A few weeks ago, the Chronicle’s Kristin Butler penned a column that opened with the arresting line, “It seems anyone can get a college degree these days—especially if they go to
Given Crystal Mangum’s personal history of accusing people of crimes that never occurred, drug and alcohol abuse, hospitalization for mental difficulties, and participation in the sex trade,
Despite (or perhaps because of?) these facts, Butler’s column has attracted a storm of criticism, which has taken four basic lines of argument: (1) Butler had no standing to comment on matters at NCCU, and harmed Duke-NCCU relations by doing so; (2) Critics can invent their own version of the facts to chastise Butler; (3) Butler was unfair in her attack on NCCU; and (4) Critics of what Mangum’s graduation says about NCCU’s academic environment are racists.
(1) The lack of standing argument.
In a recent edition of the Herald-Sun, NCCU student Candra Broadie—after engaging in a few ad hominem attacks against
If Herald-Sun editor Bob Ashley had elected to utilize some basic fact-checking (not to mention a copy editor) before printing Broadie’s column, he would have discovered that Easley received a B.A. from the
In theory, an argument could be made that a Duke student (or any outsider) should avoid criticizing NCCU’s approach to the case. That line of reasoning, however, presupposes that the institution itself had engaged in some soul-searching about Mangum or the university’s response to her false allegations.
No evidence exists that such soul-searching has occurred. Indeed, no evidence exists that any soul-searching has occurred. In January, I e-mailed NCCU spokesperson Miji Bell to ask for any initiatives or comments (from either the administration or student body) that gave a sense of how NCCU has achieved its own sense of closure to the issues raised by the lacrosse case, and whether NCCU had used the Mangum affair to look at enforcement of its student judicial code.
Broadie doesn’t seem interested in such soul-searching, either. “Is it up to us,” she asked, “to hold one back from success in life because of a mistake that was made years ago? Whatever [sic] happened to forgiveness?” (Of course, Mangum’s “mistake”—at least her most recent one—occurred while she was a student at NCCU, the whole point of Butler’s column.) “According to Butler,” Broadie continued, “no one deserves a chance to live a successful life after having done wrong.” This is, to put it mildly, an unusual interpretation of the argument in
(2) The damn-the-facts argument.
Broadie was not the only
Curious about Gasman’s evidence for leveling such a critique, I e-mailed the Education professor.
Perhaps the above set of facts yields a logical explanation other than the one
Gasman’s response? She noted her belief in freedom of opinion, and explained that her accusation of
We’re all, of course, entitled to our own opinions, and our own perspectives. But we’re not entitled to our own facts. It seems awfully convenient to accuse someone of factual inaccuracy—a very serious charge, after all—based on evidence that the critic then refuses to identify.
I e-mailed Gasman to note my puzzlement with her reply; she reiterated only that she had a “different perspective on this case.” But, again, whether or not Gasman has a “different perspective on this case” is irrelevant to the question of whether she had any evidence to substantiate her in-print assertion that “Ms. Butler mistakenly [emphasis added] labeled Ms. Mangum a prostitute.”
(3) The unfairness argument.
Beyond her damn-the-facts line of attack, Gasman asserted that “
I’m sympathetic to Gasman’s argument (though this “sin” occurs in public criticisms of many non-elite colleges, not just HBCU’s). That said, the Mangum/NCCU affair would seem to be an exception to the general rule. After what we learned of Mangum during the lacrosse case, it’s hard to imagine how she could receive a B.A. degree—and in criminal justice, no less—from any institution of higher learning.
After all, this is a person who had serious mental problems (a psychological file that appeared to be around 1000 pages long when Judge Osmond Smith held it up in the courtroom). Even before the lacrosse case, she had leveled serious allegations (rape, attempted murder, child abuse) against three different sets of individuals. She had a record of alcohol and drug abuse. Based on her statement to police, she appeared to write at around an 8th or 9th grade level.
The case file also provided an insight on Mangum’s “study habits” while at NCCU, especially in the form of Jarriel Johnson’s statement. (Most in the media delicately referred to Johnson as Mangum’s “driver.” But, if we adopt the Gasman “perspective on the case,” Johnson was apparently Durham’s version of the Good Samaritan, a man who provided a free car service to an unemployed woman who had lost her license, and who was on call at all hours of the day and night, willing to drive to all sorts of locations in the Triangle. How he supported himself financially must remain a mystery; perhaps he was independently wealthy.)
According to Johnson’s police statement, Mangum (when she allegedly was an NCCU student) spent a lot of time at exotic dancing establishments, or in hotel rooms for various “appointments,” often till the wee hours of the morning. His statement, however, contained no mention of driving her to or from class; or of her taking time to study; or indeed, of her doing anything remotely resembling academic activity.
Given what we know of Mangum, then, it’s hard not to ask the question
(4) The racist argument.
The most inflammatory playing of the race card, however, came from an experienced practitioner in the trade,
Making unidentified “assumptions” about North Carolina Central, it seems, produces a “racist” column. Is there any criticism that
Kenney does suggest, however, that he saw nothing problematic with Burnette’s column, which seemed to demand vigilante justice against (white) Duke students.
By the way, the target of all this ire received yet another award--being named by UWIRE as among the 100 best student journalists in the country.
[Update: Shortly after this post appeared, all traces of the Gasman column vanished from the Diverse website. A reader has posted the original version of the Gasman item in the comments section.]