Though Duke’s race/class/gender-dominated humanities faculty members embarrassed themselves in their response to the lacrosse case, faculty in the hard sciences and engineering behaved very differently. Indeed, only one member of the Group of 88, Ronen Plessler, came from any of the sciences or engineering departments.
That said, on the one occasion in which a science professor did try to imitate his “activist” colleagues—when “Counselor” Thomas Crowley hung his shingle for readers of the Herald-Sun—the result was humiliation and a quick backtrack.
Biomedical Engineering professor William Reichert should have learned Crowley’s lesson. In what’s described as a guest “commentary” in today’s Chronicle, Reichert begins by complaining about SportsCenter devoting excessive coverage to the Jerry Sandusky case, thereby disturbing his workout. This situation—not, it seems, Sandusky’s alleged crime, but ESPN’s coverage, from which for unknown reasons he could not avert his eyes—left him “stewing . . . for weeks and weeks,” until, finally, he elected to turn to the pages of the Chronicle. (Did Deadspin, known for its biting ESPN commentary, reject his submission?)
From the Sandusky affair, Reichert moved on to a . . . curious . . . recapitulation of the lacrosse case. He confessed that “senseless behavior,” which he did not specifically define, left him with feelings of “anger” and “shame.” Of what senseless behavior, then, did he speak? His colleagues’ rush to judgment and their abandoning the basic requirements of the Faculty Handbook? The local prosecutor’s violating myriad ethical standards? The Durham newspaper’s decision to turn a blind eye to the abuses?
None of these developments appeared to produce either “shame” or “anger” for Dr. Reichert—in itself a revealing insight into his character. His “shame” or “anger” came from the “behavior of students”—presumably the lacrosse players, rather than the potbangers, though Reichert is careful not to say so (perhaps for legal reasons?). Fortunately, however, there was a hero of the affair: Richard Brodhead, who showed “courage” in prematurely terminating the 2006 lacrosse season, fully aware of “the blow back [sic] that was sure to come.”
This claim is a little bit like Cathy Davidson’s reinvention of spring 2006 as a time of terror for black students on the Duke campus. Brodhead’s canceling the lacrosse season required no courage at all. Faculty “activists” were demanding it, the team itself had virtually no supporters on campus at the time, and then-BOT chairman Bob Steel considered it a necessary sacrifice for public relations purposes.
Brodhead, in short, received virtually no “blow back” for the decision, at least at the time. Indeed, the only way in which Reichert’s “blow back” claim makes any sense would be if he’s suggesting that Brodhead fully believed that the accused students were innocent but cancelled the season anyway, thereby anticipating a “blow back” once outsiders (even the biased New York Times) came to criticize the university for its guilt-presuming action.
A question: could it be that Reichert’s other title—“Associate Dean for Diversity”—accounted for his Group of 88-like interpretation of the lacrosse case?