Tuesday, June 30, 2009

(Yet Another) Comment re Comments Policy

I continue to be amazed at how, despite my having written more than 1300 posts totaling more than 1.3 million words on the case, a few readers attempt to discern my attitudes not by examining any of those 1.3 million words but instead by ruminating over comments I have or have not cleared--despite the unequivocal wording of the blog's stated comments policy: "My clearing a comment implies neither that I agree nor that I disagree with the comment. My opinion is expressed in my words and my words only."

We saw an example of this pattern a few weeks ago when the blogger who posts under the pseudonym "John in Carolina" slimed me by claiming that I had "banned" a commenter. (To my knowledge, he never retracted the false allegation.) And another example came in this morning, when a reader forwarded me a comment thread from the N&O featuring two pseudonymous commenters (two figures who had spent much of the criminal case functioning as Nifong apologists while always expressing faux outrage as to how anyone could ever claim they were suggesting a rape occurred) speculating as to my motives for clearing a comment.

I write this blog with a presumption that readers have college-level comprehension skills. It saddens me, therefore, that the two pseudonymous commenters from the N&O blog apparently lack such skills, and were unable to understand the comments policy. For them, let me try to summarize the comments policy at an elementary-school comprehension level:
  • Posts = KC's Thoughts
  • Comments by KC = KC's Thoughts
  • Comments by Anyone Else ≠ KC's Thoughts
For others, I will, from here on out, include a reference to the comments policy at the end of each and every post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Iqbal Briefs: The Unindicted Players

Friday’s Wall Street Journal profiled the recent Supreme Court decision Ashcroft v. Iqbal, which is now at the heart of the lacrosse case. At the request of Duke’s attorneys, Judge Beaty allowed all parties to the case to file briefs regarding Iqbal; offerings from Duke, various Durham entities, and DNA Security have arrived. Attorneys for the lacrosse players will now have 20 days to respond.

Even though the 5-4 decision dealt with national security affairs, two of its findings had much broader relevance. First, the Court held that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller could not be held liable—in a “supervisory” capacity—for the allegedly discriminatory activities of their subordinates. Second, the Court made it easier for judges to dismiss civil suits before the discovery process begins, since, according to Justice Kennedy, “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” As Justice Souter implied in his dissent, Kennedy’s wording overruled the standard by which judges in civil cases were required to treat all allegations as true in evaluating motions to dismiss.

The Journal quoted SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein predicting that the case—which he described as “an unexpected gift for the business community”—would be “cited more than any other [from the current term] by a factor of 100.”

By making it harder for plaintiffs to survive a motion to dismiss, Iqbal was a victory for any business (like Duke) or any municipality (like Durham) subjected to a civil suit. It is more than ironic that a decision supported by the four reliable conservatives on the Court could benefit a Duke administration that cowered before politically correct campus ideologues and a Durham Police Department whose conduct veered into race-based demagoguery. Somehow, I doubt that in any other circumstance would Richard Brodhead or the Group of 88 celebrate the work of Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, or John Roberts.

Before beginning, three general points:

(1) Because of its findings regarding supervisory employees, Iqbal would most seem to benefit the upper-level figures in the DPD, about whose conduct we still know relatively little, and former SANE nurse-in-training Tara Levicy’s supervisors at Duke Hospital. In a perverse fashion, Iqbal appears to encourage a “see-no-evil/hear-no-evil” approach to supervising rogue employees.

(2) The Ekstrand lawsuit made many more inferential claims—especially regarding a “consortium” of Duke and Durham employees—than did either the lawsuit filed by the three falsely accused players or the offering of the other unindicted players. While the conclusions in the Ekstrand lawsuit may well be true, its aggressiveness makes it more vulnerable to the Iqbal standard, a point that is hammered home in briefs filed by Durham and Duke. One unanswered question is whether Judge Beaty will allow the attacks on the Ekstrand lawsuit to affect his consideration of the more limited claims offered by the falsely accused players and the other unindicted players.

(3) Iqbal hurts civil suit plaintiffs because documents and testimony necessary to sustain “factual allegations” often are not available until the discovery process is completed. In the lacrosse case, on the other hand, a lot of facts have become public—whether through Mike Nifong’s ethics trial; or his criminal contempt trial; or through the work of 60 Minutes, ABC’s Law & Justice Unit, and local media such as the N&O; or through the efforts of case blogs; or even through selected publications. In that respect, the lacrosse plaintiffs are much better equipped than the average plaintiffs to overcome the hurdles that Iqbal has imposed, since they have myriad facts upon which to base their allegations.


Today’s post will analyze the defendants’ responses to the suits filed by the unindicted players; Thursday’s post will look at the responses in the suit filed by the three falsely accused players.

1.) “We Didn’t Know What Was Going On”

In light of Iqbal’s findings regarding supervisory liability, Durham attorney Patricia Kerner proclaims, almost gleefully, “There are no factual, individual allegations describing conduct that would allow a court to infer that any individual’s actions constitute ‘deliberate indifference’ or why any individual would have had knowledge of a subordinate officer’s conduct.”

In other words: in the highest-profile criminal case in the history of the Durham Police Department—one that attracted blanket local and national attention—Durham’s current position is that it’s not plausible to believe that the chain of command in the Durham Police Department “would have had knowledge of a subordinate officer’s conduct.”

Durham, perhaps, should amend its city slogan to “Come to Durham: Our Police Leadership Is Clueless!”

The DNA Security brief offers a similar line of argument. It concedes that company president Richard Clark attended the meeting at which Nifong and former lab director Dr. Brian Meehan agreed to produce an incomplete report that would exclude the exculpatory DNA evidence that would ultimately bring down the case. But, Clark suggests, he’s not legally liable. Why not? “In the absence of any specific allegation of wrongdoing (or, indeed, even of knowledge) on Clark’s part, Plaintiffs appear to premise their claims against him on his title alone.”

Is DNA Security really suggesting that it’s not plausible that Clark had “knowledge” of what occurred at the Nifong-Meehan meetings, meetings at which he was present? Is the company’s line of defense actually going to be that its president ordinarily attends meetings but has no idea what occurs in them?

Imagine the new advertising motto: “DNA Security: Our President Is Clueless!”

In their brief, Duke attorneys Jamie Gorelick and Donald Cowan also cite Iqbal to excuse the liability of senior Duke administrators.

In so doing, however, they choose not to deal with a critical difference between the Iqbal facts and those of the lacrosse case: Chairman Robert Steel’s April 11, 2007 e-mail. The Board chairman informed the world that “throughout the past year President Richard Brodhead consulted regularly with the trustees and has had our continuing support. He made considered and thoughtful decisions in a volatile and uncertain situation. Each step of the way, the board agreed with the principles that he established and the actions he took. As we look back and with the benefit of what we now know there is no question that there are some things that might have been done differently. However, anyone critical of President Brodhead should be similarly critical of the entire board.” [emphases added]

Neither Ashcroft nor Mueller, of course, ever issued such a statement regarding the facts in the Iqbal case. For Duke, alas, the “we-didn’t-know-what’s-going-on” defense is undercut by Steel’s e-mail—which he surely now wishes he never had sent.

2.) Defending Unusual(!) Procedures

Gorelick and Cowan also have the thankless task of defending the conduct of former SANE nurse-in-training Tara Levicy. As in the past, they do so in a way that makes a mockery of the “factual allegations” established by the Attorney General’s report.

Here’s how Gorelick and Cowan describe Levicy’s role in the case: “The fact that Ms. Levicy met with police officers and prosecutors does not plausibly demonstrate a conspiracy, as Iqbal requires. Rather, it shows only the unremarkable fact [emphasis added] that the police investigating a possible crime gathered information from a health care provider who examined the alleged victim.”

There are only two possible justifications for the Gorelick/Cowan description of Levicy’s performance as “unremarkable”:

(1) The “information from a health care provider who examined the alleged victim” was accurate. But, of course, we know that Levicy’s information both wasn’t accurate and constantly shifted in manners that went along with Nifong’s ever-shifting rationalizations of the case.

(2) It was “unremarkable” for a Duke employee to give such false information—in her capacity as “a health care provider”—to “police investigating a possible crime.”

Could Duke really be claiming that either (1) or (2) are plausible explanations for former SANE nurse-in-training Levicy’s conduct?

Gorelick and Cowan have the same problem regarding the performance of the Duke Police Department. “Plaintiffs’ assertions about meetings and communications between the Duke and Durham police,” they note, “show only that the two forces were occasionally, and entirely properly, [emphasis added] exchanging information about the case.”

Yet among the “information” exchanged was the key-card records of Duke students—“information” that is protected under FERPA. Could Duke be plausibly claiming that the unauthorized release of FERPA-protected information—information that a Durham judge, citing FERPA, later denied to Mike Nifong—constituted the “entirely proper[] exchang[e of] information”?

Durham attorney Kerner likewise meanders into the unusual. “Plaintiffs allege no facts,” she writes, “showing that [former City Manager Patrick] Baker, or anyone else, suggested at the [March 29, 2006] meeting that someone should be arrested for the rape, unless the investigation led to a proper identification [emphasis added] and probable cause for the arrest.”

But, of course, no “proper identification” ever occurred in this case: Nifong and the DPD plowed ahead with a lineup that flagrantly violated their own procedures. So what, exactly, is Kerner’s rationalization for the DPD having proceeded with the investigation?

And here’s how the attorney for DNA Security describes the meetings between Mike Nifong and former DNA Security lab director Brian Meehan: “A prosecutor’s consultation and coordination with his retained expert is not suggestive of conspiracy but simply describes the ordinary and expected interaction [emphasis added] between key participants in a criminal investigation.”

The meetings between Nifong and Meehan resulted in the incomplete report that violated both North Carolina’s NTO law and the constitutional requirements of Brady. Is DNA Security really describing this tête-à-tête as an “ordinary and expected interaction”?

Kerner, meanwhile, describes the public statements of David Addison in the following manner: “The only plausible conclusion [emphasis added] is that Addison was attempting to urge witnesses to come forward, in connection with discharging his duties for Durham Crimestoppers.”

Is it really Durham’s official position that performing his official duties is the only plausible explanation for a police officer uttering false, inflammatory statements? Perhaps that explains why Addison was subsequently promoted? Could it be that the DPD actually expects its officers to utter false, inflammatory statements, at least when the targets are those without strong support in the Durham “community”?

3.) Extraordinary Assertions

The Kerner brief contains two items so outrageous that they stand out even in the pantheon of bizarre assertions by Durham authorities throughout the case.

Kerner concedes that one week before the captains’ party, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb was transferred away from a position in which he would have regular contact with Duke students. And she doesn’t deny that the transfer was related to Gottlieb’s troubling record regarding Duke students.

Yet, she adds, this undenied fact of the transfer “has no plausible relation to Plaintiffs’ claims.”

Why not? Kerner never says.

Of course.

Similarly, Kerner contends that Addison’s false and inflammatory statements didn’t cause any harm to the lacrosse players.

Why not? “Although Plaintiffs have no doubt catalogued every article, blog, photograph, or comment about the investigation, they do not allege that they were ever individually mentioned at any time by Addison.”

So: Addison should be shielded from the legal effects of his misconduct because he referred to the group as a group, never mentioning that perhaps his comments didn’t apply to all of the group?

4.) New Item

Finally, the briefs contained one new, and potentially explosive, item.

In attempting to defend DPD Capt. Jeff Lamb, Kerner concedes (in perhaps the strongest manner yet from any representative of the City of Durham) that on March 24, 2006, Lamb did, in fact, inform Sgt. Mark Gottlieb that Nifong would be directing the police investigation. We still don’t know why Lamb made that decision—and Kerner doesn’t say. But her brief suggests that prevention from future civil liability might have accounted for Lamb’s very strange action. As Kerner explains, "The [Ekstrand] Complaint contains no factual allegations even implying that Lamb knew, or would have any reason to know, that his agreement to have Nifong direct the investigation could create a risk of constitutional injury . . . Nifong was the District Attorney appointed to serve by the Governor, and police officers are immune from liability for taking direction from a prosecutor [emphasis added].

In other words: in violation of DPD rules, Lamb transferred the case to Nifong’s jurisdiction, and because he and his underlings were thereafter “taking direction” from the rogue “prosecutor,” they should be deemed immune from liability. I suspect this is a line of inquiry the Durham attorneys will wish they hadn’t opened for exploration, since it certainly sounds like the DPD knew it was doing something very wrong, and was desperately scrambling for a bureaucratic solution that would absolve it of future civil liability.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

From the CCI Archive: More Documents

A few more documents from the CCI archive.

After Karla Holloway resigned her CCI subcommittee chairmanship via a mass e-mail containing fifth-hand, unsubstantiated gossip about Duke students, the Chronicle asked CCI head Bob Thompson for comment. You’d think that the head of a committee ostensibly devoted to improving “campus culture” would have been outraged by a senior faculty member behaving in such an intemperate fashion. Instead, Thompson produced this email:

In the CCI’s world, some faculty members were more equal than others. Women’s Center head Robin Weigman received a one-on-one meeting with Thompson to impart her wisdom, a few days after she outrageously accused colleague Steve Baldwin of using the “language of lynching.” You’d think that the head of a committee ostensibly devoted to improving “campus culture” would have been outraged by a senior faculty member behaving in such an intemperate fashion. Instead, Thompson produced this jargon-laden meeting summary:

As the CCI neared its conclusion, the hotheaded Kerry Haynie wrote in to express his concerns that the CCI final report might not be extreme enough: Here is the summary of the meeting in which CCI members were reminded that the CCI operated from the premise that “diversity makes a more excellent university”:

Here is the summary of the meeting in which Anne Allison’s gender subcommittee was reminded that the CCI operated from the premise that “Duke’s gendered culture is, in no small part, derived from a fundamental lack of respect, fueled by a mix of insecurity, dis-empowerment, and alcohol”:

And here is the unintentionally hilarious summary of the CCI’s meeting with Counseling and Psychological Services staff:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pearlman Defends Roberts

One striking element of the reaction to the lacrosse case has been the general willingness of those who rushed to judgment (i.e., the Group of 88, Selena Roberts) to attempt to cover up what they did in spring 2006—rather than simply apologize for their rush to judgment—and the willingness of their apologists (Charlie Piot and Robert Zimmerman are the best examples here) to accept their after-the-fact rationalizations even when those rationalizations directly contradict contemporary documentary evidence.

Add former SI columnist Jeff Pearlman to the latter list, based on this interview with Tyler Hissey:

Tyler: With her book coming out, Selena Roberts continued to take a lot of heat for her Duke Lacrosse columns. Despite evidence proving that Roberts got the issue dead wrong--the story was about the systematic abuse of innocent young men being railroaded by a corrupt prosecutor and a media willing to rush to accuse, not the oppression of minority women--she has not only refused to apologize, she continued to make baseless assertions in defense of her view while promoting her tell-all book about Alex Rodriguez. As many bloggers and Jason Whitlock noted, it was tough to accept any fact from an unnamed source in her book without a grain of salt after his refusal to take accountability for her Duke columns. You wrote a couple of posts defending her career, but, in light of this Fire Joe Morgan-style analysis courtesy of Duke case expert K.C. Johnson, do you feel any differently on the matter?

Jeff: I don't, because I don't think what she wrote was nearly as terrible as people made it out to be. If you read her work at the time, it's more an attack of the culture, not the athletes themselves. And she was right, in that regard. [emphasis added] That said, would I have handled the aftermath differently? Probably. The one thing I've learned the hard way in this business: Acknowledging shortcomings almost always goes well in the long run. Again, I didn't think her stuff was nearly as offensive as many do. But clearly it was taken in a certain way--one I don't think she intended.

As the link to DIW pointed out, even accepting her absurd after-the-fact rationalization that she was writing about the “culture,” not the “crime,” Roberts was factually wrong in what she had to say about the team’s alleged “culture” in her March 31, 2006 column. In that column, it’s worth remembering, Roberts mentioned not the players' alleged racism or sexism but instead claimed that the team’s anti-snitch “culture” explained why none of the players had cooperated with police—even though the captains had fully cooperated with the police and the players’ attorneys were begging rogue DA Mike Nifong to examine their exculpatory evidence.

I can see where Pearlman would want to defend a friend. But describing Roberts’ column in a blatantly misleading fashion is far beyond the requirements of friendship.

Monday, June 22, 2009

From the CCI Archive: Documents

It seemed worthwhile to post some of the actual documents from the CCI archive; the first batch will come today, a second batch will appear Thursday.

First, some items from Group of 88’er Anne Allison’s Gender and Sexuality Subcommittee. This summary document from the Allison Subcommittee contains many of the key elements of the Group of 88 approach—from anonymous, random quotes from alleged Duke students to blind acceptance of desired assertions from ideologically preferred groups.

The summary was topped off with the preposterous claim that between 20 and 25 percent of Duke female students are victims of “sexual assault”—which means that the Allison subcommittee maintained that Duke had a rate of sexual assault around 2.5 times higher than the rate of sexual assault, murder, armed robbery, and assault combined in Detroit, the U.S. city with the highest murder rate. (FBI figures show that not 20%-25% but instead around .03% of students are victims of rape while in college; Duke’s 2000-2006 figures, which use a much broader reporting standard than the FBI database, indicate that .2% of Duke students, not 20%-25%, “report that they have experienced a rape or attempted rape.” The Allison Subcommittee never explained why it ignored this data.)

The CCI “surveyed” Duke’s student body to provide insight into cultural attitudes on campus. But the survey was skewed demographically (notice the ratio of women-to-men):

and substantively (notice the topics of the questions, and the manner in which the wording of many of the questions assured the desired result):

Duke professor Joseph Dibona made one of the most outrageous suggestions of the entire case—a call for Crystal Mangum to receive a $1.5 million bribe in exchange for withdrawing her false accusations. In this September 2006 email, he urged more aggressive action from the CCI. The spell-check function appears not to have been Prof. Dibona’s forte.

The CCI was obsessed with changing Duke’s admissions standards to get in more “diversity” students who would be receptive to the Group of 88’s ideology. As part of this agenda, they demanded ending legacy admissions, in the name of raising standards.

Yet the CCI’s own data undermined a central argument of the initiative. Legacy students do, indeed, have slightly lower SAT and admissions scores than non-legacy admittees—and so, under a merit-based admissions process, most, if not all, would not make the cut. Yet, according to the data in this CCI document below, legacy admittees score far more impressively on both the SAT and the admissions tally than do African-American students admitted to Duke (as seen in this recently released data). The CCI never explained why Duke should raise standards to exclude legacy admittees while simultaneously doing the opposite to increase the number of minority students admitted.

The Sociology Department letter, signed by ten faculty members and 27 graduate students deserves to be read in its entirety. This letter, to reiterate, was issued three weeks after the DNA tests Mike Nifong had promised would exonerate the innocent revealed no matches.

As does the document produced by the undergraduate “Concerned Citizens at Duke University.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From the CCI Archive: Voices of the Extremists

As his committee began to take shape, CCI head Bob Thompson received a number of e-mails reminding him that the coterie of extremists that swarmed the Duke campus in spring 2006 extended beyond the Group of 88.

In early April 2008, Tsahai Tafari, Ph.D.* (who described herself as an African-American woman) told Thompson that “I have been afraid of the young white men on campus at Duke for a very long time, and the racist assault and . . . the rape basically confirmed my fears.” She complained that in her lab, she was forced to listen to people talking about the “lacrosse case” who—“horrific in their lack of humanity”—suggested that the players might be innocent.

Such speech, apparently, needed to be prohibited at Duke.

In mid-April 2006 (several days after DNA tests that Mike Nifong had promised would clear the innocent had shown no matches to any lacrosse player), Denise Jackson, the mother of a Duke female student, complained to Thompson. Mrs. Jackson reported that, while walking to class, her daughter had seen “a group of students who choose to wear T-shirts with the words ‘We Support the Duke Lacrosse Team.’”

Perhaps the students had a right to their viewpoint, Mrs. Jackson conceded, but the administration nonetheless needed “to consider requesting” Duke students to refrain from wearing such T-shirts. Such free speech, she feared, would “inflame tensions”—especially among “African-American” employees of the university.

Mrs. Jackson appeared unaware of how her insinuation that African-American employees might not be able to contain their rage built off negative racial stereotypes of blacks.

And from off campus, a California lawyer named Christopher Wilson offered an astonishing suggestion: that the CCI should “make sure [Duke students] vote in elections for DA Nifong and his ilk.” I e-mailed Wilson to ask if, in hindsight, he stood by his suggestion.

Wilson did not reply.


The CCI archive also preserved two previously unpublished documents from extremist campus groups. The first, dated March 30, 2006, came from a group calling itself “Concerned Citizens at Duke University,” with whose leaders Brodhead met at the same time he was refusing to meet with parents or any representatives of the lacrosse players. Most of the CCDU members appear to have been African-American, although no list of the organization’s membership survives.

“We are appalled and insulted,” the CCDU missive asserted, “by the university’s denial of the interrelatedness of white privilege, class, racism, and sexism in this issue. We want open and direct recognition of this incident as a hate crime by the University.” (The CCDU actually appeared to be demanding that the University “recognize” that the lacrosse players had committed a “hate crime,” rather than, as they wrote, that unnamed others “recognize” the affair “as a hate crime by the University.”) In either case, for the CCDU, an unsupported allegation by a mentally unstable woman, and denied by the accused, appeared to be enough to establish a “hate crime.”

In a fantastic interpretation of the Brodhead administration’s motives, CCDU members claimed that “the university is cultivating and sustaining a culture of privilege and silence that allows inappropriate behavior to plague the campus.” Even stranger, the missive faulted Brodhead and his advisors for operating under the premise that “the oppressed are always asked to justify their oppression, to put their hurt, trauma, and pain that those who are not oppressed can understand, although those feelings have no rational basis.” How the administration was supposed to predict or respond to “irrational” feelings the CCDU members never said.

What were the University’s specific faults, according to the CCDU?

(1) “President Brodhead has failed to acknowledge of show sympathy for the family of the victim [sic] involved in the case.” (These Duke undergraduate students appeared not to understand that a mentally unstable woman claiming she was raped did not, in and of itself, make her a “victim.”)

(2) “There exists a culture on campus in which male athletes are able to exercise privilege through sexual misconduct.” (The only evidence cited for this preposterous assertion was Samiha Khanna’s “interview” with false accuser Crystal Mangum.)

(3) The lack of “full-credit courses dedicated to foster dialogue about what constitutes harassment and devoted to what constitutes a comfortable environment in which students can discuss the intricacies of social identifiers (Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Class, Age, Ability, Ethnicity).” (This was an early version of the Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative.)

Incredibly, the CCDU framed these ruminations as consistent with “respect of the legal institutions of due process.”


To place the most favorable possible spin on their actions, the undergraduate students in the CCDU responded emotionally and temporarily lost their intellectual bearings; their letter appeared five days after the Khanna interview with false accuser Mangum. Thirty-two days later, however, no such excuse existed.

On May 1, 2006, members of the Duke Sociology Department produced one of the most troubling documents that appeared at any point in the case. A five-page letter from Group of 88 radical Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, nine other professors in the Sociology Department, and 27 Sociology Ph.D. students was coordinated by Serena Sebring, the Sociology graduate student who joined Wahneema Lubiano on an April 12, 2006 panel lamenting that “since the [negative] DNA results were returned Monday, we [have been] moving backwards.”

The Sociology letter approvingly cited three of the most pernicious documents produced by Duke: Houston Baker’s March 29, 2006 racist screed, which mentioned, in a negative fashion, the race of the lacrosse players ten times; Brodhead’s guilt-presuming April 5, 2006 letter; and the Group of 88’s April 6, 2006 statement. The 37 Sociology Signatories expressed their “deep concern about local manifestations of racism, sexual coercion, and assault,” and demanded “lasting institutional change” that would recognize how “recent events involving the lacrosse team are embedded within a broader culture.” The Sociology Signatories did not acknowledge the wide dispute as to what these “recent events” actually were: they had already made up their minds as to what occurred—and why it did.

Unsurprisingly, the Signatories praised the politically correct Bowen/Chambers report, and maintained that the lacrosse case exposed problems in “issues of gender, masculinity, privilege, wealth, race and ethnicity, and inequality.” The letter called for Duke to adopt a combination of hate-crimes legislation and thought control. The Signatories demanded that the administration rewrite the Judicial Code to recognize “actions that inflict, threaten, or cause injuries that may be corporal, psychological, material, or social, in which victims are presumed representatives of a bias-related classification (i.e., race, gender and sexuality).”

What, exactly, is a “social” injury to a “presumed representative[] of a bias-related classification (i.e., race, gender and sexuality)”? This Orwellian conception of a student judicial system would subject white male students to charges for thinking the wrong way on issues such as “diversity” or affirmative action.

The CCI, declared the Sociology Signatories, needed to create a culture that was “proactively anti-racist, anti-sexist, non-homophobic, non-heteronormative, and anti-classist.” How does this jargon translate into plain English? Duke recognizing that the “myth of the meritocratic ideal . . . allows individuals to justify the continuation of racial and gender equality.” This belief was part of the “oppression” that existed on the Duke campus, and could only be overcome with—as expected—new “admissions and hiring” practices to favor minorities and those who thought appropriately on “diversity” issues.

As had the Group of 88, the Sociology Signatories both presumed guilt and showed indifference to Anglo-American legal norms. “An exclusive focus on whether the administrative response operated within the scope of the law would ignore the important responsibilities the Administration has to students, faculty, and staff, as well as the citizens of Durham. The entire Durham community is directly affected by this situation, in particular, and the culture of Duke more generally. The events that transpired on March 13th [and, again, at the time this letter was written, grave doubts existed as to exactly what “the events that transpired on March 13th” were] call for an immediate response and decisive leadership to ensure that everyone affected can be certain that the administration of Duke will never tolerate any form of racial, sexual, or gender violence from any individual of the Duke community regardless of their race, class, and privilege status.”

This passage, which reads almost as a parody of political correctness, makes no sense unless the Signatories assumed that an incident of “racial, sexual, or gender violence” actually occurred.

The problem was a national one, the sociologists exclaimed, since “at Duke and many campuses, sexual assault is endemic.” The evidence that “sexual assault” is more common at “Duke and many campuses” than anyplace else in society? The Sociology Signatories didn’t say. Why allow facts to interfere with the metanarrative?


The Sociology letter is of interest in one additional respect. Written before the backlash against the Group of 88’s rush to judgment occurred, the Sociology document celebrated the connection between the case and the Group of 88’s ad--in sharp contrast to the later efforts of Group apologists Charlie Piot and Robert Zimmerman to distance the Group of 88 statement from the lacrosse case. The Signatories proudly explained that “the term ‘social disaster’ was used to describe the lacrosse incident [emphasis added] in an ad sponsored by Duke’s African and African-American Studies Department in the April 6, 2006 issue of the Chronicle.”


The documents produced by the CCDU and the Sociology Signatories showed that, indeed, a profound problem of campus culture existed at Duke in spring 2006. But the CCI, of course, had no interest in exploring how and why these faculty members, graduate students, and Duke undergraduates so willingly interpreted campus events through an extremist version of the race/class/gender prism, and so willingly disregarded Anglo-American legal norms.

On Monday, I’ll post some of the documents from the CCI archive.

*--corrected item

Monday, June 15, 2009

The CCI: Closing Months

(This post is the third in a series using documents from the CCI's own archive, which I recently read.)

By the time the CCI took up its work in fall 2006, the case to which President Brodhead had inextricably linked its mission had all but collapsed. Mike Nifong had become a national laughingstock; the Group of 88 was busy revising history; and Duke students were registering to vote in unprecedented numbers to try and effect change through the system.

But for the CCI, it was as if time had stopped on April 6, 2006, the date the Group of 88 issued its statement: Directors Robert Thompson and Larry Moneta and subcommittee chairs Karla Holloway, Anne Allison, and Peter Wood moved along as if nothing had changed.

Throughout the fall, CCI members held both formal and informal meetings with various student groups, operating under what the committee described as data collection objectives. But, in fact, these “objectives” showed how the CCI already had the answers to their questions, before even going through the motions of compiling the data. Data Collection Objective #1, for instance, was to “confirm [emphasis added] the existence of a dominant culture among Duke undergraduates.” And that “dominant culture” seemed to be bad, given the wording of Data Collection Objective #4: “Identify and validate the consequences of the existence of a dominant culture.”

The CCI clung ferociously to the race/class/gender ideology from which it sprang. At its September 4, 2006 meeting, Thompson reminded members of the CCI’s Orwellian basic principle: “Diversity makes a more excellent university.”

This statement, as written, was nonsensical. To take the most extreme example: Duke could eliminate grades and SAT scores as admissions requirements, and instead admit students solely on a quota basis according to the percentage of their race or ethnicity in the population. Such a student body would satisfy a requirement of “diversity,” but does anyone think that this approach would make “a more excellent university”?

What Thompson believed, I presume, is that “appropriate diversity makes a more excellent university.” But even here, comprehensive “diversity” was not desired. Neither Thompson, nor Moneta, nor any of the CCI’s subcommittee chairs displayed any interest in promoting intellectual or pedagogical diversity on campus. Some types of “diversity,” it appeared, did not make “a more excellent university.”

Reminding members to focus on “a few key levers that have the potential to impact campus culture”— admissions, curriculum, faculty personnel policy—the CCI leadership summoned Duke dean of admissions Christoph Guttentag for a 30-minute meeting at its first fall 2006 session. Continuing the summer 2006 crusade against admitting “well-rounded” students begun by the Allison and Holloway subcommittees, the CCI produced a draft report blasting the Admissions Department for admitting students with a “general lack of intellectual vitality and engagement” (i.e., most admitted students were not sufficiently receptive to the worldview of the Group of 88).

CCI members conceded that the existing admissions scoring system “predicts reasonably GPA at graduation.” To those in the reality-based community, such a finding would be a good thing. But not to the CCI majority. The system used to rate applicants needed to be changed “to be predictive for individuals with different high school backgrounds.” And just in case Guttentag didn’t get the message, the CCI spelled it out for him: his office needed to focus on “increasing the yield” of minority students.

“Diversity makes a more excellent university.”

Given that, on average, Duke minority students tend to receive lower scores in standardized tests, it might have been expected that the CCI, as part of its “diversity” crusade, would not have simultaneously demanded increased standards in admissions. But, impervious to the contradiction, CCI members plowed forward, demanding that Duke decrease legacy and athletic admittees in name of improving standards, citing an insufficiency in “the range of academic preparation of admitted students, particularly of athletes and legacies.”

How would that criteria exist side-by-side with a demand that the admissions department increase the number of admitted minority students—students who, according to figures presented to the CCI, were clearly less prepared than, at the least, legacy students? No evidence exists that the CCI even considered the dilemma.

“Diversity makes a more excellent university.”


Throughout the fall, the CCI spent a good deal of time on Duke students’ social lives. The leadership of both the overall initiative and each of the subcommittee chairs expressed support for eliminating housing for all selective learning groups and fraternities. According to CCI minutes, the committee believed that the current system simply “supports our community of divides.” Fraternities would still be allowed, but would only receive common space somewhere on campus to meet. How this proposal would overcome expected massive resistance from both students and alumni the CCI never seems to have explored.

Thompson and Moneta even managed to place a politically correct spin on—of all things—excessive alcohol consumption by students.

In internal deliberations, the CCI pointed to Duke statistics suggesting that white and Asian-American students, more often males, consumed alcohol at a greater level than did African-American students. The committee (correctly) argued that this finding was a legitimate concern for any academic institution, since the CCI also had encountered data unsurprisingly revealing that “time spent partying and drinking had a strongly negative impact on academic performance.”

(This data, perhaps, provides the first convincing explanation of why race/class/gender extremists like William Chafe suddenly started demanding that students be teetotalers as a rationalization for the Group of 88’s race/class/gender agenda.)

There was, however, a small problem in justifying a crackdown on drinking in the name of an ostensible CCI interest in improving the academic performance of Duke students. Even if white and Asian-American students drank more, Duke’s own figures showed that these students nonetheless had higher GPAs than did African-American students. How to explain this data? The CCI discovered that “in comparison to Asian and Caucasian students, African-American students were less likely to spend time studying but more in recreational activities.”

To summarize: CCI data found:

(1) Asian-American and white students drank more than did black students;

(2) Drinking and partying had a negative impact on grades and study time; but

(3) Asian-American and white students nonetheless studied more and received higher grades than African-American students.

Wouldn’t such a finding be considered a problem of “campus culture” for African-American students; or at the least, wouldn’t such a finding indicate that the CCI needed to simultaneously address excessive drinking by Asian-American/white students and excessive time “in recreational activities” by African-American students? No record exists of CCI touching either issue.

“Diversity makes a more excellent university.”


CCI members also spent fall 2006 conducting “outreach” sessions—formal meetings with established student groups; and informal “small group sessions,” which consisted of seemingly random office hours held by some of the CCI’s most extreme members, such as Anne Allison. These “small group sessions” occurred for the race and gender subcommittees, but not for the athletics subcommittee. Both of its sessions were canceled; presumably, Thompson and Moneta understood that the information students were likely to offer wouldn’t conform to the CCI’s preconceived agenda.

And how representative were these “small group sessions”? Take Allison’s September 13, 2006 session. A grand total of one student showed up. Allison described Natt as a “male, gay-identified, undergraduate.” In what must have been music to Allison’s ears, Natt complained that “those who party hard” and “conformist females” dominated campus social life, as opposed to the “majority” of the student population, which included the “better students and alternative types such as artists.” Natt further fumed about the “sense of entitlement” in Greek life on a campus overrun by a “sense of conformity.”

Doubtless Natt’s impressions about Duke life derived from his personal experiences on campus. But how representative was he of Duke undergraduates overall? He certainly was representative of the undergraduates who participated in the CCI’s “small group sessions.” Four of the fourteen students were identified as gay males; a fifth, “Jeremy,” was charmingly described by Anne Allison as “sexuality-unclear (gay or straight?).” Allison complained that Jeremy’s “whole demeanor remained off” in their 35-minute session. Perhaps his recognition that the professor to whom he was speaking was speculating about his sexual orientation caused this unease?

Given that gay males probably total 2 or 3 percent of the overall Duke student body, did the CCI see anything problematic with a setup in which gay males (not counting the “sexuality-unclear” Jeremy) formed 29 percent of the participants? Notes from committee discussion sessions indicate no concern with this issue.

Moneta, meanwhile, went through the motions of sitting down with five groups representing more than 120 students, including representatives of Greek Honor Society—but then summarized the gathering in a perfunctory five-paragraph report (a mere two paragraphs more than Allison devoted to her meeting with Jeremy) that essentially said nothing. Clearly some student voices the CCI had no interest in hearing.

Occasionally, these meetings bordered on the (unintentionally) hilarious. On November 29, 2006, CCI representatives met with members of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) staff. In line with the CCI’s preconceived agenda, the CPS staffers expressed concern about the “struggle with dominant culture.” But, they assured Moneta & Co., “some optimistic evidence” about campus culture existed. Such as? “Students holding hands(!).”

The CPS staffers gave the CCI some parting advice—the committee, they maintained, needed to “redefine what is cool” on campus. The idea of Larry Moneta, Karla Holloway, and Peter Wood telling 20-year-old college students what’s “cool” is comical.


The records of the CCI show that one professor did write in to express concern about the key problem in Duke’s campus culture exposed by the lacrosse case—what the professor termed the “McCarthyesque” Group of 88 statement and its effects. The professor noted that “he was concerned that faculty would endorse a statement indicating that no matter what the eventual outcome of guilt or innocence of the students involved that they should be punished anyway,” and lamented that many people he knew on the faculty seemed to lump all the students together based on their race.

Bob Thompson’s response? He refused to discuss the Group, and instead insisted that such “views about stereotype provided a good framework to talk about other issues that had been of concern to the Campus Culture Initiative” (because, of course, anything that might have criticized the Group of 88 was off-limits to the CCI). Thompson then moved the meeting to such matters as student self-segregation and creating a more “inclusive” (student) community. Faculty groupthink, apparently, was OK.

Since the professor remains on the Duke faculty and therefore is subject to retaliation from the Group of 88, I have withheld his name.


Shortly before the CCI issued its report, its linkage to the lacrosse case was confirmed one last time. In early January 2007, Brodhead announced that Duke had lifted the suspensions of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. (Neither, unsurprisingly, returned to the University.)

Brodhead's move triggered a ferocious protest from Karla Holloway, who resigned her position as CCI race subcommittee chair. “The decision by the university to readmit the students, especially just before a critical judicial decision on the case, is a clear use of corporate power, and a breach, I think, of ethical citizenship,” said she. “I could no longer work in good faith with this breach of common trust.”

Holloway then sent out a mass email containing fourth-hand, unsubstantiated, negative gossip about Duke students. Despite the requirement in the Faculty Handbook that Duke professors treat students with respect as fellow members of the academic community, no record exists of any disciplinary action taken against Holloway.

Imagine the reaction of the CCI, on the other hand, had a white, male professor sent out a mass email containing fourth-hand, unsubstantiated, negative gossip about African-American, female Duke students.

“Diversity makes a more excellent university.”


As the Chronicle presciently noted at the time, “Stacking the CCI with critics of ‘white male privilege’ suggests that the initiative was created to pacify countercultural professors, rather than to shape a new and improved campus culture.” The CCI’s recommendations—the Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative, more “diversity” emphasis, a de facto withdrawal from the ACC—could have been written by Thompson, Moneta, Holloway, Allison, and Wood at the start of the process.

Wood’s extremism ultimately caused the CCI report to be shelved—even Brodhead couldn’t tolerate undoing Duke’s athletics program. And no indication exists that Wood’s desire to see Duke withdraw from the ACC will ever reach fruition.

But in the three other areas that interested the CCI—curriculum, faculty hiring policies, and admissions—every reason exists to believe that the CCI agenda will eventually take hold, if more gradually than figures such as Allison or Holloway would have preferred. With the Group of 88 exercising real or de facto control over a wide swath of Duke’s humanities and social sciences departments, the CCI’s curricular designs and personnel agenda are already being implemented. Meanwhile, the recommendations regarding admissions criteria already seem to have made their way into practice.

“Diversity makes a more excellent university.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The CCI: Summer 2006

During summer 2006, the CCI’s four subcommittees went to work. The initiative’s directors, Bob Thompson and Larry Moneta, made no pretense of balance in selecting subcommittee chairs, instead handing three of the four over to figures on the extremist fringe of discourse about the lacrosse case:

  • Karla Holloway chaired the race subcommittee, just as she was analyzing the case through a take-no-prisoners lens: “White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt.”
  • Anne Allison, partner of Charlie Piot and co-chair of the gender/sexuality committee, had a long record as a campus “activist” and was in the process of developing a course that essentially called for Duke students to dig up dirt on athletes and fraternity members.
  • Peter Wood, who chaired the athletics subcommittee, already had been discredited by the Coleman Committee report, and during the summer preposterously asserted to the New Yorker that a lacrosse player had advocated genocide against Native Americans. (When pressed for evidence, Wood could only supply an anonymous student evaluation form from a class in which 55 of the 65 students weren’t lacrosse players.) No record exists of his being disciplined for making such an accusation against specific Duke students.

With such a lineup, it was little surprise that the three subcommittees explored the fringes of campus thought. The Wood Subcommittee appears to have been a disaster. Wood proposed draft topics that sounded as if they were built for Swarthmore rather than Duke. For instance, he wanted the CCI to explore “how do we balance varsity sports, club sports, and general community fitness(!).”

When his subcommittee members (which included a token representative from the Athletic Department) refused to support his agenda, Wood simply ignored them, and tried to present his ideas as consensus ones to the CCI as a whole. The resulting fiasco led to a change in reporting procedure to avoid putting on the spot any of Wood's fellow subcommittee chairs.

The refusal of Thompson and Moneta to replace Wood ultimately would backfire, although that wouldn’t become clear until much later.


While Wood was busy trying to use the CCI to transform Duke into a Division III liberal arts college, the other two subcommittees focused on pushing through an extreme version of the race/class/gender agenda that animated the Group of 88.

Holloway’s race subcommittee began “with the presumption that issues associated with race, color, and culture on this campus do not extend from minority groups, but from the ethos represented in the larger campus community regarding race and culture.” In other words, those who believed that problems in campus culture didn’t come from the racist or sexist behavior of white students in general and white male students in particular had no place in the CCI.

At the subcommittee’s first meeting, on June 22, 2006 (subcommittee members were assigned Nikki Giovanni’s Racism 101 by their chairwoman), Holloway identified four key subissues that she wanted to influence: Duke’s admission policy, the University’s curriculum, regulations regarding student behavior, and the composition of the faculty. In each, she championed an extremist agenda.

On admissions, Holloway framed the issue bluntly: “Can we influence admissions decisions on the types of students Duke recruits and admits, and how readers are reviewing applicants?”

In other words, the Duke student body didn’t seem terribly receptive to the Group of 88’s race/class/gender agenda. But, in Holloway’s mind, the problem wasn’t the unpersuasiveness of the Group’s ideas, it was the composition of the student body. As deliberations proceeded throughout the summer, the Holloway cohort became especially concerned with the admissions office’s tendency to look for “well-rounded” students. Such admittees didn’t fit the Group of 88’s desired profile.

On the curriculum, the Holloway subcommittee desired a “focused course” on diversity that would require all students at Duke to take a course in U.S. diversity. This idea would appear in the CCI’s final report, where it amounted to a Group of 88 Enrollment Initiative.

On student regulations, Holloway was at her most Orwellian. She wanted a “change in a student code of conduct with penalties for conduct that is racially denigrating.” This proposal—which was extreme even for the extremists on the CCI—would have chilled free speech on campus. For instance, an affirmative action bake sale (a common method of student groups to protest racial preferences in the admissions process) is doubtless an event that Holloway and other members of the Group of 88 would interpret as “racially denigrating.” Under her proposal, then, participants in such a protest—a protest addressing a very controversial political issue on which both sides have sincerely held opinions—would have been punished by a student code of conduct.

The Holloway subcommittee also expressed a concern about what it called the “growing problem of cultural ignorance of white students and submerged, silent racism.” The suggestion that ignorance about racial issues is a “growing problem” among college students is belied by virtually every public opinion poll on the subject; the remark only showed that Holloway and her cohort were living in a fantasy world.

Holloway framed the issue in an extraordinarily condescending fashion. The subcommittee needed to address the question of “what does culture mean to someone who is white? Do white students spend time thinking about culture, identity?” Imagine the (appropriate) condemnation if a committee with prominent faculty at an elite university pondered as an agenda item, “Do black students spend time thinking about culture?”

On the faculty, internal deliberations of the Holloway Subcommittee showed a keen interest in exploiting the lacrosse crisis to change Duke’s personnel policies. Subcommittee members detected the need for “a particular initiative regarding a racially diverse faculty and administration,” per the recommendations of the Bowen/Chambers Committee. They also detected a need to confront the question, “Does the teaching faculty’s diversity indicate an administrative interest in and respect for diversity?” The answer, clearly, was no.

Despite her work, Holloway complained that “we’re in the business of trying to fix things and then other people [are] saying things that undermine the message.” (That, of course, is what occurs on a campus that actually values academic freedom and diversity of opinion.) She was particularly upset with a late June 2006 Sports Illustrated article that presented Coach Mike Pressler in a somewhat sympathetic light. Such reports, she realized, would weaken any chance to exploit the case to revolutionize Duke along the model preferred by the Group of 88.

Holloway’s initiatives laid a foundation for CCI meetings with various minority student groups, which occurred in September and October 2006. Usually, these hand-picked groups gave the victimization responses that CCI members desired. CCI records have one such group spinning a wild tale that male students at Duke “tend to travel in a mob and throw alcohol on others who are not drunk (!!).” A female student group demanded that Duke hire more female professors, or “people who look like us teaching in the classroom.” Members of a black student organization sneered that the Student Government and the Chronicle were “an excellent example of an institution by and for the majority culture.”

Occasionally, however, minority student groups got off-message. After a meeting with Asian-American students, the CCI notes recorded “some resentment that despite being the largest underrepresented group of color our existence and issues appear to be eliminated from current discussions.” That was something the CCI didn’t seem to want to hear: like the fleeting concern with Jewish students, Asian-Americans--who, after all, had on average the best scores of any group of applicants to Duke, and therefore stood to lose the most from the racial preferences scheme that Holloway championed--were the forgotten minority for the politically correct CCI leaders.


Like the Holloway panel, Anne Allison’s gender and sexuality subcommittee also operated from a “working hypothesis”: that “Duke’s gendered culture is, in no small part, derived from a fundamental lack of respect, fueled by a mix of insecurity, dis-empowerment, and alcohol.”

Translation: Most male students at Duke are sexists.

And like Holloway, the subcommittee targeted the admissions process, detected the need to “reconsider admissions strategy and focus less on the ‘well-rounded.’” At least in the material preserved in the CCI records, neither Holloway, nor Allison, nor any of their allies ever said explicitly what was wrong with seeking “well-rounded” students.

Nonetheless, Allison understood that she needed to work with the student body as it then existed. To create the fiction that the recommendations on changing admissions standards were responding to widespread beliefs around the campus, the CCI commissioned a poll of the Duke student body. But some students were more equal than others: more than 60% of those surveyed in the CCI poll were women, and nearly three-quarters of the respondents were female.

Wildly skewed questions produced meaningless data that nonetheless conformed to the desired results. For instance, the CCI asked questions such as “How important is it to you that there are Black [cap. in original] faculty at Duke?” and “How important is it for the curriculum to offer courses on race and ethnicity?” Unsurprisingly, huge majorities deemed both to be “very important.”

Allison’s beliefs received a strong endorsement from Robyn Wiegman, head of the Duke Women’s Center (and best-known in the lacrosse case for her savage, misleading attack on Steve Baldwin after he criticized the Group of 88). Wiegman, one of the few faculty members to receive an individual meeting with the CCI, demanded that the initiative work to “bring interrogation of social world into the curriculum.”

Even as the case that spawned the CCI collapsed, the race/class/gender ideology that Wiegman, Holloway, Allison and their allies so ardently championed remained unaffected. Monday’s post will examine the CCI’s final months.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Note re Roberts

It appears as if the National Mendacity Tour failed to pay off for Selena Roberts. The AP reports:

Published in early May by HarperCollins with an announced first printing of 150,000, "A-Rod" has sold just 16,000 copies so far, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 75 percent of industry sales. The book sold 11,000 in its first week, then quickly faded.

At the Rizzoli Bookstore in midtown Manhattan, "A-Rod" has sold two copies. Twenty-seven copies have sold at Posman Books, based in Grand Central Terminal, but none in the past two weeks.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Bowen on Sotomayor & Racial Preferences

Few high-profile figures who involved themselves in the lacrosse case embarrassed themselves more than did William Bowen. The former Princeton president, invited with the NAACP’s Julius Chambers to review the Duke administration’s response to the case by Duke President Richard Brodhead, produced a report that could have passed as a parody of political correctness. Bowen, a longtime defender of racial preferences and colleges promoting “diversity,” chastised Brodhead for having an insufficient number of minorities and women in his employ. The Bowen/Chambers report also contended that the administration should have heeded more the viewpoints of faculty extremists such as Houston Baker, the English professor who, in a March 29, 2006 “open letter,” had stated unequivocally that the accuser had been “harmed” and mentioned ten times in fifteen paragraphs the race of the lacrosse players.

Of course, we now know that the administration’s failures were not derived from insufficient fealty to concerns of race, class, and gender—indeed, Brodhead all but prostrated himself before faculty advocates of the agenda. The University, nonetheless, has already shelled out a reported $25 million in legal fees and settlement costs, and Duke still faces two massive federal suits filed by most of the unindicted lacrosse players and their families.

What caused such legal exposure? Among other things: (1) The administration’s failure to enforce the university’s own anti-harassment policies; (2) The administration’s failure to enforce the Faculty Handbook; (3) The administration’s disregard of student FERPA rights; (4) The administration’s allegedly one-sided public statements; (5) The president’s failure to properly supervise one of his employees, former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, who offered unsubstantiated and varying versions of events to local law enforcement; (6) The firing without due process or cause of former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler.

Earlier this year, I asked Bowen why his report failed to address any of these issues. He responded that no part of our charge involved the conduct of the local prosecutor, the merits of the case, etc.” But none of the above issues involved either the conduct of Mike Nifong or the merits of the case—Duke, after all, didn’t pay out settlement money because of mistakes that Nifong made.

Despite his stated charge—reviewing what the administration did wrong and recommending changes—Bowen appeared to have no curiosity as exactly what the administration did that has cost the University $25 million. All that mattered to him was viewing the lacrosse case through the ideologically comfortable prism of his “diversity” agenda.

I was reminded of this closed-minded obsession with “diversity” in reading Bowen’s recent remarks on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who attended Princeton during Bowen’s tenure as president. Bowen described Sotomayor in glowing terms, noting her “exceptional” record of “excellent academics” and “being a responsible citizen of the university community.”

So why, the former president was asked, would higher education need a system of racial preferences, given that a student of Sotomayor’s seeming brilliance would have been admitted to Princeton in any case? Bowen parried the question, noting that “the whole purpose of affirmative-action programs isn’t to find the one-in-a-thousand Sonia Sotomayor, but to diversify campus communities and to identify people of promise who would do well, but who didn’t necessarily have all the qualities and characteristics that she had. I think the book that Derek Bok and I wrote demonstrates empirically how well the minority students who were recruited to these selective universities performed.” (In fact, recently released figures from Duke show exactly the opposite—that African-American students entered Duke with a lower average SAT than their colleagues, and graduated from Duke with a lower average GPA.)

In some ways, Sotomayor’s experience (as described by Bowen, at least) would seem to bolster more the Clarence Thomas critique of affirmative action than the defense offered by establishment figures such as Bowen or Bok—namely, that the existence of racial preferences creates a burden for otherwise qualified minorities, who are presumed to have benefited from differing, and lower, standards.

That’s not a line of argument, of course, Bowen desired to engage.

Bowen also seemed disinclined to acknowledge the reality of some aspects of Sotomayor’s Princeton record. He dismissed those—such as Stuart Taylor, my colleague for Until Proven Innocent—who have noted that Sotomayor seemed to harbor a great deal of resentment toward an institution from which she benefited enormously. Bowen’s reply? “I don’t think she resented the university at all. I think she saw the university as an excellent university, but she thought it could be better! And it needed to be better. So did I.”

Stuart tracked down a 1974 complaint filed by a student group that included Sotomayor, which asserted, “The facts imply and reflect the total absence of regard, concern and respect for an entire people and their culture. In effect, they reflect an attempt -- a successful attempt so far -- to relegate an important cultural sector of the population to oblivion.”

Can Bowen seriously contend that the sentiments expressed above didn’t constitute resentment toward the university?

Bowen closed out his interview with New Yorker with a ringing defense of the racial preferences scheme he has so aggressively promoted throughout his career—and which, given her conduct in the Ricci case, a Justice Sotomayor almost certainly would endorse on the Supreme Court.

Asked why racial preferences remain needed, Bowen responded, “You might find interesting the last speech that Lyndon Johnson ever gave, right before he died. I won’t get the quotation exactly right, but it’s worth getting right, because it’s a great quotation.

“He said, ‘Yes, today blacks and whites do stand more or less on a level playing field, but they’re not in the same place. Whites see the world from the mountain place, blacks see the world from the hollow of history.’ It’s a great phrase: ‘from the hollow of history.’ It affects the way the world works today. You can’t just be ahistorical and forget all of that, and think that you’re going to get the best outcomes.”

But, of course, Lyndon Johnson died in 1973, one year after Sonia Sotomayor entered Princeton. Even if Bowen doesn’t quite want to admit it, racial conditions in the United States have significantly changed in the last 36 years. Among the most significant changes: as debates over racial references in California have revealed (and as Duke’s admissions figures show), Asian-Americans are the prime victims of the racial preferences scheme that dominates contemporary university admissions processes. It’s hard to see how LBJ’s binary racial analysis helps us deal with this problem.

Bowen also dismissed the possibility of class-based affirmative action substituting for racial preferences, contending, “It’s not a substitute for race-sensitive admissions because, again, if you look at the data, you find that if you focus just on socio-economic status you’re not going to begin to address the disparities in outcomes [emphasis added] by race that we see in America today.” And challenging those who ask why we still need racial preferences in an age when a black man can be elected President, Bowen reasoned, “The fact that you have one success story is terrific, wonderful. But it doesn’t mean that the same outcomes or the same opportunities are going to be there for everyone else. They’re not.”

But there’s an enormous difference between “the same opportunities” and “the same outcomes.” That Bowen seems to view equality of outcomes and equality of opportunities as interchangeable concepts provides considerable insight into the basic philosophy behind racial preferences.

The CCI: Spring 2006

The Campus Culture Initiative was among the most outrageous examples of the Duke administration’s response to the lacrosse case. Launched in the same message in which President Brodhead canceled the 2006 season (and on the same day in which he sent his guilt-presuming “letter” to the Duke community), the CCI functioned as a caricature of what’s wrong with higher education today.

To head up the initiative, President Brodhead turned to a politically correct administrator, Robert Thompson, and the member of his senior leadership most hostile to the lacrosse players, Larry Moneta. (Moneta already had remarked on tape that he didn’t believe the players were innocent, and his record of indifference to student rights he brought with him to Duke from Penn.) To chair three of the CCI’s four subcommittees, Thompson and Moneta then named figures who had distinguished themselves for their extremism in response to the case—Karla Holloway, Anne Allison, and Peter Wood.

Wood’s extremism ultimately proved too much even for Brodhead. The combination of intense opposition from students and alumni to the CCI’s agenda, coupled with the recommendation of Wood’s subcommittee for scheduling changes that would have forced Duke to withdraw from the ACC, led to Brodhead postpone implementation of the CCI’s proposals. That said, te internal record of the CCI reveals a committee whose leadership began with a preconceived agenda, excluded information that contradicted that agenda, and engaged in phony “outreach” whose sole goal was to develop “data” that would confirm the desired ends of the CCI’s leadership.


The opening line of Brodhead’s initial charge to the CCI, dated April 18, 2006, linked the initiative to the lacrosse case: “Allegations springing from the party held by the men’s lacrosse team have prompted strong feelings and much discussion about issues of race and gender, class and privilege, difference and respect, and campus and community”; therefore, the president continued, “we must use this occasion to take the measure of our campus culture.”

The next week, in two 90-minute sessions, the CCI task force got down to work.

Peter Wood set the tone. The History professor, who spent much of spring 2006 giving bash-the-lacrosse-players interviews to every media outlet in sight, rejoiced that the University had placed him “in a position to tip the balance for groups that are slightly disappointed in Duke, particularly those groups in the Humanities and the Social Sciences [i.e., the Group of 88 and their allies], and build up a strong center so that they are restored and empowered.”

Fellow CCI member Marie-Lynn Miranda got the message: “We fail to highlight the unique opportunities available at Duke (to study race, class, gender, culture, for example) because we’re too busy apologizing for being in the South.” Wood shared Miranda’s vision but didn’t like her tactics, sourly noting that “the South is also characterized by its hyper sports culture.”

Thompson agreed that the committee had a clear curricular charge. Building off the statement made a few days before by Mark Anthony (“Thugniggaintellectual”) Neal that faculty “activists” needed to exploit the case to push through a “progressive” curriculum, Thompson cited a need to “look at things such as course evaluations on courses . . . that deal with race, or ask how many courses we have that deal with issues like racism.”

In other words: Duke’s curriculum would be set not by academic standards, but to accommodate the CCI’s preferred ideological agenda.

Thompson also reminded his fellow CCI members that “events surrounding [the] lacrosse team activated a series of issues that shocked us in terms of our reactions and responses. How could we promote such a climate?” Moneta chimed in that “date rape has been and continues to be a big issue.” Of course, if no rape had occurred, no connection could exist between “date rape” and “events surrounding the lacrosse team.” But even as of this meeting (April 25, 2006), Moneta appears not to have considered such a possibility.

On another front, it was clear, even at this early stage, that the student body’s basically positive attitude toward Duke athletics would be a problem for the CCI.

The committee members conceded that “sports are recognized as one element of the campus community that bring people together.” How could this data be reconciled with the desire of a committee majority to downplay athletics? The CCI never really developed an answer to this question, although Moneta offered one possibility to achieve student solidarity without promoting athletics: more campus jazz concerts! Even the politically correct CCI majority didn’t seriously consider this suggestion.

As the first CCI meeting came to a close, a question hung over the room: “How counter-cultural are we willing to be”?


The CCI next met on May 4, 2006. The intervening nine days had been unkind to the group’s agenda. First, Reade Seligmann’s attorney had released his client’s unimpeachable alibi, showing that even if the rape of which Moneta was so certain had occurred, Durham police had arrested an innocent Duke student. Second, that alibi filing included the statement of Kim Roberts, who admitted that she had made the 911 call from outside the captains’ house. And so it turned out that the conventional wisdom of the lacrosse players hurling racial epithets at two black women who had no connection to the party but just happened to be strolling down Buchanan Street was false. Perhaps, despite Brodhead’s previous apology to the “woman and her friend,” the lacrosse players weren’t all racists after all? Then, the Coleman Committee released its report, finding that the players drank much too much, but that they also were good students, with good records of community service, who most of their professors liked, and who had shown no tendencies toward sexist or racist behavior to Duke students or staff.

This clearly wasn’t the sort of information that most CCI members wanted to hear. So they simply chose not to listen to it. Wood, whose credibility had been destroyed by the Coleman Committee report (which found that even Wood’s TA couldn’t corroborate his after-the-fact remembrances of alleged misconduct by lacrosse players in his class) fumed that the committee’s “conclusions” were “premature.” He predicted that new evidence would emerge, since “other issues [were] buried in the report or missing.” The History professor told the CCI that an East Campus Residential Life person would demonstrate the fundamental indecency of the lacrosse players, and that this unnamed figure was ignored, for reasons unknown, by Coleman.

Wood’s scowling set the tone for the meeting. After a long and basically fruitless discussion of the problem posed by alcohol on campus, the CCI adjourned.

Most CCI members appeared to be sincere at least in assuming that they had an accurate picture of the Duke student body (most white male students were sexists and racists; African-American students were oppressed, etc.). And so, for its May 18, 2006 meeting, the CCI invited David Jamieson-Drake to report on surveys of first-year Duke students, which they obviously expected would confirm their preconceptions.

Instead, Jamieson-Drake reported that, in general, white, Asian-American, and Hispanic students were happy with their experiences at Duke, while satisfaction was lower for black students. The CCI ignored the obvious questions from these findings—namely, if the “dominant” university culture was a hotbed of discrimination against students of color, why didn’t Asian-American or Hispanic students seem to notice it?

Jamieson-Drake also addressed other student attitudes. He noted a widespread concern among undergraduates with security in and around campus. An unintentionally hilarious discussion ensued, showing just how out of touch most CCI members were with the day-to-day experiences of Duke undergraduates.

At a time when the local DA was breaking myriad rules to prosecute innocent Duke students, the local police department had established a “separate-but-equal” justice system in which Duke students were punished differently and more severely for various offenses than all other Durham residents, and even Moneta had sent around a campus-wide notice telling Duke students to be more on guard than usual, it would seem that any normal person would have found unsurprising Jamieson-Drake’s revelation that Duke students worried about security matters.

Not so the CCI. “These trends don’t make sense,” the minutes record CCI members exclaiming. Why? “Because Duke is not in a huge urban setting (or near any big metropolitan center) like a lot of top tier universities, so why would students be more anxious and concerned about security?”

In other words: data that failed to fit the predisposed outcome was dismissed. This pattern would occur again and again over the course of the CCI’s existence.

The meeting also spent a good deal of time on the various categories of students that Jamieson-Drake’s survey had detected. Lots of discussion ensued about the negative effects of a group Jamieson-Drake designated “hedonists”—“primarily white and Asian-American men” who liked to drink and party and were only average or below-average students. (Several committee members were confused: who, they wondered, would label themselves a “hedonist” in a student survey? Jamieson-Drake had to remind them about how he had already noted that the labels, including such obviously derogatory ones as “hedonist,” came from him, not from the students on the surveys.)

The Jamieson-Drake presentation prompted a CCI musing: “Why don’t we use this data to determine what type of students we want to admit?” The time had come, according to the CCI majority, to start exploring “what % of our students are unqualified because they are either athletes or legacies?” There was, of course, a third category of statistically unqualified or less qualified students (“diversity” admittees). But the CCI showed no interest in exploring their performance: some unqualified students, it seems, were perfectly acceptable. In the event, the CCI would turn much more attention to the admissions process in fall 2006.


Brodhead’s personal appearance before the CCI came on May 12, 2006. Conditions had changed dramatically in the 37 days since he decided to—as the Chronicle later noted—stack “the CCI with critics of ‘white male privilege’” so as “to pacify countercultural professors.” The backlash against the Group of 88 had begun; student opinion had turned decisively in favor of the falsely accused players; and some alumni and donors had started to ask why the administration hadn’t demanded that local authorities respect the due process rights of Duke students. Brodhead told CCI members that he didn’t want to dictate their actions, but he cautioned against their employing “polarizing” language. The “activists” on the committee disagreed, since the “lack of explicit language, such as race, will be seen as a superficial attempt to discuss culture.”

Instead, in this, their final meeting of the spring 2006 term, the CCI membership considered the possibility of going more extreme. Thompson and Moneta already had decided to create four subcommittees (race; gender/sexuality; alcohol/student judicial system; and athletics). But the committee considered the possibility of a fifth subcommittee, focused on the issue of “prejudice.”

Committee members wondered whether “‘prejudice’ [should] be taken out of the Race category and be established as a separate one or not included at all.” For instance, “where do Jewish people fit in?” (Needless to say, the CCI never considered the disturbing problem of anti-Israel attitudes among the academic far left, including many members of the Group of 88.) The committee also wondered whether separate subcommittees were needed to address “LGBT folks,” or “religious minorities,” or “issues of class/affluence/privilege.” In the end, the CCI decided that it “may be OK to put ethnicities [except, it seems, Jews] under one umbrella for logistical purposes as long as everyone [except, again, Jews] is accounted for in the actual fieldwork.”

Over summer 2006, the CCI’s four subcommittees took center stage. Thursday’s post will explore their work.