Monday, April 27, 2009

Steel On Way Out

The Chronicle reports that Bob Steel will step down as chairman of the Duke Board of Trustees at the end of this academic year, to be replaced by former N.C. Democratic legislator Dan Blue.

Blue has what could most charitably be described as a mixed record on the lacrosse case--most troublingly, he chaired the committee that recommended a new five-year term for Richard Brodhead--but regardless, the first step toward meaningful reform at Duke is the departure of Steel, who had a personal, vested interest in maintaining the pretense that the Duke administration handled the case well.


Debrah said...


Dan Blue is obviously part of the same mindset regarding the Hoax as most at Duke and in Durham.

However, rearranging the deck chairs will allow passengers on that sinking agenda-driven ship to have another view from the deck.

Debrah said...

Some real nut (or nuts) have begun showing up on Chris' blog.

Debrah said...

I think people such as Mary Semans should be questioned on all aspects regarding how Duke University has handled this case.

She should be asked to give some real opinions on significant issues.

What is outrageous is that just one word from her and the administration would do anything.

As someone close to her once said to me, "Mary Semans is Duke."

We all recall how she and her cousin danced around the softball questions Charlie Rose---who is her close friend---asked about the lacrosse case on that video of his show.

Just because she is elderly doesn't mean that she has lost her mind.

To the contrary, she is as zesty and sharp as a kid.

How could she have sat back in Durham while this was going on......

......and then try to minimize the damage?

I would love to have an exchange---a Q&A---between KC and Semans.

Panacea said...

The same Bob Steel that invested in a racial movie.

I guess they have to keep Duke's theme going strong.

Dan Blue will likely be named the next chair. And Blue will be the first black chair.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link,

to a book review, by Glenn M. Ricketts of,

Closed Minds? Politics and Ideology in American Universities

A quote from the review:
'Skeptics, however, are not likely to be converted, in view of the astonishingly narrow, dubious base of evidence on which the book’s principal findings rest. Most of the information on which the authors base their conclusions about faculty attitudes, for example, was culled from survey questionnaires given to a national sample of professors at 169 research universities, essentially asking them to evaluate themselves.'

Another quote, synopsizing one of the book's conclusions:
'In fact, not only do most professors eschew mixing politics with their teaching, but they are largely apolitical, detached professionals immersed in their special fields who have withdrawn from political debate or discussion, and focus in the main on achieving tenure or maintaining positive student evaluations.'

Anonymous said...

Why is Bob Steel stepping down as BOT chairman? WIll he remain on the board? If so, will he still wield considerable influence? Whether or not is is a first step really, it would seem, depends on the answers to those questions.

Locomotive Breath said...

Mary D.B.T. Semans (extra credit for knowing what all those initials are) spoke at one of my graduations because, as usual, Duke couldn't get anyone better. This was about three decades ago. She didn't make sense then either.

Anonymous said...

Steel should be in prison.

Debrah said...

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans

Anonymous said...

Remember that Steel said that the BOT was in accord with Brodhead's actions in the lax case; and that an criticism of his actions was therefore criticism of the BOT, as well (a sentiment with which I concur, btw).

Dan Blue was part of the BOT.

All along Duke's position was that it wanted a trial, lest it appear that Duke had used its influence to get the case dismissed. It's response was all about PR and keeping up appearances, and in that cause its three students were expendable. ("Sometimes good people have to be sacrificed for the good of the organization," as Steel reportedly said.)

Dan Blue did not distance himself from Brodhead or Duke's actions. He thought it better not to take the risk of opposing public sentiment, not even to defend the innocent.

He is a politician (which is not, btw, intended as a compliment.)

Anonymous said...

What is so terribly frustrating about Duke is its Old South "snail's pace" at both recognizing what is really going on and an even slower pace at devising a rational response to the need for change.Both Steele and Brodhead are so tainted with the negativity of their wrongheaded decisions that it appears this dynamic duo has begun to impact almost everything at Duke University from faculty morale to Alumni and Corporate giving. Of course, this was inevitable, but there is an element in all long standing institutions that wants/needs to perpetuate the status quo.

Mary D.B.T. Semans is , in my opinion, a very lovely and dedicated supporter of her family's university. However, her quotient for "change" at the leadership levels of Duke has always been extremely cautious. Some call that loyalty. Others call it blind trust. I call it both in her case.

Mr. Blue has a reputation for rational thinking. I actually received a personal(not computer generated) response from him when I corresponded with him as chair of Brodhead's evaluation committee. His response was not a defense of Braodhead, and it actually acknowledged the massive amount of criticism he had received about Brodhead.

I am hopeful, but ,unfortunately, this is Duke , and it may take years to turn this erratic, politically correct institution into a reasonable academic direction.

Anonymous said...

FYI, NYT op-ed (I am surprised they printed it) - I wonder what KC and other academics think?

April 27, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
End the University as We Know It
GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).

Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities...

2008 GOALS said...

I will say one thing in Dan Blue's defense--he did answer my email when they were soliciting input about the Brodhead review, and it wasn't a canned auto-reply.

How many of you have gotten replies from Steel or Brodhead?

Anonymous said...

Will Steel give the go-ahead to settle the civil lawsuits before he exits? He would be able to have some control over his "legacy" if he did. I can't imagine that he is looking forward to all the depositions in those cases and the Wachovia matter.

On the other hand, Blue probably wants to start his tenure without the worry of the Federal cases against Duke. He can settle them and effectively "move on" and blame Brodhead or Steel for any backlash.

Anonymous said...

"All along Duke's position was that it wanted a trial, lest it appear that Duke had used its influence to get the case dismissed."

I would not say "all along" because it was not even a case until some actions or some failures to take action by persons at Duke helped make it one.

Anonymous said...

Some of you folks still do not quite get it--the Lax Hoax victims will **NOT** settle under any conditions. And thank God for them and their resolve to see this through to the unvarnished, transparent end. They will uncork the truth and all of the facts underneath this Hoax and help shine light where it has likely never yet penetrated. And I, for one, simply cannot wait.

The civil verdicts will turn Duke into a higher education version of GM.

kcjohnson9 said...

A note:

Thanks to R.T., who just informed me I had accidentally cleared a comment containing ad hominem attacks (I had meant to hit the reject button.)

My apologies for the error. May I state again: any comment containing ad hominem attacks will not be approved.

One Spook said...

To the Anon @ 4:14 PM who writes:

"Some of you folks still do not quite get it--the Lax Hoax victims will **NOT** settle under any conditions."

To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single spokesperson who speaks for all of the "Lax Hoax Victims" and their attorneys.

I do not see how anyone could take your comment seriously.

One Spook

Anonymous said...

Is Bob Steel stepping down because his term as chairman of the BOT has ended?

The Chronicle article states he will be retiring in June (along with several other trustees), however, I wasn't sure if the retirements were voluntary or mandatory.

Are there term-limits for chairs/members of the BOT?

f1guyus said...

So when does discovery begin?, this charade keeps up much longer people will be able to truthfully state that they can't remember.

Debrah said...

Dan Blue seems to be quite a popular replacement figure.

Anonymous said...

To the "One Spook":

You're perhaps correct in that @4:14 may have over-stated a touch (and, to be sure, neither I nor @4:14 or, for that matter, you "speak" for anyone save ourselves). However, so long as at least *one* plaintiff resists a master settlement--and we've already seen evidence of this dynamic--then Duke, Durham, Brodhead, Steel, Nifong, et al. remain screwed. And does anyone really believe that *none* of the plaintiffs are willing to hold-out? Hell, if a master settlement and releases were in the offing they would have arrived long, long ago. These Lax folks smell blood, real serious expensive blood, and rightly so, in my view.

Perhaps you'll accept mine as a, in your view, more "serious" comment.

Get a freakin' life, "Spook."

Anonymous said...

to one spook....I am not the 4:14 commenter but I know what he is talking about. Comments on this blog and other similar online gathering points often make statements to the effect of this event will make them settle or so and so wants to settle finally. It has been clear for some time that if the main goal of the non-indicted players was monetary settlements, they could have done so in a much more expedient manner than the process they are going through.

I do not recall which players or representatives stated it, but there were definitely statements made around the time the suits were filed that any settlement agreed to would require policy or legal changes on behalf of Duke and/or Durham. While I would not go so far as to make a blanket statement of the intentions of all the various plaintiffs, I think there is a general attitude towards making the suits result in more than monetary damages being paid.

Anonymous said...

"So when does discovery begin?, this charade keeps up much longer people will be able to truthfully state that they can't remember.""Justice delayed is justice denied."

Except when you're outsiders in NC...

Anonymous said...


Obviously, you have never been deposed. These people are going to be shown every e-mail, every memo they wrote or received and asked what it means. If they say they have forgotten, they have no opportunity to put any context around the contemporaneous written word, and if they later "remember" at trial, they will be successfully impeached. The best you can do if you have something to hide at deposition is to answer truthfully what you are asked but volunteer nothing extra. And you would be amazed what you can remember under intense questioning with the relevant documents in front of you. I was questioned by attorneys from the DOJ about contractual negotiations some twenty years after they happened, and reading the letters, the memoes, and the blacklines of the contract brought the whole episode rolling back. And that was not a formal deposition. My most recent deposition went on for close to a full day, with an admittedly long lunch break.


Anonymous said...

f1guyus, I believe that an omnibus order on the motions to dismiss is expected at any time from the judge. Once that order is entered, it becomes "discovery time"! Usually, before depositions, the attorneys will ask for a lot of paper discovery -- and according to the federal rules, the defendants are supposed to voluntarily hand over "discoverable" items. So, the plaintiffs attorneys will have a lot with which to refresh the recollections of the defendants and their agents.

Debrah said...

More DPD trouble.

From the usual suspects.

And for good measure, "race" is thrown into the mix.

Ex-Durham officer seeks judge's relief in case vs. city

By Ray Gronberg : The Herald-Sun

Apr 29, 2009

DURHAM -- A former Durham Police Department officer wants a federal magistrate to impose a settlement on the city that would in theory give him the right to apply for a city job, according to federal court papers.

The former officer, Scott C. Tanner, was fired in September 2006 in connection with his role in a fight outside a Raleigh sports bar. He sued a year later to regain his job and secure back pay.

Court documents show that Tanner's lawyers and the city's have been discussing a deal that would at minimum award him $15,000 and change his personnel record to say he resigned rather than was fired.

The deal has been in the works since December, but progress on formalizing it stopped after the city lawyer's sought to add a clause that specified Tanner wouldn't reapply for a city job "at any time in the future."

Tanner's lawyer, Heydt Philbeck, objected to that. The two sides remain stymied and Philbeck now wants U.S. Magistrate Judge Trevor Sharp to impose the original bare-bones deal on the city. He argues the city's lawyers had previously agreed to those terms.

For their part, city lawyers say a settlement both sides haven't agreed to in full is no settlement at all. Clerks have forwarded their arguments and Philbeck's to Sharp, who's been weighing them since early April.

Durham has been using outside counsel because its city attorney, Patrick Baker, is the former city manager who sanctioned Tanner's firing.

"Our position on the case has been very clear from the get-go and I anticipate holding to that position," Baker said Tuesday when asked about the case. "At some point I'll brief the [City] Council and we'll go from there."

Tanner and another former officer, Gary P. Lee, were fired after a cook at Blinco's Sports Restaurant and Bar, 6711 Glenwood Ave., accused them of assaulting him.

Both officers were ultimately acquitted of criminal charges in connection with the 2006 incident. But former Police Chief Steve Chalmers booted them off the force following an internal investigation.

Two fellow officers who'd been with them outside Blinco's testified in court that Tanner kicked or tried to kick the cook, Rene Dennis Thomas, in the head following a verbal altercation. Lee started to take the first swing at Thomas but fell down.

Thomas, who is black, alleged that Tanner, who is white, directed a racial epithet against him. There was no corroboration for that in court and Chalmers in 2006 said the department's internal investigation hadn't substantiated the use of a slur.

Tanner has denied using any slur. In his lawsuit he and his lawyers said Thomas essentially initiated the confrontation by running after a truck Tanner and a former Durham police officer were leaving in.

The lawsuit claimed Tanner's training dictated that he get out of the truck and face the cook because someone acting in such "an unreasonably aggressive manner" was likely on drugs or armed.

One Spook said...

To the Anons at 9:34 PM and 12:37 AM:

Recall that the 4:14 poster said, "the Lax Hoax victims will **NOT** settle under any conditions."

Again, unless that commentator speaks for all of the plaintiffs and attorneys (and I doubt that anyone does), that very broad and unconditional comment cannot be taken seriously.

Each of you made comments that envision settlements that fall short of that original "blanket" statement that "the Lax Hoax victims will **NOT** settle under any conditions."

Accordingly, I believe your comments can be taken seriously, and both were insightful.

To be completely honest, I hope that none of them settle, or if some do or do not, I hope they make the defendants bleed in a BIG way.

As to my getting a life, can I get Hugh Hefner's? Apart from having his life, I'm quite happy with mine, but thanks!

One Spook

miramar said...

I would have to agree with 2008 Goal's comment that Dan Blue did at least provide a personal and apparently sincere reply to my comments opposing the renewal of Richard Brodhead's contract.

I received no acknowledgment when I sent President Brodhead an email politely requesting reinstatement of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. Since by coincidence they were reinstated the next day, a one-line acknowledgment to an alumnus and parent would have been appropriate.

I got the impression that Blue realized only too well (and perhaps too late) the shortcomings of the president and the BOT that he represented. While having the BOT review Brodhead was in a sense the fox guarding the hen house, I expect that if the BOT had removed Brodhead half way through his tenure, they would have brought even more negative attention to the university. So they were faced with two negative options, and it seems they decided on the easier of the two, although it was one that I disagreed with.

Curiously, although the BOT recognized the opposition to Brodhead's renewal--which was an extraordinary step in itself--the rationale for renewing the contract was his "compelling vision" for Duke's future. Since budget woes have now destroyed the basis for that vision, I would be interested to know if the BOT still considers their decision to be the appropriate one.

Debrah said...

Well, Blue was chosen.