Monday, November 21, 2011

“Students Are Not The Enemy of . . . Faculty Unless We Invite Them To Be”

The past few days appear to have launched “Hypocrisy Week.” First, the New York Times public editor turned to Wendy Murphy—Wendy Murphy!—for guidance on how journalists should cover sexual assault cases. Then, the Chronicle of Higher Education turned to Cathy Davidson—Cathy Davidson!—to deliver a plea about protecting students’ due process rights on campus.

During the lacrosse case, Davidson distinguished herself for her “revisionist” interpretation of the Group of 88 statement, which she displayed in a January 2007 N&O op-ed. In a bizarre inversion of reality, the Group member claimed that the period between March 24 and April 6, 2006—when Duke administrators, professors, some students, and “activists” regularly denounced the lacrosse players—in fact featured a Duke campus with widespread, boisterous defenses of lacrosse players coupled with racist attacks on black women. “It was,” fantasized she, “as if defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women.” (In an e-mail circulated at the time, Davidson confessed that she penned the op-ed after consulting with a lawyer, and being informed that Group members could be vulnerable to civil suits.)

Davidson’s latest stab at commentary came in response to the pepper-spraying of peaceful protesters at UC-Davis—which today led to the suspension of the campus police chief. Cal-Davis deserves all the criticism that it gets for this incident, and I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks of FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff on the issue. Yet there’s something . . . peculiar . . . about seeing Cathy Davidson standing up for due process, given what was (at best) her indifference when three of her own institution’s students faced the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in recent U.S. history. It’s even more remarkable to see her pen an article entitled “A Plea to College Presidents: Exercise Your Moral Leadership,” given the failed “moral leadership” exhibited by her own institution’s president in the lacrosse case.

Davidson, however, appears unable or unwilling to detect her hypocrisy. “Students are not the enemy of administrators and faculty unless we invite them to be,” writes the Group member. If nothing else, the Group of 88 statement invited dozens of Duke students to recognize that some of the most outspoken faculty members on campus viewed them as the enemy.

The Davidson essay is notable for another matter relating to academic hypocrisy. Over the past several weeks, I’ve heard of troubling instances in which CUNY faculty members have brought the Occupy Wall Street protests into their classrooms, including at least two occasions of professors “encouraging” their students to actually attend the protests. Davidson seems to see little problematic with such conduct, noting approvingly that she has “heard from faculty and administrators who see the Occupy activities as appropriate for thoughtful conversation and debate across a numerous departments, whether economics or ethics.”

It would be interesting to see how many professors who see OWS as a “teachable moment” had a similar reaction to the Tea Party movement, which in many ways was OWS’ mirror image from 2009-10. (I rather doubt that Davidson had such a reaction, for instance.) From defenders of the academic status quo, we often hear (correctly, in my opinion) that the partisan affiliation of professors, in and of itself, is irrelevant to the quality of education. But that argument becomes much harder to sustain when professors so blatantly bring their political sympathies into the classroom.

“Students are not the enemy of administrators and faculty unless we invite them to be.” Cathy Davidson certainly knows of what she speaks.


William L. Anderson said...


What we are seeing on college campuses regarding police and student "interaction" is a mirror of what is happening in our larger society. It is an "us vs. them" situation with police and everyone else across the country and we have seen over the last decade an escalation of "police state" tactics by the authorities.

Anonymous said...

"Yet there’s something . . . peculiar . . . about seeing Cathy Davidson standing up for due process, given what was (at best) her indifference when three of her own institution’s students faced the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in recent U.S. history."

An excellent sentence to read. And so true!

Anonymous said...

Those protesters were not peaceful. They were disruptive of the normal activities on campus and refused to stop interfering with the rights of others. They were a criminal nuisance.

Anonymous said...

Crystal Gail Mangum could not be reached for comment, neither could her late "boyfriend". Mike Nifong said "Huh?"

Anonymous said...

I repeat a comment to an earlier post. It is truly pathetic and at the same time amazing that supposedly intelligent people will go to such lengths to avoid admitting they did something wrong.

Anonymous said...

Great blog post, as always. But this kind of thing is to be expected from a Group of 88 member.

What is the view from 30,000 feet-- the bigger picture-- as it were? It seems to me that the hard left wants a culture war and will use any pretense, pick up and throw any rock, create incidents from whole cloth, etc. in order to fight. Deception and deceit, which looks like hypocrisy on the face of it, are just tactics used in support of their goals. And it is working.

It seems like the fight remains engaged primarily with those who wish to focus on reality and value reason and consistency.

skwilli said...

KC, if you were a hockey goalie you would end up in the Hall of Fame! Nothing gets by you. And Davidson has left another soft goal slip through the 5-hole.

skwilli said...

Although "agreeing to be pepper sprayed" seems quite bizarre to me.

Anonymous said...

I am curious to know what the reaction of college faculty is to the rape and molestation cases at Penn State and Syracuse. I have not heard any outrage but I am not on a college campus and therefore can not really know.

Anonymous said...

There has been a rush to judgment in this latest case, in which the police action has been almost universally denounced, yet what I saw of the incident seems entirely innocent.
The students were sitting quietly, but with locked arms, to some purpose, I know not what. Were they blocking access to something? Were they defying an order by the police?
The officers calmly and methodically pepper sprayed them in order to induce them to move.
From what I saw, the students essentially ignored this, and continued their defiant behavior, whatever it was. There was no unlocking of arms.
The pepper spraying could be criticized as being too weak a response to accomplish any police goal, but since it had little obvious effect that I could see, it could hardly be criticized as over harsh.

AYY said...

From Monday's Best of the Web:

"The pepper spray looks excessive. It might even have been excessive. But the characterization of the so-called protesters as "passive" is ludicrous. They defied, rather than complied with, the order to disperse. The interlocking of arms so as to obstruct the cops from doing their job may be termed defensive rather than aggressive, but it was far from passive. CBS quotes one expert who thinks the police did nothing wrong:

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them."

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure," Kelly said."

gwallan said...

So curling up into a ball, an obvious defensive and supplicating posture, necessitates beating.

Kick 'em when they're down? Pathetic. What a craven society we've become.

A year ago I was interrogated by Australian Federal Police for several hours. I was "suspicious" because they had no record of me in any of the AFP, state police, ASIO or vehicle databases. Thus not owning a car and never having done anything wrong made me suspect in their eyes. These officers are taught interrogation techniques but have no understanding of them. They use them like clubs as a consequence.

I've been on the receiveng end of quite a bit of violence in my lifetime including a very traumatic sexual abuse as a child. Nothing prepared me for that airport experience. A very large piece of my soul was stolen that day.

Telling the truth? Doing the right thing? In their paranoia they denounce such things.

Somebody PLEASE stop the world.

Anonymous said...

Man, this blog is so lame. I can't believe KC this still writing the same stuff over and over and over again years after the fact. Not to mention his entire blog is based on a gross mis-reading of "we are listening" ad. Pretty lame. I wish he would just concentrate on his actual academic work and publish something that matters is professional field.

guiowen said...

Curling up into a ball is hardly a supplicating posture. It's a method of resistance. Kneeling would be a supplicating posture.

Gwallan, I'm sorry about your experience with the AFP. I've never been to Australia so I have no knowledge of them and their methods. You don't mention what it is they actually did to you, but I'll take your word that it was a rough experience. One would certainly like to know what they thought they would accomplish with this.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off-topic, and not everyone here may have the same opinion of Cain as KC (probably) and myself do, but Herman Cain hits a new low with a Crystal Mangum comparison:

This isn't to say these women are choir girls themselves, but...seriously?

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 9.09:

I note that you accuse me of "mis-reading" (in a "gross" fashion!) the Group of 88's ad, but neglect to provide any evidence for your allegation.

I appreciate your doubtless genuine concern for my academic work--which, as you can see from my CV, continues apace.

I would like to express my concern, however, with your decision (in the opening word of your comment) not to use gender-neutral language. Perhaps some diversity training should be in order?