Tuesday’s Chronicle featured a news analysis on the Trustees’ committee conducting a three-year review of President Brodhead’s performance. Chelsea Allison reasoned that “although administrative reviews are regular University protocol, some have speculated that the tumultuous external events during President Richard Brodhead’s first three years could draw more attention to his assessment.”
That the seven-person committee includes a Group of 88 member (Sherman James) suggests it is unlikely to hold Brodhead accountable for his performance over the past 18 months.
Below are ten questions that the Blue Committee might want to consider. I invite DIW readers to suggest additional questions in the comment section; I’ll post the ten most interesting ones on Sunday.
1.) On April 20, 2006, President Brodhead made his first off-campus appearance after the arrests of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. He told members of the Durham Chamber of Commerce, “If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.”
In retrospect, does the president consider those remarks to be appropriate? And what did Seligmann and Finnerty—who attended a party they played no role in organizing and drank some beer—do that was “bad enough”?
2.) That same day—appearing at a Duke panel described as combating the “culture of crassness“ on campus—the president shared the platform with Dinushika Mohottige, the only person to admit to publicly distributing the vigilante posters with the lacrosse players’ photos; and Group of 88 member Mark Anthony Neal, who affirmed, “I have an alter ego—my intellectual alter ego. My intellectual alter ego is thugniggaintellectual—one word . . . I wanted to embody this figure that comes into intellectual spaces like a thug, who literally is fearful [sic] and menacing. I wanted to use this idea of this intellectual persona to do some real kind of ‘gangster’ scholarship, if you will. All right, just hard, hard-core intellectual thuggery.”
In retrospect, does the president believe that appearing with these two individuals communicated a message that he was serious about combating a “culture of crassness”?
3.) In his April 5, 2006 “letter to the Duke community,” President Brodhead affirmed, “I pledge that Duke will respond with appropriate seriousness when the truth is established.”
On April 11, 2007, the truth was made public, yet the administration’s subsequent response has been a desire to move on.
What occurred between April 2006 and April 2007 that caused the president to abandon his April 5, 2006 pledge to “respond with appropriate seriousness when the truth is established”?
4.) The Group of 88’s statement—for which, in a January 2007 statement, the overwhelming majority of signatories remaining at Duke refused to apologize—claimed the formal endorsement of five academic departments.
In fact, it appears as if none of the five departments ever had a vote on the statement, much less formally endorsed it.
Was any action taken against the person or persons responsible for falsely listing the official endorsements in this instance? And what concrete steps has the president taken to ensure that, in the future, Duke academic departments are not falsely listed as endorsing, in their official capacities, public statements?
5.) In late March 2006, a student named Chauncey Nartey sent an e-mail to the Presslers considered so threatening that Sue Pressler filed a report with the Duke Police. Shortly thereafter, Mike Pressler informed Larry Moneta about the e-mail; President Brodhead was informed about the e-mail no later than a May 2006 meeting with the lacrosse players.
Subsequently, Nartey was: (1) one of five students named to the Campus Culture Initiative; (2) one of a handful of students selected to share the platform with the president at one of the “Duke Conversation” events; and (3) one of around two dozen students who received the Griffths service award. (The latter two developments occurred after the fraternity of which Nartey was president was suspended by its national organization.)
Could the president explain the administration’s decision to shower a student like Nartey with honors and awards?
6.) No later than April 7, 2006, a coach informed President Brodhead of allegations of in-class harassment by members of the arts and sciences faculty against members of the lacrosse team.
What steps—if any—did the administration take to investigate these allegations? As part of this investigation—if any, in fact, occurred—why did no one from the Brodhead administration speak to any member of the lacrosse team about their in-class experiences?
7.) Chapter Six of the Duke Faculty Handbook opens with the following passage: “Members of the faculty expect Duke students to meet high standards of performance and behavior. It is only appropriate, therefore, that the faculty adheres to comparably high standards in dealing with students . . . Students are fellow members of the university community, deserving of respect and consideration in their dealings with the faculty.”
Does the president believe that—with their actions and/or statements in the lacrosse case while a member of the Duke faculty—Grant Farred, Karla Holloway, Ken Surin, and Peter Wood conformed to the Handbook’s provisions, particularly the requirement to treat all Duke students with “respect and consideration”?
If so, how? If not, in what ways were Farred, Holloway, Surin, and Wood disciplined?
8.) In his summer 2006 response to the Friends of Duke University open letter, the president stated that he was “eager for our students to be proved innocent” at trial.
Does the president still believe that the purpose of a trial would have been for the students to prove their innocence?
9.) Evan Thomas’ Newsweek review of Until Proven Innocent opened with the following passage:
On March 28, 2006, the four co-captains of the Duke lacrosse team accused of gang-raping an exotic dancer met with university president Richard Brodhead. One of the captains, David Evans, emotionally protested that the team was innocent and apologized for the misbegotten stripper party. “Brodhead’s eyes filled with tears,” write Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson in their new book on the case, “Until Proven Innocent” (420 pages. Thomas Dunne Books. $26.95). Brodhead “said that the captains should think of how difficult it had been for him.” The misbehavior of the players, said Duke’s president, “had put him in a terrible position.” Listening to Brodhead, Robert Ekstrand, a lawyer representing the captains and many of their teammates, “felt his blood starting to boil,” write Taylor and Johnson. “Here, he thought, is a comfortable university president wallowing in self-pity in front of four students who are in grave danger of being falsely indicted on charges of gang rape, punishable by decades in prison.”
In his report of the president’s April 2006 appearance before the Durham Chamber of Commerce, WRAL’s Dan Bowens noted, “For a few minutes, the school president, who has answered questions on a rape investigation involving members of the university’s men’s lacrosse team for the past month, needed time to vent among colleagues.”
Does the president consider himself a “victim” of the lacrosse affair; and, if so, in what way?
10.) In light of what everyone has witnessed over the past eighteen months, does the president believe that the Duke arts and sciences faculty suffers from a “groupthink” mentality that—in many departments—prevents the free and unfettered pursuit of truth?
Any reader (or at least those, as one commenter correctly points out, with a Duke connection who desires to offer suggestions to the Blue Committee, meanwhile, can do so at: email@example.com.