On several occasions, I’ve noted that the college press has featured a higher percentage of quality articles than its counterparts among mainstream print publications. Every once in awhile, however, a column comes along to shock the senses. Such was the case in a piece last week from a
Headlined “Seligmann Not Worth the Hassle,” Perlin’s article, which strongly condemned Brown other Ivy League institutions for a “lack of judgment” in recruiting Seligmann, featured some of the most tortuous logic to appear anywhere in print about this case.
Perlin worried about whether the campus could have handled things “if Seligmann had come to Cornell after the scandal broke.” Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that Seligmann is not even now looking to transfer to Cornell, Perlin seems to believe that Seligmann could have called up the Cornell coach the day after last March’s party, immediately been accepted into the school, and then started play on the lacrosse team the next day. Perlin’s hypothetical, in other words, is about as useful as speculating on what would have happened if Mike Nifong had suddenly become
Perlin then proceeded to what appears to be his real issue—the fact that recruiting Seligmann implicitly states that Mike Nifong’s case has collapsed. “There is a wealth of information floating around the media pointing to the three players’ innocence, but only a few people truly know all the details of the case.” Perlin lectures his readers that “I don’t think I have a right to judge, either way. No one does. That is why I’m surprised Ivy coaches are so willing to truly overlook his impending trial.”
About Seligmann, we know that:
- His electronic alibi evidence includes cellphone records and an ATM video showing him someplace else at the only time any “crime” could have occurred.
- The DA refused to meet with Seligmann’s attorneys to consider this evidence.
- He was chosen—despite not matching any of the accuser’s initial descriptions—after a lineup in which the prosecutor instructed the police to violate their own procedures.
- In the latest of her myriad, mutually contradictory stories, even the accuser doesn’t actually accuse Seligmann of doing anything (other than saying he was getting married the next day).
- No DNA of his was found in the accuser’s rape kit.
- The DA conspired with a lab director to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence from Seligmann’s attorneys.
- Shortly thereafter, the state bar field an ethics complaint against the DA.
What more, exactly, did Perlin want to know? He didn’t say. He did say, however, that he was “tired of this case . . . tired of all the leaked information about what did or did not happen.” He’s “sick of the implications and everything else brought on by the media. Let’s wait for the trial, make sure justice is served and move on.” If Perlin is “tired of this case,” perhaps he might want to speculate how fatigued Seligmann might be.
For a glimpse of how a college newspaper could fairly address the issue of Seligmann’s transfer, Perlin could glance at the Harvard Crimson story on Seligmann’s possibly coming to
The comment thread on Perlin’s column featured appropriate expressions of outrage. Noting Perlin’s admitted fatigue, commenter PJ Pluth observed that “to ease his weary soul, he proposes to keep burdening Reade Seligmann with the residue of a false prosecution . . . Watergate took more than two years to unravel. Ten months, evidently, taxes the mental stamina of the assistant sports editor of this little student newspaper. Woodward or Bernstein he ain’t.” Another reader urged Perlin to “be completely informed of all developments in the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax before he opines on the matter.”
Lacrosse parent George Jennison termed himself “offended” by the column, especially its title. Cornell, according to Jennison, would be lucky to have someone like Seligmann as a student; instead, Perlin’s “statement basically is, ‘not in my back yard’”—which amounts to “turning your back on supporting truth, supporting a fine young man, and are condoning the lies and misconduct that led to this situation.”
Perhaps the most effective response to Perlin came yesterday from fellow Sun columnist—and, ironically, Cornell lacrosse player—Andrew Webb. Webb notes, correctly, “The errors in ethics, judgment and sheer writing ability in Perlin’s column prove to be one of the worst cases of journalism that I have ever had the misfortune of reading.”
In Perlin’s view of the world, Webb contends, people should stray “from doing things that are right just because it would bring attention to the cause.” Webb wonders whether Perlin was “one of those who rushed to judge these three students before any of the facts came out.” (Somehow, I doubt that Perlin joined the ranks of Nifong’s critics.) By publishing his column, which then appeared on Insidelacrosse.com, Perlin not only “damaged Cornell University, Cornell Lacrosse and The Cornell Daily Sun’s reputation, but he has also single-handedly decided to make us Cornellians look like judgmental, exclusive jerks.”
Perlin’s column also seems to have misused quotes from Cornell men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni, who told Webb, “I regret the way in which I was portrayed in an article that I did not agree with.” Webb concludes,
I wonder if Josh Perlin would like it if he or someone close to him had to pay millions in legal defense, withstand unthinkable/undeserved cruelty from most of
and wait for an indefinite amount of time to see if he had to be punished for a crime that he never committed. And then also have to read from some college sports “columnist” (whose writing style and content are not original) about how the writer thinks that Perlin or someone he loves is not deserving of being a member of “his” community? America
Webb’s words provided a useful reminder that Perlin does not reflect the values of many Cornell students. That Webb ends his effectively argued column by noting that he is a lacrosse player himself was, somehow, fitting.