Professors are supposed to be open-minded, willing to dispassionately evaluate new evidence as it arrives, and, if necessary, reconsider their initial assumptions. Obviously, the lacrosse case showed another side of some elements of the Duke faculty, as race/class/gender advocates not only presumed guilt but then reinvented the past to rationalize their initial actions.
So we had Group of 88 member Cathy Davidson penning a January 2007 op-ed describing the Group’s statement as a necessary corrective to the first week’s media coverage, which was dominated by the voices of the lacrosse players—when, in fact, the first week’s media coverage all but ignored the lacrosse players’ protestation of innocence, and instead focused on Mike Nifong and extremist students and professors presuming guilt. Or we had Charlie Piot suggesting that the Group’s statement didn’t presume guilt, because it thanked only those who had protested on March 27, 2006, not on March 26, 2006 or March 29, 2006—even though the statement contained no such qualification, and even though the March 27 protesters, like those on the other two days, presumed guilt. Or we had the Lubiano Trio writing that AG Roy Cooper dismissed the charges merely because “there was no credible evidence to support the allegation that a crime had occurred”—even though Cooper repeatedly and publicly stated he had dismissed the charges because the players were actually innocent, a far more stringent standard.
The latest efforts of Tim Tyson, then, are merely one in a long line of dubious activities by the Group and its campus allies. Like his pedagogical comrades, Tyson recently reinvented the past, in quite substantial ways. He claimed that he had defended the presumption of innocence in a March 2006 statement—without mentioning that, in March 2006, he had preposterously claimed that the lacrosse players “might” have committed an “illegal” act by postponing an unsupervised interview with Sgt. Mark Gottlieb so they could consult with attorneys. And he also reiterated his March 2006 assertion that the lacrosse players embodied “the spirit of the lynch mob,” citing the racially charged after-party argument, initiated by Kim Roberts (an African-American) between Roberts and a lacrosse player—without mentioning that, in March 2006, he had justified the statement by (falsely) implying the racial taunts occurred while the women were dancing, (falsely) claiming that both women had made the claim, (falsely) claiming that multiple neighbors corroborated the allegation, and (falsely) asserting that evidence existed of a “lot” of racial slurs.
In the comment thread at the N&O blog, Tyson, incredibly, has continued to offer factually unsupported claims. For instance, he asked, “Did KC Johnson or any of the people indignant about the lacrosse case say one word on behalf of Darryl Hunt? You guessed it. Their concern for racial justice is confined to ‘the vanilla suburbs,’ and always will be.” Yet, in fact, I’ve mentioned the Hunt case both in public talks and in UPI, and one DIW reader searched to find 67 references to it over the course of the blog. (Tyson, moreover, appeared unaware of how the question could be turned on its head: despite the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in modern American history occurring in his own backyard, there’s no evidence that Tyson ever said “one word” while the case was ongoing on behalf of Mike Nifong’s victims, suggesting his “concern for racial justice” is confined to quarters outside the Duke student body.)
Pressed on the Hunt issue by other commenters, Tyson dug an even deeper hole for himself, as John in
To my knowledge, no objective observers deny that Hunt was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet coverage of the Hunt case in the Winston-Salem Journal doesn’t substantiate Tyson’s dramatic claim that prosecutors “knew” that Hunt didn’t fit the description of the assailant (unlike the Duke case, a crime did actually occur in the Hunt case) and had no evidence against him.
Moreover, Tyson’s comments about the financial settlement correctly raised the eyebrows of another DIW reader: “Since the only money that the ‘lacrosse players have received so far’ has come from the heretofore-secret settlement terms between Duke and the players, Prof. Tyson is telling us something new -- that Duke paid the players ‘many times’ more than Hunt received, which was $1.65 million. And he is not claiming this is just ‘an opinion’ or ‘a guess’; he's stating it as absolute fact . . . Given Prof. Tyson's close connections with the Duke Administration (he was named a ‘Dukie of the Year’ in 2006), it would not be unfair to presume that he speaks with some authoritative knowledge on the subject. Thus, I think a phone call to Duke is in order to see if the administration will confirm or deny that Prof. Tyson is telling the truth about the amount of the confidential settlement.”
On the issue of the size of settlements, Tyson appears unaware of the law. In a September 12 N&O article, Jim Coleman explained,
how much the lacrosse players suffered is just one factor in determining an appropriate amount to seek. Coleman said he thinks
police failed to adequately explore evidence that could have exonerated the players, a charge the city denies. He said other falsely accused people have suffered more, but they often were the victims of negligence rather than an intentional effort to bring charges without evidence. Durham
The question of intent—whether police willfully railroaded the lacrosse players—will be a key factor if the civil case goes to trial, Coleman and Largess said. If police and city officials are found to have maliciously pursued the case knowing the evidence wasn’t there, they should pay until it hurts, Coleman said. “There’s an element of punitive action involved in lawsuits like this,” he said.
On September 13, Coleman added that deterrence can be a critical action of such suits: “When the city acts in ways that are so totally outrageous and could have been prevented, I think the damages ought to be sufficient to deter that kind of behavior in the future and also to send a message to other cities and prosecutors across the state. I have no idea the damage they suffered. There’s no way for us to say $30 million is low or high.”
What’s the significance of the type of closed-mindedess we’ve seen from Tyson, or Davidson, or Piot, or Lubiano, or Group members like Grant Farred and Houston Baker? In the lacrosse case, the truth was plain to see, and yet groupthink members of the faculty of Duke—one of the best universities in the United States—seemed unwilling or unable to process the information, because doing so contradicted their race/class/gender worldview. Perhaps, of course, Group members and allies were closed-minded on this issue alone, and fairly and dispassionately evaluate evidence when dealing with ideologically charged issues in their scholarship and teaching. But based on the conduct we’ve seen, such a theory seems unlikely.
To what extent, then, does a similar closed-mindedness permeate the scholarship and teaching—issues largely outside of the realm of public interest—of Group members and likeminded colleagues at other elite institutions?