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.