On the one-year anniversary of the Group of 88’s statement, two major mysteries about the ad remain.
- We now know that the anonymous quotes from alleged Duke students actually came from Wahneema Lubiano’s “notes” of a student gathering;
- We now know that Lubiano demanded hasty approval—colleagues had between 6 and 48 hours to decide whether to sign—apparently to ensure that the ad came out before DNA tests that could clear the lacrosse players were made public;
- We now know the context of the “protestors” to which the ad said “thank you for not waiting”—the March 26 potbangers carrying signs saying “castrate,” and the March 29 vigilante activists who blanketed the campus with posters containing 43 of the lacrosse players’ photos.
Still unknown, however:
(1) Who paid for the ad? In 2003, Group of 88 member Anne Allison improperly used departmental funds to pay for an ad denouncing the Bush administration’s foreign policy. She was rebuked for doing so. In April 2006, did Group members use their private funds, or did funding for the ad come out of an official Duke budget? Last spring and summer, I sent four e-mails to then-AAAS chairman Charles Payne asking if his program had paid for the ad; he did not reply.
(2) Under what procedure did the ad obtain a formal endorsement from the following five Duke University departments (Romance Studies; Art, Art History, and Visual Studies; Asian & African Languages/Literature; Classical Studies; Psychology: Social and Health Sciences) and nine academic programs (Franklin Humanities Institute; Critical U.S. Studies; Women’s Studies; Latino/a Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; European Studies; Program in Education; and the Center for Documentary Studies)?
In the five departments listed above, a majority of members did not sign the Group of 88 statement.
- In Art, Art History, and Visual Studies, 10 of the 12 listed faculty did not sign the statement.
- In Classical Studies, 10 of the 11 listed faculty did not sign the statement.
- In Psychology: Social and Health Sciences, zero of the faculty signed the statement.
- Romance Studies, 15 of the 29 listed faculty members did not sign the statement.
- In AALL, 8 of the 10 listed faculty did not sign the statement, although one of the 8, Tomiko Yoda, would sign the clarifying statement.
I previously contacted several professors from the five departments above who did not sign the ad, and asked them when and under what procedures their department voted on endorsing the ad. Of those who responded, none recalled a formal departmental vote. It seems remarkable that departments 83%, or 91%, or 100% of whose members did not sign the statement individually would then turn around and endorse the statement as a departmental unit--a far more significant act.
Jim Lindgren also explored this issue at the Volokh Conspiracy, noting that if no departmental vote occurred, only two other options exist:
(1) One or more of the department chairs “so abused their powers that they unilaterally committed their programs officially to a public political position in opposition to a group of Duke students without a full departmental meeting, deliberation, and vote.”
(2) “Could it be that one or more of the approximately 15 departments or programs that supposedly endorsed the letter did not do so? Did the letter writers [in this case, Lubiano, who told espn.com that she coordinated the placing of the ad in the Chronicle] fabricate departmental or programmatic support that did not exist, either intentionally or out of confusion?”
In early January, Group of 88 apologist Cathy Davidson sent around an e-mail in which she conceded, “I have had lawyers look at the original ad and ambiguity of the language could be made, in a court of law, to seem as if we are saying things against the lacrosse team.” What does that statement suggest about entire departments that were listed as formally signing onto the ad?
Academics are supposed to treat procedure seriously. Everything about the Group of 88’s statement, of course, flouted this tradition—rather than endorsing due process and procedural regularity, the Group gleefully joined the rush to judgment. That, from all appearances, some or all of the formal departmental endorsements of the ad occurred outside proper procedures raises even more questions about this most dubious aspect of the Duke response to the case.