Saturday, May 30, 2009

May Events in the Case

As part of her A-Rod book tour, Selena Roberts offered misleading and outright false statements about her writings on the case. On Monday, I’ll be providing a comprehensive summary of the Roberts National Mendacity Tour.

[I should note that I previously suggested "some slanders are too outrageous even for Selena Roberts," and that Roberts had dropped her ludicrous claim that her rush-to-judgment columns were justified because the players placed "pornographic" photos of false accuser Crystal Mangum on the internet. It turns out that she has, remarkably, continued to make this allegation.]

Most in the MSM gave Roberts a pass—though she was forcefully challenged by Murray Chass and Jason Whitlock.

A Durham judge is planning a book, with one chapter on how the media ignored the many wonderful aspects of Mike Nifong’s record.

Nifong’s successor, Tracey Cline, continued her ethically challenged ways.

Why the Love decision is bad law.

Durham mayor Bill Bell forwarded a letter to President Richard Brodhead in which a local committee—which included two Duke professors—continued to cast aspersions on the lacrosse players' character, and suggested that Duke and Durham were the victims of the case. Both professors declined comment on their rationale for forwarding such an argument.

The Bell letter also put on the record—for what appears to be the first time—that the Duke and Durham police departments “shared” jurisdiction over 610 N. Buchanan. In the comment thread, commenter krddurham tracked down town/gown police policies from around the country, the specifics of which showed the unusual nature of the Duke/Durham PD arrangement (of the links provided, only an obscure college from California had a similar set-up as Duke and Durham).

Sean Parrish, a graduate student in the Duke History Department, provided a glimpse into the kind of “scholars” that the Group of 88-heavy department is now training.

Houston Baker fumed that other black intellectuals do not listen to him enough.

The Group apologist is still at work.

Data emerged about the statistical qualifications of Duke undergraduates, as grouped by race and ethnicity.

And two troubling national items, with indirect links to the case: (1) the Justice Department inexplicably dropped voter-intimidation charges against the New Black Panthers (including at least one, Malik Shabazz, who came to Durham); (2) My UPI colleague, Stuart Taylor, unearthed university writings from Sonia Sotomayor that sound as if they could have come from the Group of 88.

A reminder that you can access all the monthly summaries, which I started compiling in summer 2008, here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Diversity" and Duke Admissions

These are quite striking totals, courtesy of TaxProf Blog. The level of detail in this data is unusual.

Duke Admissions and Academic Performance: Race and Ethnicity






Admissions office evaluations
















--Personal qualities










--Test scores





SAT average





Family income

--Less than $50,000










--$100,000 and higher





Academic performance

--Students' expected GPA





--Students' actual GPA





Recall that under federal law, public universities or private universities (such as Duke) that receive federal funds cannot use racial quotas in admissions policies.

A reminder on the importance of civility in the comments section; and, for those who have questions about the blog's comments policy, please refer to the sidebar.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Next Generation

This blog has often noted how—in the race/class/gender groupthink atmosphere that dominates many humanities and some social sciences departments—it is likely that the academy will become more extreme in the foreseeable future. Since department members control new hires, those likely to challenge the status quo can be screened out at the stage of the job description or, if the candidate somehow makes it past the screening committee, at the campus interview.

Citing the research of Cass Sunstein, Mark Bauerlein has termed this phenomenon the law of group polarization, which predicts "that when like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs. In a product-liability trial, for example, if nine jurors believe the manufacturer is somewhat guilty and three believe it is entirely guilty, the latter will draw the former toward a larger award than the nine would allow on their own. If people who object in varying degrees to the war in Iraq convene to debate methods of protest, all will emerge from the discussion more resolved against the war. Group Polarization happens so smoothly on campuses that those involved lose all sense of the range of legitimate opinion."

I’ve written elsewhere about how these patterns have affected my own field, history. Subfields perceived as dominated by “dead white males”—military history, diplomatic history, political history, and constitutional history—have largely been eliminated or “revisioned” beyond recognition, to become aligned with the preferred race/class/gender approach.

Such redefinition has occurred in one direction only. Scholars in social history, or ethnic studies, or African-American history, or gender history—who dominate most history departments in the United States—have shown little interest in “revisioning” their fields to include more attention to relevant military, diplomatic, political, or constitutional topics. It would be all but inconceivable for a department’s sole specialist in, say, U.S. women’s history to specialize in a topic like the regulatory theories of female members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Such a research area would occupy the fringe of a field that —as my former colleague, the gender historian B.S. Anderson, once candidly explained—considers historians who explore the activities of “figures in power” to be “old-fashioned.”

The net result of these personnel patterns is to produce departments filled with historians of race, class, and/or gender—or historians who are described as focusing on fields such as military, diplomatic, political, or constitutional history but whose research specialties nonetheless revolve around elements in the race/class/gender trinity. And, of course, at large research universities, these scholars train the next generation of professors.


Duke’s History Department is marinated in the Group of 88’s race/class/gender-based philosophy. Ten of its members signed the Group’s statement, and an eleventh—Reeve Huston—attacked Duke students in his class in ways that clearly violated the provisions of the Faculty Handbook. So, perhaps, it should come as little surprise to see what passes for scholarly discourse among some of the graduate students that the Duke department trains.

One of those students, Sean Parrish, recently offered a glimpse into how he viewed the state of the field. The occasion was a posting by Douglas Campbell, who teaches at Cal. St.-Chico, on the blog of the National Association of Scholars. Among other items, Campbell discussed a class in which he spoke about military culture.

The Campbell post prompted a rambling response from Parrish, who identified himself as “an actual graduate student, studying at a university other Americans have actually heard of,” and addressed Chapman as “Mr. Doug Army Guy.”

Parrish begins by providing an unusual conception of the “point of academia”:

As I see it, the point of academia is to take note of the simplified caricatures society produces - whether by the media, a variety of counter-cultural knownothings, or crusty intellectual posers like yourself - and try to complicate them by pealing [sic] away their layers of obfuscation.

Those who thought that “the point of academia” was to pursue the truth and to expand knowledge apparently need to think again. Quite beyond the absurdity of allowing others—”the media, a variety of counter-cultural knownothings, or crusty intellectual posers”—to define the questions that dominate “the point of academia,” does anyone really believe that the contemporary academy has much interest in peeling (or “pealing,” in Parrish’s preferred lingo) away the “obfuscation” posed by counter-culture types? Or, for that matter, the “obfuscation” posed by politically correct broadcasts on NPR or PBS?

Parrish’s conception of the academy, in short, essentially seems designed to give license to professors to spend their time “complicating” what they perceive as “right-wing” ideas in American society.

Parrish further asserts that at Duke,

many[?!] of the grad students here are former military officers. One of our incoming students next year is an Air Force officer himself. There are many specialists here who study military history and military culture. Their aim is to understand the military as a sophisticated social institution, like the university, that presents problems continuous with themes social scientists have long considered important, such as the rise of the modern state, demography, economic trends, the history of the family, and wider social hierarchies. Their interests are not in advertising the military as an isolated bastion of unique values and heroic ideals mere “civilians” could never appreciate, nor are they concerned with waiving peace signs.

This is a wordy articulation of the “revisioning” thesis—military history as “the history of the family” and “demography.” These might be appropriate questions for a military historian to explore—but they also fall at the field’s margins, as opposed to more mainstream military history topics (the history of battles and tactics; strategic theories and the bureaucratic and intellectual struggles that help produce them; technological change and its effect on warfare; the relationship between war and diplomacy) that, unsurprisingly, seem to hold little, if any, position in Parrish's “revisioning” of military history.

This, again, would be a little like celebrating the fact that the department’s gender historians were looking at such themes as women in elective office, female judges, and Madeline Albright’s tenure as secretary of state—topics that might fit within the definition of women’s history, but that most would consider on the margins of the field. Somehow, if Duke’s women’s history graduate students were focused exclusively on women in politics and women in diplomacy, I doubt we would see Sean Parrish celebrating the situation as an illustration of the department's strength.

Parrish then loses control of his emotions, and describes the critique of the universities in the following way:

Let’s quit the bullshit and get at the real concerns motivating rightwing insecurities about the state of universities. It is not difficult to see this as just an updated version of an ancient fear among daddy-worshipping morons concerning the presence of effeminate ‘faggots’, ‘commies’, and women in positions of higher learning, and oh God forbid, positions of actual influence upon our youth! This has nothing to do with “rational debate”, it is merely an expression of paternalistic insecurities that always come to the surface and assume new forms as the traditional coordinates of public authority in society are renegotiated and debated . . . Perhaps the real concern underlying conservative diatribes such as yours is that many universities may be working too well in demanding students to ask questions, reflect upon their unexamined assumptions, and consider the troubling possibility that experience and understanding are not always one and the same thing.

Most defenders of the academic status quo would try to avoid the arrogance and condescension reflected in Parrish’s screed—at least in comments that they thought might be read outside of the academic cocoon. But there’s little doubt that the mindset reflected in these comments—and the fury at outside criticism of the academy that informs it—represents the majority viewpoint in most humanities and some social sciences departments nationwide.

Parrish then decides to argue against straw men.

“Brainwashing” [students], therefore, requires a level of effort and planning that few if any scholars would ever be willing to put into their work. The benefits are just not that interesting for personalities attracted to lonely recesses, personal independence, and the creative challenge of producing new knowledge even if it will only be appreciated by a small number of readers . . . Moreover, and this perhaps irritates me the most, is your incredibly arrogant disregard for the capacity of students to weigh the value of their instructor’s opinions against their own, and to maintain a healthy dose of critical distance in the classroom. There is much that goes on in the minds of students that you are not aware of, and it is your hubris that encourages you to believe that any student who expresses values different from your own must be a victim of some other pedagogical sorcery, rather than a critical and judicious thinker in his/her own right.

A handful of far-right figures—David Horowitz, Bill O’Reilly—have made the “brainwashing” allegation, a line of criticism that strikes me as absurd (one reason I have opposed, publicly and repeatedly, legislative enactments of Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights).

But Parrish’s description of how students approach their educational experience is nothing more than a convenient rationalization for those committed to safeguarding the status quo on today's campuses. The main problem in contemporary higher education is not academic groupthink “brainwashing” students. The problem is how the effects of groupthink lead to enormous areas of inquiry simply vanishing from the curriculum.

There is no reason to believe that the average student (who, after all, makes no claim to pedagogical expertise) has any idea what he or she has lost. Indeed, in the last 10-15 years, we have seen a conscious attempt to restrict the range of questions asked, issues explored, and knowledge derived— an unprecedented development in the history of the American academy.

Parrish concludes with a touch of class:

My point, Mr. Doug Army Guy, is that there are other more meaningful targets to attack if you insist upon exposing society’s many ills. You might want to consider, however, that the most logical reason for the proliferation of liberal attitudes on university campuses lies in the fact that books of a higher quality than those you cited are hardly in short supply there. I think we found your real culprit General Doug, get the bonfires blazing if you really want to do something about it. I look forward to hearing the responses of your pissant cronies as they derail my lack of professional decorum, obvious indoctrination, or failure “to understand your thesis”. Your supposed thesis was not all that interesting, the passions that motivated it and what it aims to conceal, however, are quite interesting indeed.

This paragraph speaks for itself.

NAS president Peter Wood (no relationship to the infamous Duke professor of the same name) noted that Parrish’s screed teaches us at least four things “about the graduate student mind liberated from ‘paternalistic’ reason”:

(1) Snobbery. Mr. Parrish gets started with the modest declaration that, “As an actual graduate student, studying at a university other Americans have actually heard of…” Mr. Parrish is at Duke; Professor Campbell teaches at California State University at Chico. Once we dismiss reason, snobbery is as good an argument as anything else. ‘I attend a better known institution, therefore heed me.’

(2) Ad Hominem invective. This starts with Parrish’s salutation, “Dear Mr. Doug Army Guy,” and gets progressively worse throughout the letter. Who does Mr. Parrish think he is? He thinks he is someone entitled to treat with contempt people he disagrees with.

(3) Uncivil language and abusive assertions. One of the rules of reasoned discussion is that we avoid gratuitous characterizations. Mr. Parrish knows virtually nothing about Professor Campbell, but freed from the restrictions of reason, he invents his own elaborate psycho-sexual fantasy and projects it on to Professor Campbell as “an ancient fear among daddy-worshipping morons concerning the presence of effeminate ‘faggots’, ‘commies’, and women in positions of higher learning.” If we ask, ”How does Mr. Parrish come by this privileged knowledge?” we can find the answer in his first paragraph. These are, he tells us, “insights.”

(4) Just plain nastiness. Reason demands that we try to persuade people. Absent reason, the passions take over, and in this case, irritability seems to be in charge.

It’s worth noting, as regular DIW readers already know, that these four characteristics also have regularly appeared in the Group of 88’s response to their critics.

I twice e-mailed Parrish to ask if he stood behind his comments. He did not reply.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roberts: The Art of Deception

[Update II, 10.08pm: An important post from Craig Henry, asking an unanswerable question: apart from the occasional exception--Jason Whitlock--why have the MSM been so lax in calling Roberts to task on what her demonstrable errors of fact in her lacrosse columns says about her credibility? Or even--and I know it's a lot to ask--actually asking her some specific questions on the central thesis of her March 2006 column--that her portrayal of the team's "culture" explained why team members hadn't cooperated with police, even though the captains had cooperated with police and the players' attorneys volunteered to share all their info with local authorities. As Henry says, it seems like upholding the MSM "guild" is more important than revealing the truth.]

[Update, 12.32pm: A further thought on Roberts' motives. The question in evaluating the Roberts statements on her lacrosse columns is whether she is (1) an incredibly sloppy journalist, someone who tosses out wild charges without any evidence to back them up; or (2) willfully deceptive. (Neither explanation does much to help the credibility of the anonymously sourced items in Roberts' A-Rod book.)

Along these lines, it's worth noting that in her most recent appearances, Roberts dropped one of her most preposterous claims: that the "cultural" critique of her March 2006 column was justified because the players had posted "pornographic" photos of Crystal Mangum on the "internet." The photos, of course, weren't public when Roberts initially wrote on the case; and became public only when defense attorneys gave them to the media to established a documented timeline that proved Mangum was lying.

Rather than acknowledge that she made an absurd claim to rationalize her writings, Roberts appears to have just dropped the argument. I guess some slanders are too outrageous even for Selena Roberts.]

Selena Roberts continued yesterday her National Mendacity Tour, this time speaking to WEEI, where she again lied about what she wrote in her infamous March 31, 2006 column on the lacrosse case.

Roberts began by again claiming that she wrote merely about the “culture” and not the “crime”; later in the interview, she all but taunted her hosts to look at her guilt-presuming March 2006 column.

There are only two explanations for this regular refrain from the Mendacity Tour: (1) Roberts does not remember what she wrote in her March 31, 2006 column, and, for reason for reasons unknown (carpal tunnel syndrome?), has been unable in the past several weeks to take the 45 seconds necessary to re-read the column; (2) Roberts is lying about what she wrote.

Roberts has also reinvented the past in another way, positioning herself as an outspoken crusader against Mike Nifong—whose conduct she’s addressed, she said, “a thousand times.” Indeed, she told the WEEI hosts, Nifong was “absolutely” motivated by political concerns.

Yet any listener who went to the web to locate these “thousand times” when Roberts denounced Nifong would need to look long and hard. Indeed, Roberts addressed Nifong twice in print. In her March 31, 2006 column, she presented the authorities (and, at least implicitly, Nifong) as heroic crusaders for justice. In her March 2007 column, written long after the case had collapsed, she compared Nifong to Columbo, the beloved TV detective who bumbled his way to the truth. That’s hardly a comparison that would suggest to most readers that Roberts believed Nifong had actually done anything wrong (unless, of course, Roberts harbors a secret dislike for Peter Falk).

Then, in perhaps the most extraordinary element of the interview, the host asked Roberts about whether she at least felt regret for including Reade Seligmann in her campaign of character assassination. She admitted that she “didn’t write about” the fact that Seligmann was shown on an ATM video at the time of the alleged “crime,” but had no problem with what she did write about the members of the team—including Seligmann. She claimed that quotes from her columns had been taken “out of context,” but refused to say how.

And, in an extraordinary example of chutzpah, this former Times columnist—the same woman who published a column with factual mistakes (that she has refused to correct) and innuendo that presented a false portrayal of events the evening of the party—is, according to Deadspin, mad at the Times for not running a correction that pleased her regarding an article that disputed her pitch-tipping conclusions about A-Rod. Just incredible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three Updates

[A fourth update, Wed., 12.17pm: Selena Roberts continues her National Mendacity Tour with a stop at Deadspin. She suggests, with her typical disregard for any evidence, that Jason Whitlock's criticism of her is caused by "homophobia."

Roberts states that she is a lesbian in the interview, although I can recall no mention by her of her sexual orientation in her Times column. It's not clear how she would characterize my opposition, then: perhaps I'm head of the Homophobes for Gay Marriage Coalition? Or is she suggesting that lesbian sportswriters should have a special license to rush to judgment, write error-prone columns, and then refuse to issue corrections or apologies?

And here's Roberts playing the victim card:

I also ask Roberts about the voluminous criticism she continues to get from Duke lacrosse supporters. She argues it's her job as a columnist to take hard stances, and she accepts any criticism she gets in return. She also says she wasn't the only one to criticize the Duke program right from the outset (she's right), but that people have made her the face of the enemy.

Well, not exactly. First of all, as one Deadspin commenter notes, "'She argues it's her job as a columnist to take hard stances, and she accepts any criticism she gets in return.' I must have missed her retraction and subsequent apology somewhere." I must have, as well. As someone who has followed this case very closely, not only has Roberts refused to correct the factual errors in her March 31, 2006 column, she has subsequently lied (a word I do not use lightly) about its contents.

Second, I suspect that if Duff Wilson, or Andrew Cohen, or Sal Ruibal, or Samiha Khanna wrote a book relying almost exclusively on anonymous sources commenters would call into question their credibility based on their error-prone reporting on the lacrosse case.

Third, I agree with Roberts that it's a columnist's job to "take hard stances." But it's also a columnist's job to be factually accurate.]


1.) For those who missed it, the Duke men's lacrosse team will be heading back to this year's Final Four, after defeating UNC in the quarterfinals. This year's team is the last one in which several key members were at Duke at the time the case began; the list of stars includes Brad Ross, whose ability to show that he never was even in Durham the night of the party played such a key role in demonstrating Crystal Mangum's lying ways.


2.) In the category of truth is stranger than fiction (at least in Durham, North Carolina): Durham District Court judge Craig Brown--an ethically challenged figure even in the land of the ethically challenged--is penning a book.

Brown is including a chapter on none other than disgraded ex-DA Mike Nifong. His thesis: “The media it seems to me missed the good points. He had quite a lengthy career in Durham County prior to being appointed district attorney.” Sure, suggests a sitting judge, Nifong might have violated myriad ethics rules, and withheld evidence, and lied to a judge, and tried to send three demonstrably innocent people to jail for thirty years to advance his political career. But the media deserves fault for focusing on this behavior and at the expense of the many “good points” from Nifong's time handling the mean streets of Durham Traffic Court.

Brown further told WGME that people had overlooked Nifong's achievements. I think not: those who followed the case have looked long and hard at Nifong's achievements in securing indictments without any evidence, and employing such effective demagoguery that he used an evidence-free case to capture primary and general election victories.


3.) Nifong was, perhaps the only person alive who got the case more wrong than Group of 88 stalwart Houston Baker. The then-Duke professor penned a public, racist screed days into the case; asserted that Crystal Mangum had been harmed for life; wildly suggested, in writing, that previous lacrosse players had committed previous rapes; and called Patricia Dowd the mother of a "farm animal." Baker is an embarrassment to my profession, a race-baiter who serves as the modern-day equivalent to the white Ole Miss professors who defended segregation in the 1960s.

The Vanderbilt "distinguished professor" was in the news yesterday, lecturing "black intellectuals" for not listening to . . . him. Their refusal to reduce everything to race and racism (which, of course, has a particular appeal to the intellectually lazy, since it provides a custom-made response to every issue) constitutes a "betrayal" of the "race."

The June 2007 settlement was in the best interest of both the falsely accused players and of Duke. But there would have been an element of justice in seeing, had the lawsuit gone forward, Houston Baker being deposed by some of the best lawyers in the country, going line by line through his myriad vile statements about the students whose tuition dollars helped pay his salary.

Monday, May 18, 2009

From the Wires

Two . . . intriguing . . . items crossed my desk Friday.

The first came from Durham mayor Bill Bell. WTVD ran a lengthy story noting that Durham officials, including Bell, have complained again about Duke students’ off-campus partying—and some of the student behavior in Tamara Gibbs’ story is disgusting (although, I suspect, not exactly unheard of in any college or university town in the country, not just Durham).

To accompany the story, WTVD posted a letter sent by Bell to Richard Brodhead, dated March 25, 2009. Bell attached to the letter a four-page “report” produced by an entity called “Trinity Heights Action Committee.” (The four-person committee included two Duke faculty members: Music professor Philip Rupprecht; and Cathy Shuman, a “visiting assistant professor” in the English Department.)

Bell’s inclusion of the document would seem to constitute an official endorsement of its contents. Three sentences from the entity’s report particularly jumped out.

The first:

The 2006 Lacrosse incident thrust the disruptive and abusive behaviors caused by Duke party houses into a national media spotlight.

This sentence provides what could charitably be described as an unusual take on the legacy of the lacrosse case. Perhaps the Trinity Heights entity has access to information not in the public domain. But there would seem to be at best an indirect relationship between “the 2006 Lacrosse incident” and “the disruptive and abusive behaviors caused by Duke party houses.” At least as defined in the Gibbs story, “the disruptive and abusive behaviors caused by Duke party houses” included such behavior as loudness that triggers noise complaints or littering or destroying property on neighbors’ yards. Yet no neighbors appear to have complained about the 2006 spring break party, nor did any of the neighbors allege that any of the players hurled trash or other items onto their yards, or broke any of their property.

In that respect, it seems as if the sentence provides yet another reminder of the attitude of the “Durham street” toward the lacrosse players.

The second sentence:

Although this [2006 Lacrosse] incident had enormous negative consequences—legal and financial—for both Duke and Durham, it is by no means clear that Duke has yet enacted any major changes of policy for off-campus student life in response.

This sentence, to put it bluntly, makes no sense. It connects two events ([1] the “enormous negative consequences—legal and financial—for both Duke and Durham” and [2] Duke policies toward “off-campus student life”) that have no direct relationship.

The “negative” legal and financial consequences to Durham resulted from legal fees to defend lawsuits alleging federal civil rights violations against Duke students. The “negative” legal and financial consequences to Duke resulted from various legal fees, and from settlement costs to avoid a lawsuit from the falsely accused players that would have focused on dubious decisions and actions by Duke's administrators and faculty.

I can see how these “negative” legal and financial consequences might have prompted Durham to undertake a comprehensive study of the DPD’s abuses of procedures (which the city hasn’t done, to no apparent concern of the Trinity Heights Action Committee). And I can see how these “negative” legal and financial consequences might have prompted Duke to undertake a comprehensive study of whether the university’s faculty hiring policies have produced a culture of groupthink and disregard for student rights under the handbook and the faculty bulletin (which the University hasn’t done, to no apparent concern of the Trinity Heights Action Committee).

But I don’t see how these “negative” legal and financial consequences have anything to do, one way or the other, with Duke enacting “major changes of policy for off-campus student life.”

I emailed Prof. Rupprecht and Visiting Assistant Professor Shuman for guidance as to how the committee reached this unusual linkage. Neither responded.

The third sentence:

Duke Campus Police shares joint jurisdiction over off-campus neighborhoods with Durham PD.

This sentence marked the clearest yet official Durham statement that the Duke Police Department also had jurisdiction over events at 610 N. Buchanan. (This item was most spectacularly revealed in the initial Ekstrand lawsuit filing.) This official Durham statement—in a letter to Brodhead, no less!—raises at least three serious questions.

One: Are there actions that still haven’t been revealed undertaken by the Duke Police Department as part of its “joint jurisdiction over off-campus neighborhoods” in the lacrosse case?

Two: Who at Duke made the decision to defer to the Durham Police Department in an incident over which—according to this Bell letter—“Duke Campus Police share[d] joint jurisdiction”?

Three: Given that “Duke Campus Police shares joint jurisdiction over off-campus neighborhoods with Durham PD,” why did Richard Brodhead assert, on April 5, 2006, Frustrating though it is, Duke must defer its own investigation until the police inquiry is completed, first because the police have access to key witnesses, warrants, and information that we lack, and second because our concurrent questioning could create a risk of complications—for instance, charges of witness tampering—that could negatively affect the legal proceedings?” Brodhead's statement would appear to be irreconcilable with the assertions in the March 2009 Bell letter.


The second item came from the New York Times, which published a fawning review of its former star sports columnist’s book. Nicholas Dawidoff, author of several books on baseball, reviewed Selena Roberts’ A-Rod with less skepticism than might be expected in a high school newspaper.

Since virtually all sensational allegations from Roberts’ book came from primary sources, analyzing her book all but requires discussing her credibility. But in the previous high-profile item covered by Roberts, her writing indicated that she had no journalistic credibility at all. She combined outright errors of fact with wild exaggerations or distortions—and then, when called to account for her words, she simply lied about what she wrote.

But even though Roberts’ embarrassing coverage of the lacrosse case has received extensive attention, Dawidoff’s review doesn’t even mention it. Someone whose sole encounter with Roberts came from Dawidoff’s review would never have known that Roberts’ work on the lacrosse case was so poor that it helped produce an apology from Times editors. Dawidoff, instead, hails Roberts as an “enterprising investigator” in his review.

Having elected to ignore questions about Roberts’ credibility, Dawidoff proceeds to accept all of her book’s claims without apparent skepticism. In 1,223 words, Dawidoff never once expresses any doubts about even one item in Roberts’ book.

Two of Roberts’ (anonymously sourced) claims about A-Rod have generated the most doubts: (1) her assertion that A-Rod probably used steroids in high school; and (2) her revelation that Rangers officials allegedly noticed A-Rod tipping pitches when he played in Texas. The first has generated strong doubts from several people who were on Rodriguez’ high school teams; the second has produced widespread skepticism centered on the paucity of Roberts’ evidence.

Dawidoff’s analysis of these allegations? As with doubts about Roberts’ credibility because of her lacrosse case errors, Dawidoff has no interest in exploring the matter. Instead, he writes of Roberts’ portrayal: “Makes sense to me.”

Penetrating insights, indeed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Love Is Bad Law

“The Duke bulletin is not a valid contract.”

Of Duke’s hundreds of pages of filings in the lacrosse case civil suit, that sentence is perhaps the most striking. Duke’s official publications and website tell students that they will not be harassed on the basis of race, class, or gender; and that professors will treat all Duke students with respect, as fellow members of the academic community. But, as Duke’s attorneys have made clear, the University believes it has no legal obligation to actually enforce these admirable provisions. (I have found nothing in Duke’s admissions material communicating this message to prospective Duke parents.)

Duke, of course, has implemented both the student bulletin and the faculty handbook on many occasions. (Just ask the hundreds, if not thousands, of students who have gotten caught up in University disciplinary proceedings.) The lacrosse case, however, provides a perfect illustration of when University administrators will refuse to enforce both documents: if race/class/gender activists among the faculty decide to target select groups of undergraduates to advance their pedagogical or ideological agendas, Duke considers itself under no obligation to uphold its own policies to protect its own students.


Duke’s attorneys based their assertion on a 1991 case, Love v. Duke University, which involved a Hispanic graduate student named John Love. In 1984, Duke kicked him out of its biochemistry graduate program after Love failed to complete all five of his spring semester classes. In 1986, the program readmitted him—and he promptly flunked out again. Incredibly, Love then sued, claiming discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

Love added a breach of contract claim, noting that between the 1983 and 1986 versions of its student bulletin, Duke had shortened the length of time before which biochem students needed to take their preliminary exams. Love claimed that he should have been granted the longer period available in the 1983 bulletin. At least in the description of the case, there seemed to be no reason to believe that the extra time would have made any difference for Love. Indeed, Duke gave Love nine months beyond the deadline to pass his preliminary exams, and he failed to do so.

Love’s allegations were pathetically weak. Judge Richard C. Erwin noted that he had presented no evidence—beyond the fact of his ethnicity—to prove his claim of discrimination. Most of Erwin’s decision discussed Love’s discrimination claim, but, almost as an aside, the district judge also addressed the breach of contract issue. Erwin noted that Love’s argument made little sense: because the student had been kicked out, Duke had the right to condition Love’s readmittance on his following the 1986 bulletin. In any case, Erwin noted that even wording in Love’s brief seemed to concede that the student was subject to the 1986 bulletin’s terms.

Having dispensed with Love’s argument, Erwin could have concluded his opinion. Instead, he asserted,

The court is of the opinion that no contract existed between Love and Duke University. Particularly, the academic bulletin is not a binding contract . . . As previously stated, this court finds that a binding contract did not exist between plaintiff Love and defendant Duke University. This finding is based on Love’s claim that the University Bulletin created a binding contract between Love and the university . . . Since the court finds that the University Bulletin was not a binding contract between Love and defendant Duke, the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the state law contract claim is granted.

Judge Erwin did not cite a single case to explain why he decided that “the academic bulletin is not a binding contract.” He offered no description of how he reached this decision, and didn’t present a single argument on behalf of his opinion. Erwin simply made the assertion as if no credible alternative existed.


Anyone whose sole exposure to higher education law came from Love would be stunned to discover passages such as those below:

From a 1972 case, Zumbrun v. University of Southern California:

The basic legal relation between a student and a private university or college is contractual in nature. The catalogues, bulletins, circulars, and regulations of the institution made available to the matriculant become a part of the contract. (Carr v. St. John's Unversity, New York (1962) 17 App.Div.2d 632, 633 [231 N.Y.S.2d 410, 413], affd. 12 N.Y.2d 802 [235 N.Y.S.2d 834]; Anthony v. Syracuse University (1928) 224 App.Div. 487, 489-490 [231 N.Y.S. 435, 438-439]; Goldstein v. New York University (1902) 76 App.Div. 80, 82-83 [78 N.Y.S. 739, 740]; People ex rel. Cecil v. Bellevue Hospital Medical College (1891) 60 Hun 107 [14 N.Y.S. 490], affd. 128 N.Y. 621 [28 N.E. 253]; John B. Stetson University v. Hunt (1925) 88 Fla. 510, 517 [102 So. 637, 640]; University of Miami v. Militana (Fla.App. 1966) 184 So.2d 701, 703-704; Barker v. Trustees of Bryn Mawr College (1923) 278 Pa. 121, 122 [122 A. 220, 221]; Greene v. Howard University (D.C. Dist. Col. 1967) 271 F.Supp. 609, 613; see Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education (5th Cir. 1961) 294 F.2d 150, 157, cert. den. 368 U.S. 930 [7 L.Ed.2d 193, 82 S.Ct. 368]; Searle v. Regents of the University of California (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 448, 452 [100 Cal.Rptr. 194].)

From a 1992 case, Ross v. Creighton University:

It is held generally in the United States that the “basic legal relation between a student and a private university or college is contractual in nature. The catalogues, bulletins, circulars, and regulations of the institution made available to the matriculant become a part of the contract.” Zumbrun v. University of Southern California, 25 Cal.App.3d 1, 101 Cal.Rptr. 499, 504 (1972) (collecting cases from numerous states). Indeed, there seems to be “no dissent” from this proposition. Wickstrom v. North Idaho College, 111 Idaho 450, 452, 725 P.2d 155, 157 (1986) (quoting Peretti v. Montana, 464 F.Supp. 784, 786 (D.Mont.1979), rev'd on other grounds, 661 F.2d 756 (9th Cir.1981)). As the district court correctly noted, Illinois recognizes that the relationship between a student and an educational institution is, in some of its aspects, contractual. See Steinberg v. Chicago Medical School, 69 Ill.2d 320, 13 Ill.Dec. 699, 371 N.E.2d 634 (1977) (agreement that medical school application would be evaluated according to the criteria described by the medical school in its literature); DeMarco v. University of Health Sciences, 40 Ill.App.3d 474, 352 N.E.2d 356 (1976) (refusal to award M.D. degree for reasons unrelated to academic qualifications constitutes breach of contract).

From a 1998 case, Thornton v. Harvard University:

Courts have held that the basic legal relationship between students and universities is contractual in nature. Mangla v. Brown Univ., 135 F.3d 80, 83, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 1598, (1st Cir. 1998); Russell v. Salve Regina College, 938 F.2d 315, 316 (1st Cir. 1991). “The terms of the contract may include statements provided in student manuals and registration materials.” Mangla, 135 F.3d at 83; Lyons v. Salve Regina College, 565 F.2d 200, 202 (1st Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 435 U.S. 971, 56 L. Ed. 2d 62, 98 S. Ct. 1611 (1978). “The proper standard for interpreting the contractual terms is that of 'reasonable expectation -- what meaning the party making the manifestation, the university, should reasonably expect the other party to give it.'“ Mangla, 135 F.3d at 83 (quoting Giles v. Howard Univ., 428 F. Supp. 603, 605 (D.D.C. 1977).

From a 2007 case, Kashari v. California Board of Regents:

The basic legal relationship between a student and a private university is contractual in nature. Courts have recognized that a contractual relationship applies equally to state universities. Indeed, there seems to be almost no dissent from the proposition that the relationship between a public postsecondary educational institution and a student is contractual in nature.

These cases, of course, all come from different states or circuits than Love. Nonetheless, their findings—coupled with the extensive citations—beg the question of why Judge Erwin did not think that “courts have held that the basic legal relationship between students and universities is contractual in nature.”

Courts that have wrestled with the problem in a way that Erwin did not have come to a more nuanced—and intellectually defensible—position. Take, for instance, the Ross v. Creighton University case quoted above. The Ross court noted that the courts “would not recognize all aspects of a university-student relationship as subject to remedy through a contract action,” since “a decision of the school authorities relating to the academic qualification of the students will not be reviewed.... [C]ourts are not qualified to pass an opinion as to the attainments of a student ... and ... courts will not review a decision of the school authorities relating to academic qualifications of the students.”

[As an aside, this standard makes Duke’s decision to settle the Kim Curtis grade retaliation case with a public announcement of a grade change so stunning: for the reason presented above, universities almost never lose grade retaliation cases.]

But, the Ross court held, this inclination to avoid involvement in the minutiae of academic matters doesn’t mean that the courts must stand idly by when universities fail to enforce their own promises to students. The plaintiff, wrote Ripple, “must point to an identifiable contractual promise that the defendant failed to honor . . . the essence of the plaintiff's complaint would not be that the institution failed to perform adequately a promised educational service, but rather that it failed to perform that service at all. Ruling on this issue would not require an inquiry into the nuances of educational processes and theories, but rather an objective assessment of whether the institution made a good faith effort to perform on its promise.”

Kashmiri employed a similar analysis. The courts, it held, could not second-guess academic decisions: “The student-university relationship is unique, and it should not be and can not be stuffed into one doctrinal category. Universities are entitled to some leeway in modifying their programs from time to time to exercise their educational responsibility properly. Additionally, courts have often deferred to any challenge based in contract to universities' academic and disciplinary decisions.”

What about the relevance of the bulletin? Kashmiri held, “Whether a given section of the bulletin or catalogue becomes part of the contractual obligations between the students and the university must depend upon general principles of contract construction. Thus, the case law recognizes that, like all obligations imposed pursuant to implied contractual terms, the contractual obligations imposed by the language in catalogues center around what is reasonable. Implied contractual terms ordinarily stand on equal footing with express terms.

And so, for instance, if Duke brought disciplinary actions against hundreds of students based on the terms of the student bulletin; or if Duke regularly evaluated its professors according to the terms laid down in the faculty handbook, it would be reasonable for students to consider the bulletin and the handbook to be implied contracts.

One other section of Kashmiri spoke directly to an item in the Duke filings. The ruling held, “The University had complete control over what language to use in its catalogues and on its Web sites. It is well established that “[i]n cases of uncertainty not removed by [other] rules, the language of a contract should be interpreted most strongly against the party who caused the uncertainty to exist.”

Duke’s motion to dismiss admits that University policies might require Duke professors to treat all students with respect as fellow members of the academic community; and not to harass them on basis of race, class, or gender—but, it claims, the University should not held be legally liable for its failure to enforce its own policies against those professors, because the institution’s “policies must be balanced against principles of academic freedom.”

There’s only one problem with this argument: to quote Kashmiri, “The University had complete control over what language to use in its catalogues and on its Web sites,” and nowhere in its catalog or website did Duke mention that an “academic freedom exception” exists to its policies regarding faculty treatment of students. The University can’t really invent such an exception after the fact, to cover up for a group of faculty who decided that they could best advance their own pedagogical and academic interests by targeting their institution’s own students.


Love’s handling of the status of a bulletin was, in short, an intellectually lazy decision that set aside traditional thinking on the nature of contracts in higher education law without bothering to offer a single case or even a single reason to substantiate the opinion.

But even if Love’s opinion on the status of a bulletin was correct, changes in the nature of the academy would highlight the dangerous standard that Judge Erwin applied. In the academy of the 1980s, faculty peer pressure—if nothing else—would have mitigated against or prevented altogether the sort of behavior we saw in the Duke case. Even if a few bad apples—say, someone like Houston Baker—might have misbehaved, enough intellectual diversity existed among the faculty for professors to have stood up and demanded that the administration enforce Duke policies.

In this sort of environment, a “breach of contract” charge would have been far more likely to have focused on exactly the kind of picayune detail at the heart of the Love case (was an exam required within 36 months or 24 months?) than on an issue of fundamental academic importance (can faculty go after their own students if they think that doing so will advance their pedagogical interests?).

The 23 years since Duke expelled John Love, however, has featured an academic revolution. A glance through the homepage of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) testifies to the war on student rights—ranging from speech codes to the Univ. of Delaware’s Orwellian “diversity” residential affairs program. The composition of the faculty, meanwhile, has changed radically: the triumph of the race/class/gender paradigm in the humanities and (most) social science departments has combined with an obsessive emphasis on “diversity” (except of the intellectual and pedagogical type) to produce a faculty wildly skewed in one direction on key pedagogical and intellectual issues.

As the Duke case spectacularly demonstrated, no one can count on peer pressure to ensure that “activist” faculty members behave according to minimal professional standards. In such an atmosphere, saying that the faculty handbook and student bulletin don’t constitute legally binding documents amounts to saying that the two guides aren’t worth the scraps of paper on which they’re written.

In short, in the contemporary academy, the written requirements of the bulletin or the faculty handbook can provide the only defense against faculty groupthink. Love, in this respect, is not only bad law: it’s disastrous for higher education.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chass: Roberts "Queen of Innuendo"

Selena Roberts' former Times colleague, Murray Chass, has read the A-Rod book, which he describes as a " journalistic abomination," with Roberts fulfilling the role of "Queen of Innuendo." In devastating detail, Chass dissects Roberts' thin arguments and takes her to task for her lack of understanding about baseball history.

Writing at Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman similarly suggests that Roberts seems inclined to make significant errors in writing about basic baseball issues and events.

By the way, one more point from Chass: he notes that Roberts' ubiquitous use of anonymous sources wouldn't pass the Times standards on using such sources. So it appears, despite Roberts' attempt to excuse her Duke columns, that the standards for a New York Times column are actually higher than those used in her book.

Hat tip: J.D.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Roberts National Mendacity Tour Continues

In a recent appearance on the Jim Rome radio show, former New York Times columnist Selena Roberts continued her campaign of distortions and outright lies about her writings on the lacrosse case. In some ways, her remarks—part of a desperate bid to retain her credibility, so readers and the media will trust the anonymously sourced conclusions in her A-Rod book—are worse than her initial columns at the lacrosse case. Those, in theory, could be blamed on a temporary lapse in journalistic standards and an unfortunate rush to judgment. Her current remarks, however, can only be attributed to a conscious attempt to deceive.

Lie: The “Culture,” Not the “Crime”

Here, Roberts asserts that her writings were neutral on the crime, and focused solely on the team's alleged culture.

This statement is, quite simply, a deliberate falsehood. Roberts’ initial column on the case (March 31, 2006) inextricably linked the “crime” to the “culture.” The article’s thesis: that the team’s “anti-snitch” culture explained why “none [of the players] have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.”

That claim, of course, was another falsehood, one that Roberts has refused to correct, despite being given repeated opportunities to do so. (The three captains voluntarily gave lengthy statements, without counsel, and their DNA, and offered to take lie detector tests.)

Moreover, Roberts' writings on the case in 2006 did not criticize Nifong at all, while her 2007 column portrayed the disgraced ex-DA as a bumbling "Columbo," someone who apparently made innocent errors in investigating a terrible crime, thereby allowing the guilty to go free.

Distortion: “Pornographic” Pictures

Apparently sensing that her initial defenses had not gone well, Roberts introduced this new allegation in the Rome interview.

The assertion is nothing short of bizarre. Anyone listening to Roberts would believe that the lacrosse players—as part of their apparently depraved culture—established a website to post titillating photos of Crystal Mangum. The photos, of course, were released by defense lawyers to the mainstream media only after Mike Nifong had refused to look at them; and the photos were released to establish a definitive timeline showing that Mangum’s allegations could not be true.

That the media then broadcast the photos, rather than simply describing them or showing the time-stamps, is an indictment of the media’s culture, not the players’.

One other, obvious, point: these “pornographic” pictures hadn’t been released anywhere when Selena Roberts wrote her 2006 column asserting that the players had engaged in conduct “that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.” So whatever prompted that stunning, craven claim, it wasn’t “pornographic” photos that now so concern Ms. Roberts.

Inventing Evidence: Racial “Slurs”

It is “indisputable” that one player responded with a racial slur to Kim Roberts’ racial taunt, outside the house, at a time when most of the team had already departed. (Since, according to most accounts, Mangum was passed out by this stage, she heard neither the Roberts taunt nor the racial slur.) It would, it seems to me, to be perfectly fair to at most say that one player on the team was racist. But how does Roberts get from one player’s likely racism to an indictment of the entire team’s “culture”? By inventing “indisputable” evidence of multiple players using racial slurs, directed at both women.

Ignoring Evidence: Attack on the Team’s “Culture”

But—as Roberts surely knows, at this stage of the game—a comprehensive investigation of the team’s “culture” occurred. There’s plenty of “doubt” about her portrayal of the team’s culture. Indeed, the report of the Coleman Committee all but completely refuted Roberts’ cultural critique.

Is Roberts disputing the Coleman Committee’s findings? That would seem to be the only way she could support her assertion that “there’s no doubt” about the portrayal of the team’s culture—a “Lord of the Flies” regime, in her words—she offered in her columns.

Excuse: They Were Just Columns!

Responding to on-target criticism from Jason Whitlock—if she made factual errors she refuses to admit in her Times columns, why should we trust her anonymously sourced assertions on A-Rod—Roberts offered this remarkable excuse:

I’m sure this casual dismissal of the standards in her columns delighted her former bosses at the Times.

Perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . the Tmes will be miffed enough at Roberts to run a correction for her myriad factual errors?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Selena Roberts & Journalistic Credibility

[Update III, Wednesday 1.32pm: Jason Whitlock, who was right from the start about the lacrosse case, has penned another powerful column critiquing Roberts' "credibility issues." As he observes,

Place your trust in the writer. And Roberts' reaction to the exoneration of the Duke lacrosse players calls into question her credibility. By refusing to acknowledge her mistakes in the Duke case, she creates the impression that her agenda trumps the truth.

She looks like a feminist version of Al Sharpton.

Read the entire column here.

[Update II, Tuesday, 10.56am: In today's Newsday, Neil Best discusses Roberts' defense of her writings on the lacrosse case:

Many readers have not forgotten or forgiven her strident columns for The New York Times on the Duke lacrosse scandal in 2006.

Roberts acknowledged that disgraced and disbarred district attorney Mike Nifong did a "horrible" job on the criminal case, but she said that did not alter her take on the culture behind the incident.

"That [criminal] issue is a horrible thing that should not have happened," she said. "But people want to conflate the crime and the culture. They want to say a crime did not happen, so therefore the culture that existed around that party did not happen."

Roberts' views on Nifong appear to have evolved from his having "mishandled" the case to his having done a "horrible" job on the case. She still has not been quoted anywhere as saying that there, in fact, was no case, and that Crystal Mangum's allegations were a complete hoax.

More problematic, however, is Roberts' continuing whitewashing of what she actually wrote at the time the case broke: "People want to conflate the crime and the culture. They want to say a crime did not happen, so therefore the culture that existed around that party did not happen."

As noted below, one of the first prominent figures to "conflate the crime and the culture" was Selena Roberts. Her initial column on the case (March 31, 2006, analyzed below) was riddled with factual errors, all of which made it appear as if a crime likely occurred; and, more important, was organized around a thesis that the "culture" of the team was inextricably linked to the "crime": namely, that the "culture" of the team explained why no one was willing to "snitch" on the alleged attackers.

Only as the case collapsed did Roberts evolve into the thesis that "a story doesn't have to rise to the level of a crime to rise to the level of a column." That statement, of course, is clearly true. But even a column has to be factually accurate; and even a columnist can't rewrite what she has already published. That Roberts still refuses to acknowledge her factual errors in the initial column, and continues to mislead the public about the specific thesis of her initial work on the case speaks volumes about her credibility.

After all, to quote Roberts herself, publishing is "like being in court—once you say something, you can’t just strike it.”

[Update I, Monday, 1.25pm: To their credit, in an interview this morning, WFAN's Boomer and Carton did ask Roberts about her troubling writings on the case. Roberts refused to apologize to the families of the three falsely accused players; she refused to say one way or another whether she believed a crime occurred; and she continued to suggest that something "reprehensible" occurred at the party--namely, that photographs were taken of Crystal Mangum; and that one lacrosse player responded with a racial slur after Kim Roberts initiated an exchange with a racial taunt. By the same token, she described Mike Nifong merely as having "mishandled" the case. How Roberts reached the conclusion that "reprehensible" can describe the tasteless behavior of a handful of college students and while the far softer "mishandled" can describe the behavior of a DA who lied to the court and withheld evidence she did not elucidate.

A question I would like to see asked of Roberts. "Since your book on A-Rod relies so heavily on anonymous sources, to test its credibility we must test your credibility. Given that, in writing, you falsely (a) claimed that authorities were accusing the Duke lacrosse players of a "hate crime"; (b) stated that Crystal Mangum was "treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape"; and (c) charged of the players that "none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account," why should anyone believe anything you write about A-Rod? After all, if you saw fit to print false items in one high-profile case--false items that you have refused to correct--what's to say you might be willing to print false items in another high-profile case?"]


[Original Post:] Today, Selena Roberts’ exposé of Alex Rodriguez hits the bookstores. We already know that Rodriguez is a bald-faced liar with what could charitably be described as a host of other character flaws.

But what about Roberts? In a recent interview with the MLB Network’s Bob Costas, Roberts affirmed that her obligation as a journalist was to “find the truth.” And, according to Harry Stein, she told ESPN Radio that she “buttoned up every single hole to make sure to be absolutely right . . . It’s like being in court—once you say something, you can’t just strike it.”

It’s not clear when Roberts adopted this definition of journalism: her writing on the Duke case demonstrated an aversion to, rather than a quest for, the truth. Nor has she in any way acknowledged the myriad errors in her Duke coverage. Indeed, she has done the opposite, most spectacularly in a 2008 interview with The Big Lead, in which she blatantly misrepresented her guilt-presuming 2006 columns on the case.

Press reports suggest that the most explosive allegations in Roberts’ book are based on anonymous sources. So, in effect, her portrayal of Rodriguez rests on her credibility as a reporter. Since Roberts herself has stated that being a reporter is “like being in court—once you say something, you can’t just strike it,” it’s worth reviewing exactly what Roberts said, and what evidence she had for saying it, about the lacrosse case.


March 31, 2006: “When Peer Pressure, Not a Conscience, Is Your Guide

Something happened March 13, when a woman, hired to dance at a private party, alleged that three lacrosse players sexually assaulted her in a bathroom for 30 minutes.

Of course, nothing “happened” except for a false claim of rape, a possibility Roberts never appears to have entertained.

According to reported court documents, she was raped, robbed, strangled and was the victim of a hate crime.

Roberts was in a world of her own in describing a search warrant as a “reported court document.” (The Times was forced to run a correction several days later.) No item in the case file—“reported court document” or otherwise—ever contended that Crystal Mangum was the “victim of a hate crime.” The Times never ran a correction, and Roberts has never acknowledged her error.

[Mangum] was also reportedly treated at a hospital for vaginal and anal injuries consistent with sexual assault and rape.

Roberts’ description of the medical reports was false. The Times never ran a correction, and Roberts has never acknowledged her error.

Players have been forced to give up their DNA, but to the dismay of investigators, none have come forward to reveal an eyewitness account.

This statement was outright false (the three captains gave detailed “eyewitness accounts,” including DNA samples, which they gave voluntarily). The Times never ran a correction, and Roberts has never acknowledged her error.

For days, Durham residents and Duke students have rallied on behalf of sexual-assault victims, banging pots and pans, hoping to stir more action out of Duke’s president, Richard H. Brodhead. The indignation has been heartening . . .

That Roberts, like the Group of 88, considered it “heartening” to see protesters blanket the campus with “wanted” posters or carry enormous “castrate” signs speaks volumes as to her values. Roberts has never retracted or amended her praise for the potbangers.

The season is over, but the paradox lives on in Duke’s lacrosse team, a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings.

Attending a tasteless spring break party is enough to “belie [college students’] social standing as human beings”? Apart from Roberts’ apparent ideological comrades at schools like BYU and Liberty, it seems she has a very low opinion of thousands of college students.

But why is it so hard to gather the facts? Why is any whisper of a detail akin to snitching? . . . Does President Brodhead dare to confront the culture behind the lacrosse team’s code of silence or would he fear being ridiculed as a snitch?

About the only place in which a tasteless spring break party could be compared to gang activity is on the mean streets of the lily-white, upper-class Connecticut suburb in which Roberts (who preaches “diversity” for everyone else) chose to live.

Article total: beyond the dubious analogies and the rush-to-judgment assertion that “something happened,” four errors of fact, only one of which either Roberts or the Times ever acknowledged. Each factual error either made the lacrosse players look guilty or reinforced Roberts' assault on the players' character.


April 12, 2006: “Accountability Fails to Rise to the Top at Some Colleges

Duke’s lacrosse members established a ‘‘Lord of the Flies’’ ethos in Durham, N.C.

Along, apparently, with every other college student that ever attended a tasteless spring break party.

Now [Duke officials] act, fretting over the atmosphere of degradation, over the symptoms of misogyny.

When the Coleman Committee’s extensive report about the lacrosse players’ character found no “symptoms of misogyny,” Roberts was silent. When the women’s lacrosse team strongly rebutted the assault on their fellow students’ character, Roberts was silent. And when her then-Times colleague Harvey Araton displayed his own “symptom of misogyny” by dismissing as “gals” these 18- to 22-year-old Duke student-athletes, Roberts was, again, silent.


March 25, 2007: “Closing a Case Will Not Mean Closure at Duke

The North Carolina attorney general’s office—which took over the Duke lacrosse case in the winter from Michael B. Nifong, one part district attorney, one part clueless Columbo—denied any decision [to drop the case] was imminent.

Roberts never saw fit to mention that the Bar charged Nifong with engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation” and conspiring to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence.” Instead, she described him as “one part district attorney, one part clueless Columbo.” Columbo, played by Peter Falk, “put on a good show of being dim-witted so that the criminals and even his colleagues would be more at ease around him”; he was the “deceptively bumbling” lieutenant who used his appearance as the fool to solve the crime. Was Roberts intending to remind readers that, each week on TV, Columbo deliberately used his “clueless” nature to solve the crime?

Unnamed critics, Roberts added, wanted her to “lay off the lacrosse pipeline to Wall Street, excuse the khaki-pants crowd of SAT wonder kids.”

Roberts frequently had suggested that boosters exercise too much power in college athletics, that they exploit athletes to massage their own egos or to advance agendas that contradict the goal of higher education. But for the lacrosse team, a different standard seemed to apply. Its 100 percent graduation rate, heavy representation on the conference academic honor roll, and many good jobs upon graduation could be construed by Roberts as a bad thing.

To many, the alleged crime and culture are intertwined . . . but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive.

That might have been so, but Roberts was not among that group. In her initial article on the case—the one in which she asserted that “something happened” to Mangum, and “reported court documents” contained evidence of a “hate crime,” Roberts had linked the “alleged crime” and the “culture.” Rather than reconsider her biases, once the “alleged crime” collapsed, she simply “revised” her argument.

Apparently, no player could hold his own beer because public urination was an issue.

That sentence comports more with bawdy locker-room discussions than with the Times’ journalistic standards. But the editors, for reasons they never revealed, cleared Roberts’ insulting (and, for that matter, obviously inaccurate) assertion.


March 17, 2008: Interview with The Big Lead

Basically, I wrote that a crime didn’t have to occur for us to inspect the irrefutable evidence of misogyny and race baiting that went on that night . . . Obviously, some segments of the Duke lacrosse crowd did not enjoy the scrutiny of their world.

Of course, Roberts’ initial article had gone well beyond that: it had unequivocally asserted that “something happened” to Mangum, and “reported court documents” indicated a “hate crime.” Why did she misrepresent her work to The Big Lead readers?

Casting herself as the real victim in the affair, Roberts bizarrely contended that criticism of her work came from “Duke-player supporters who felt threatened when someone, whether it was me or another columnist, started poking at the culture of affluence and entitlement.”

In fact, the criticism of Roberts’ work extended even to the leadership of her former paper.

  • Times executive editor Bill Keller: “I did think, and I told the columnists, that there was a tendency in a couple of places to moralize before the evidence was all in, and not to give adequate weight to the presumption of innocence... As a generalization, I’m not dismissive of the people who think that what appeared in the sports columns kind of contributed to a sense that the Times declared these guys guilty.”
  • Times sports editor Tom Jolly: “I very much regret my failure to recognize that we were dealing with a rogue prosecutor and that the university had compounded his bravado by overreacting to the initial reports about the case . . . The bottom line is that I’d do some things differently, and that knowledge gained by hindsight has informed our approach to other stories since then.”


It may be that everything Roberts has written about Alex Rodriguez is accurate. But in coming woefully short of the standards of her profession and then refusing to come clean about her record, Selena Roberts sounds a lot like her portrayal of a certain high-profile third baseman.