearned on a weekly basis, but it can't be avoided permanently.

The other possibility is that they are so delusional that they think others believe them, merely because they say so. IMO, this is a function of being in the classroom too long, with the power of the grade keeping the kids quiet. Eventually, you begin to think what you say is true and indisputable simply because you think it. And that gets out of the classroom into the rest of life.

Anonymous said...

9:02 JeffM. On the other hand the Duke leadership, administration, and other professors could have come forth and suggested the positions and statements put forth by the Gang of 88 are not representative of the Duke community. They did not.

The best of what was presented by the Economic Dept. was late and watered-down.

Coleman and the Provost (when abused outside his home) are the only two whom have come close to tempering the Gang of 88 and their ilk.

Duke leadership also could have refrained from granting Departmental status to AAAs. Instead they chose to do so now in what is a volatile time. The boys still have pending charges.

As a hypothetical, what would be the Gang of 88's legal status had their actions resulted in a lacrosse player being assaulted or instigated a riot (on/off campus). A non-Duke activist group known for carrying weapons was on campus. At what points is one accountable for ones words? At what point is Duke leadership, or in this case the glaring lack of leadership, responsible for it’s inaction?

I personally am not advocating any stifling of their speech; instead, I think the race/gender/class warfare programs should be disbanded. Let them espouse their bitter hateful rants on a street corner

Anonymous said...

We are all waiting for word from the Duke community that a terrible injustice has been done to three of their students.

There are plenty of students and alumni and a few brave faculty who have said so but we have not heard this from:

President Brodhead

Provost Lange

The Board of Trustees

The faculty governing body

A single faculty department

The group of 88

Forget asking for apologies. Where is the acknowledgment of the unfair damage that has been done to three Duke students.

What is so revealing in the continued posturing of ringleaders of the group of 88 is that they can't simply say that the accused students were unfairly harmed by the case. It would appear that a good percentage of the Duke faculty and administration cannot see the lacrosse players as human beings.

What does it say about the community that a chaired professor and former head of the Modern Language Association could write in response to an email from the mother of a lacrosse player that her son is a "farm animal".

There is something seriously wrong here. And we are waiting to hear some signs that people at Duke are showing signs of acknowledging it.

Anonymous said...

JeffM, Duke University, from what I've read, is suffering from the Gang of 88 behavior. Early admissions off 20%, fund raising seriously behind here it should be at this point, your argument may protect Duke from being named in libel lawsuits, but Duke is suffering from its tarnished reputation right now.

That Duke now grants Angry Studies departmental status confirms that the administration is on the Gang of 88's side.

Anonymous said...

Try as you might to make Coleman into your advocate. But here is what he told the Diverse magazine reporter--defending the 88.
He's not your guy. And he's not because his integrity can't be bought by anybody.

"But Coleman defended the Group of 88’s ad as an expression of concern of racism on campus. He says the real criminal in the case is Nifong, whose provocative pronouncements of guilt added fuel to an already emotional case."

MTU'76 said...

Focusing on what Duke faculty/administration/trustees 'should do' is like magical thinking.

"magical thinking - that characterized by the belief that thinking or wishing something can cause it to occur."

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, at a recent meeting between Brodhead, Bob Steel, and the LAX parents, Steel defended the G88 as engaging in "freedom of speech." In other words, Duke University still has not come to terms with the enormity of what transpired last spring -- and continues today.

Duke could not have gotten away with doing what it did to black students, to students of any other ethnic group, and to females. The lawsuits, federal investigations, and the outcry would have been extremely loud. Yet, we have to judge Duke by the same yardstick that we apply to everyone and everything else. Until Duke University's people come to terms with what they did, this thing will haunt the university in perpetuity.

Anonymous said...

I swung over to Chafe's Department of History website to see what was going on this spring. I guess I really wasn't surprised to find these gems:

February 26 - Neil Foley - Room 229 @ 12:00
Associate Professor University of Texas at Austin will be speaking on, "'Latin Americans, Not Negroes': The Good Neighbor Policy and Jim Crow in the Southwest During World War II," at Noon in Room 229 Carr.

Four panel discussions will focus on race and ethnicity, travel and imperial encounters, violence and the state, and trade and consumption, respectively.

10:45-12:15: New Approaches to Race and Ethnicity
Tina Campt, Departments of Women's Studies and History, Duke University
Bob Korstad, Departments of Public Policy and History, Duke University
Max Krochmal, Department of History, Duke University
Danielle Terrazas Williams, Department of History, Duke University
Chair: Orion Teal

March 9, 2007 - African Lecture Speaker Series - Room 229 Carr Steven Feierman
Professor, University of Pennsylvania will be speaking on "The Local in African History: The Case of the Disappearing Object," on Friday, March 9 in Room 229 Carr Building at Noon.

March 23 & 24 - Race, Representation, and Citizenship in the Americas
This two-day symposium will examine the impact of race on notions of citizenship and national belonging in Latin America and the Caribbean, and explore how African-descended communities have sought to transform their status through diverse modes of cultural and political representation.

March 30 - April 1, 2007 FPR-UCLA Third Interdisciplinary Conference - University of California, Los Angeles
*How do some of the well-investigated neurophysiological processes underlying such emotions as fear, anger, and love interact with cultural context and meaning?
*How do the neural mechanisms underlying imitation and empathy interact with cultural interpretations and conventions, and what are the implications for clinicians treating patients with disorders of emotion and personality?
*How might behaviors involving extreme anger be differentially categorized as pathological versus normative across cultural contexts?
*How do local culture, historical events, and politics complicate neurobiologically grounded emotions such as hope and despair?

Anonymous said...

To Sic Semper Tyrannis (7:34):

The professor who posed for photographers in melodramatic fashion with the lacrosse field in the background, as an accompanyment to the libelous interview in which he described the lacrosse players (some of whom he had personally taught, including Reade Seligmann)as "cynical, arrogant, callous" was Peter Wood, not William Chafe.

It appeared in the Indy on June 28 2006.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

KC, the email submitted by the Gang of 88 to 'Diverse' as proof the Gang has "received hundreds of e-mails, many of which were racist and threatening in tone." is NOT an email that was ever sent to the Gang. Why do I know that? Because the email is MINE!!

KC, I typed it on your site, Durham in Wonderland, last year (about November, I believe) and I never submitted it anywhere else. I did not send it to the Gang, I did not send it to Diverse and I certainly never printed it to the "http://www.duke university blog" shown in the article (I don't even know where that site is). Of course, the readers of Diverse would have no way of knowing that because in the picture of my (sloppily pasted) email is an arrow pointing straight at the duke unversity blog site.

So - the Gang can't even produce a single 'proof' of those hundreds of emails they claim they got - and the one they DO produce is a lie. Well, Gang, I decline to follow your example of unsubstantiated charges. My email was totally substantiated - it asked why the Gang of 88 could still be employed at Duke when it applauded castration (pot banger sign holder the Gang 'thanked' in their ad), deliberately flunked students (Kim Curtis) and targeted the lacrosse players because they were white (racist), male (sexist) and elite (bigots). As for the last charge -'can't even spell'? Oh, lordy me. As soon as I quit laughing, I'll paste the horrible proof of THAT!

KC, the Gang of 88 would have been more accurate if they'd submitted a different quote to Diverse - i.e., "Sound and fury signifying nothing". But I'm not holding my breath they'll ever do that. Rumor has it that the person who originally wrote it is white (gasp!), male (ugh!) and elitist (eck!!).

Anonymous said...

That image doesn't look like an email to me. And nothing in the article points to it and says that it is. What is "duke university blogspot" anyway? But blogspot does capture where it appeared, in d-i-w. Looks like the reporter was trolling on d-i-w and picked it up from there. Nevertheless, this illustration is misleading. The criticism should be forwarded to the magazine, but it doesn't indicate that anybody gave him email to reprint.

AMac said...

Carolyn wrote in at 1:34pm to claim authorship of the text excerpted in Christina Asquith's "Diverse Online" article, Duke’s Devil of A Mess (linked in the body of this post). It's the sixth and last illustration on the left side of the page, with the text placed as if it is part of a one of the blog entries that had been discussed in the article. A reasonable interpretation would be that the image of words on a blue computer screen were chosen to illustrate this passage of Asquith's article:

"While Johnson has never made outwardly racist comments, those who follow his blog are suspected of besieging professors with racist, personal and menacing rants. One professor has been signed up for book and CD clubs, which then sent her bills. Another professor has had the death of her son evoked on blog comments. Others say they feel their safety is in jeopardy."

Carolyn's D-i-W blog comment was submitted on Feb. 16, 2007 at 2:15am, in the thread attached to Condemned to Repetition. That exemplar of racist, personal, menacing rants--if that's what we signify it to be--is as follows:

"For god's sakes, what exactly does a professor have to DO before he's fired from Duke? Those jerks urge castration of students and they're still here? They deliberately flunk students and they're still here. They're racist, sexist, bigots who can't even spell! They jump one of their own grad students in New York, then publish an outrageous piece of libel - all of which has now placed Duke's financial neck on the chopping block for what promises to be the costliest lawsuit in its history.

And the Gang of 88 responds to all this by ----- playing with a bunch of STRING?

I ask my question again."

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Thanks, Amac! And whack my callipygous rear for not even remembering the exact date when I entered my own words (duhh, I said it was 'about November').

Still, the fact remains that in the article the Gang of 88 say they've received 'hundreds of e-mails, many of which were racist and threatening in tone' - and yet the Gang doesn't give proof of a single one. Dr. Lubiano says she's received 'nasty emails' but she doesn't give proof of a single one. Dr. Neal says he's received 'death threats' but he doesn't give proof of a single one. The article says that commentators on KC's blog are 'suspected' of signing up a professor for book and CD clubs and sending her the bills, or evoking a death threat against another professor's son, or jeopardizing the safety of other professors - but their only 'proof' is my comment.

Show me the beef! I've had enough bull!

Anonymous said...

@ Mr Packwood

I do not think we disagree about much. I'd like to clarify if I might. First, I suspect that we agree that the Gang of 88 are despicable human beings whose words intentionally caused harm. Second, if Duke is in fact legally responsible for their words, then of course it would make sense for Duke to be sued.

Where I think we disagree is whether Duke as an institution is responsible for the speech of people they happen to employ. If one of my employees says something obnoxious about a current public issue, I do not expect to be sued unless I were somehow responsible for that speech. (Of course, some tort lawyer might decide to sue me on the deep-pocket theory of law.) In the case of a university, which has a contractual duty not to restrain the speech of a faculty member, I think the university has a strong moral and legal defense against vicarious liability. Others have said that the administration could and should have distanced itself from the drivel of the Gang of 88, as indeed the Provost did. I agree that morally they should distanced themselves much further than they did. But I doubt their failure to do so is a legal tort; it is instead a moral delinquency. And as another commenter said, they are experiencing moral retribution in the form of reduced gifts, early acceptances, etc., which seems to me quite appropriate.

As for personal suits agaisnt the Gang of 88, I hope they happen, but I doubt they will because I doubt enough of them have enough money to cover the costs of litigation. I have been involved in civil litigation: it can cost literally millions, and, in the US, you usually cannot recoup your legal fees in damages.

So I go back to my point: KC is doing the best thing, which is to expose those people for the self-serving, self-pitying, tendentious bigots that they are.


Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't see the Emmett Till lynching as being totally out of line as a historical context of this case ... as long as you cast the accused players in Emmett Till's role, the accuser in Carolyn Bryant's role, and Nifong and his enablers in Roy Bryant and JW Milan's role. It wouldn't be a great analogy clearly. As badly as the accused players have been treated, none of them were physically tortured and murdered. Still, it's the only way anyone can imagine using this event as a historical context. And of course, no one who tried to maintain the accused players' presumption of innocence ever suggested Emmett Till. Chafe is the one who brought up the poor kid.

Conservblack said...

I just blogged a letter that needs to be sent to our sorry DA