I recently received an email from DIW reader and commenter ES Class of 1990. He reports:
I got a fundraising call from a Duke Freshman this evening. This is a tried and true Duke event, in which living groups raise money for Duke and get a slice for their group or cause...I have done it myself. It is called “Dialing for Dollars.”
When I informed the polite young lady that I would not contribute to the university in any financial way until there had been an accounting of the behavior of the Gang of 88, she pointed out to me that Brodhead had in fact apologized and that the video was on YouTube. I countered that they still had not addressed the fact that several students had their rights to privacy violated and that faculty had in fact violated their own code of conduct...both events that would preclude any giving on my part until they had been sorted out in a public forum. I wished her good luck and ended the call.
It hit me later...they had a planned, “in the can” counter to the Gang of 88 argument! ”Look here, the President DID apologize, and here is the URL.” They clearly had been briefed and coached to deflect this argument to giving, knowing that it would be a sticking point with alums.
Is that amazing or what?
Indeed the news is amazing, for at least three reasons beyond the obvious: the fact Duke has an “in the can” response suggests this issue regularly comes up in fundraising pleas.
1.)These remarks represent the first acknowledgement by anyone affiliated with Duke that Brodhead’s September 2007 statement referred to the Group of 88. In his remarks, the President didn’t specifically reference the Group, but merely apologized for ill-judged and divisive comments by unnamed Duke professors.
2.) While it’s nice to know that Duke finally recognizes the Group’s statement as “ill-judged and divisive,” the acknowledgement raises the question of why Brodhead’s apology never accompanied any policy changes to deal with the problem that the Group’s statement illustrated.
In that respect, the “apology” is a little like an apology from a neighbor whose little boy regularly tosses a baseball through your window—but who does nothing to ensure that the little boy sees that he did something wrong; or to ensure that the following day, the little boy doesn’t again toss the same ball, in the same direction, and through the same window. At some point, the “apology” rings a little hollow.
3.) ES’s point about Duke not living up to its own standards is well-taken—even more so in light of a front-page story from yesterday’s Times. The article profiled a deeply troubling move by the Cook County (Ill.) State’s Attorney to subpoena records, including grades, from the student journalists in the Medill Innocence Project, a program at Northwestern’s journalism school. The interim director of the Illinois Press Association observed, “Taken to its logical conclusion, what they’re trying to do is dismantle the project."
Faced with a dubious demand from a local prosecutor that would seem to violate the federally protected rights of its students, how is Northwestern responding? The dean of the Medill School blasted the subpoena as “astonishing” and has committed the institution to vigorously contesting the prosecution’s demands in court. Such a response, of course, would be fully expected, both by parents and by the Congress that passed FERPA.
Contrast the Northwestern approach to defending students’ federally protected rights to that of Duke. When the Durham Police, working alongside the disgraced ex-DA Mike Nifong, demanded that Duke turn over FERPA-protected information regarding the lacrosse players, Duke did so willingly. Then, stunningly, the University didn’t come clean about what it had done—even after a subsequent court hearing on the request resulted in even the prosecution-friendly Judge Titus ruling that Nifong’s demand fell afoul of federal law.
Brodhead, it should be noted, never apologized for the FERPA fiasco.