Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Perils of Political Correctness

Two items showing the continuing failure in the academic world to learn the lessons of the lacrosse case.

The first comes from the Chesterfield (VA) Observer, which ran an article on the status of African-Americans in the sport of lacrosse. The Observer interviewed Jay Coakley, professor emeritus of sociology and sport at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. According to the Observer:

In the aftermath of the 2006 Duke lacrosse rape scandal, Coakley was invited to speak to a national lacrosse convention in Philadelphia. His message – that the sport desperately needed diversity – wasn’t well received. “When I gave my presentation, probably about 100 white men walked out,” Coakley recalled.

He offered up slides of photos culled from college websites, which showed a preponderance of white men playing the game. “I was accused on local talk radio of pushing political correctness and not understanding what lacrosse is all about,” he said.

The address to which Coakley referred occurred at the 2007 US Lacrosse convention, which was held January 12-14 in Philadelphia. It’s worth noting the context: by this point, disciplinary charges had been announced against Mike Nifong; Crystal Mangum’s story had been changed to claim that no actual rape had occurred; and even Richard Brodhead (though not the Group of 88) had been moved to denounce Nifong. In short, the version of events to which so many politically correct figures on campus had attached themselves had been revealed as an utter fraud. Yet Coakley’s remarks appear to have ignored the jarring transformation of the case between March 2006 and January 2007; he spoke, instead, as if all events were as commonly understood in early April 2006.

Since there was no record of Coakley’s remarks online, I e-mailed him. He graciously summarized his main points, which—to put it mildly—were stronger than the Observer article entailed. That wasn’t too surprising, since it was all but impossible to imagine that a banal call for more racial diversity in lacrosse could have triggered the mass walkout that he alleged.

A few items: (1) Ignoring any of the new developments between early April 2006 and January 2007, Coakley linked the case to a call that (paraphrased) the “sport desperately needed diversity” because it had (paraphrased) “a preponderance of white men playing the game.” (Whites were, of course, a preponderance of all college-aged men in January 2007.) Even if some sort of racial balancing in college men’s lacrosse was or is desirable, how, precisely, could this goal be linked to the Duke lacrosse case in a way that would reflect well on Coakley?

It’s true that, if the accused students were African-American rather than white, the lacrosse case would have differed. Neither Nifong nor the Group of 88 would have had any reason to have exploited the case, and therefore it likely would have never moved forward or received much campus or media attention. But suggesting that a sport having more black athletes minimizes the possibility of a local prosecutor or a school’s faculty engaging in race-baiting behavior doesn’t strike me as a  . . . progressive . . . argument.

Coakley seems to be insinuating, instead, that if more African-Americans were on the 2006 lacrosse team, the team would have treated the strippers more sensitively. That strikes me as a highly implausible conclusion.

In general, his view of events seemed then, and still seems, frozen in time, as if no additional facts about what occurred at the party came out after early April 2006. He suggested to me that racial epithets were directed at false accuser Crystal Mangum (there’s no evidence of this, since Mangum was passed out during the racially charged argument between Kim Roberts and a lacrosse player that concluded the evening) and that other lacrosse players somehow should have intervened to stop the exchange between Roberts and their teammate. But it’s not clear how they could have done so, since all accounts of the evening suggested that Roberts then immediately called the police claiming a “hate crime,” and then drove off, while the captains told the remaining handful of players to go home. Coakley’s comment about intervention only makes sense if he believes that racial epithets occurred during the party itself—yet the only figures connected to the case to ever have made such a claim were Mangum and Mike Nifong. That he still seems to view the duo as credible speaks volumes as to the biases he brings to the case.

(2) In his e-mail to me, Coakley linked his criticism of the lacrosse team in part to the hiring of strippers—an act that I, too, find distasteful. Yet it’s hard to see any connection between his critical comments about the team’s (or, more generally, lacrosse’s) racial makeup and the hiring of strippers. After all, a few weeks before the party, the majority African-American basketball team had hired strippers for a team party.

More broadly, his basic approach in the 2007 talk—on which he doubled down in his Observer interview—suggests that the hiring of the strippers, and Coakley's seemingly inaccurate view of the development of the party, was such a grave character flaw that it overcomes all that we subsequently learned about members of the lacrosse team, whether in the Coleman Committee report, or in their post-case behavior in the 2006-7 academic year. Much like the Group of 88, it’s as if, for Coakley, the team’s character is frozen in time, as of early April 2006, and nothing that came after was allowed to disturb the preconceived ideological notions that he brought to the case.

(3) In his interview with the Observer, Coakley said that he “was accused on local talk radio of pushing political correctness.” (Coakley didn’t cite which local talk radio leveled the accusation against him; it’s intriguing that he’s evidently a talk-radio listener.) In the event, at least based on what he shared with the Observer and later with me, the accusation seems to be a valid one.

It’s unclear how many people share Coakley’s perspective; in society as a whole, it’s almost certainly a minority, and perhaps a small minority indeed. On campus, however, his politically correct approach is very much mainstream—as we saw, yet again, in a recent event at Duke.

Of all the campuses in the country, it would seem as if Duke—whose students were the victims of the highest-profile rape hoax in modern American history—would bend over backwards to protect due process in sexual assault cases. The reverse was true: in 2009, the university implemented a new sexual assault definition, in which students could be found guilty of rape on the following criteria: “Real or perceived power differentials between individuals may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” Why a student could be deemed a rapist based on unintentional actions that any accuser happened to perceive Duke never said, and amidst an outcry from alumni and from national groups, especially FIRE, Duke quietly dropped the new criteria in 2010.

But otherwise, a due process-unfriendly sexual assault policy remained in place—until earlier this month, when Duke announced an adjustment. Students found guilty by the university now will face a presumed penalty of expulsion. Remarked Larry Moneta to the Herald-Sun, “This is not like the measles; there’s no vaccine . . . This is a very complicated issue that is not unique to us that just requires persistence and a multi-varied approach.” Moneta did not mention the importance of due process for sexual assault allegations.

Students properly deemed rapists certainly should be expelled. Actually, of course, they should be sent to jail—but university activists tend to strongly oppose the idea of allowing the criminal justice system, rather than university bureaucracies, to address allegations of sexual assault.

In the event, the heightening of the punishment has to shine the spotlight on the procedures the university employs, since the error resulting from a procedurally flawed decision is now so much greater. Duke’s policy is for a university administrator or a hired outside investigator to examine the allegations. The investigation is almost guaranteed to be slipshod: “Allegations of sexual misconduct will be investigated in a thorough and timely manner, typically within 15 business days of receipt of a complaint.” (Imagine if the police had such a requirement, amidst a bureaucracy that’s strongly predisposed, for ideological reasons, to believe all allegations of sexual assault, as is the case at Duke and many other universities.) The accused student doesn’t have the right to be represented by outside counsel, only a “member of the university community,” and even the role of this advocate is severely restricted: “He/she may only confer quietly or through notes with the complainant and may not address the panel.” And a finding of guilt occurs at the lowest possible threshold—a preponderance of evidence, or 50.01 percent.

In explaining the new penalties, Moneta didn’t reference the lacrosse case, or explain why a campus that witnessed such an extraordinary violation of due process wouldn’t be vigilant about due process on such matters in the future. But Bob Ashley’s Herald-Sun filled the void. In an unsigned editorial celebrating Duke’s action (there’s a surprise!!), the H-S reflected in the following manner: “One legitimate debate fueled by the infamously false rape allegations against Duke lacrosse players in 2006 concerned the overall culture of gender relations on Duke and other campuses.” It’s easy to see how “legitimately false rape allegations” might have triggered a debate about why so many on Duke faculty members were willing to rush to judgment against three of the university’s male students. But somehow I doubt that’s the sort of “legitimate debate” about “gender relations” on the Duke campus that Ashley had in mind.

Beyond the rare admission from Ashley that the charges his paper so consistently framed as true were actually false, it’s as if for the H-S editor, much like Professor Coakley, events in time are frozen as of April 2006. 


skwilli said...


Anonymous said...

seriously - how do you keep up the rhetoric yourself from this case - doesn't it ever get nuseatingly overwhelmingly in your face a done deal to you ever - i just say this because it's like you think other people don't just accept the case and move on - which basically most have probably tried to - but no one can - why is that do you suppose???

maybe he can't think of anything to say about the real case - so whatever he already said is good enough for him - to say much more past that might seem even more politically incorrect to him or others than what he already has said about the case perhaps

Anonymous said...

One thing you can count on in Durham, which includes Duke, is just when you think it has to get better, it doesn't and then gets worse. All these people are capable of much, much more perfidy, lies, political correctness and downright craziness.

It seems amazing to the average person as they wonder, "how can this happen and then continue as if nothing happened?" But they do it over and over and it will all happen again and get worse.

There is no adult supervision to give corrective feedback. Elections can't change a thing.

Welcome to Durham which burrows deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.

Anonymous said...

Is Coakley a Communist?

Anonymous said...

duke does it on purpose - durham and nc and whoever else they can hook into are their research test fields - and there are always lots of unwillingly uninformed unintentional and intentional test subjects - and duke will just as likely kill the mouse as cure it - don't you know.

the state is their playing field - the world is theirs to conquer in whichever way that works for the coffers that be (pharma and bush and co. are big ones, as well as the medicaded masses - and ... ... ... ... ... ... and ... ... the list goes on)

any ideas how to stop the madness?

we've turned into a state that now wishes to capitilize on creativity - all ideas (psychotic or not) are more than welcome ... even encouraged ... nc is being psychotically creative in order to become THE state that is and was

that is NC's motto

Anonymous said...


I really appreciate your continuing efforts.

"In 'the' event - should its two uses be "In 'any' event"??

Anonymous said...

Has Coakley ever called for more diversity in the NBS. Most NBA teams are predominantly black.

Anonymous said...

More about Racism and Trayvon Martin, since this is about the only blog on which something like this would be published.

I read on line that Mrs. Obama said her husband could be killed just going into a gas station.

That is true

What is also true, which Mrs. Obama did not say, is considering the population of Washington DC. and published statistics on violent crime, if Mr. Obama had been gunned down in a DC gas station, the perpetrator most likely would not have been either a white man, an hispanic man, nor a neighborhood watchman for that matter. The perpetrator would most likely have been a black man.

I voted for Mr. Obama twice. I am very disillusioned with him. I believe that the President of this country is espousing black on white racism. He is also refusing to distance himself from two of the most virulent race baiters in the history of the US, al and jesse.

David-2 said...

(Professor Johnson: I believe that in the next-to-last paragraph the phrase “legitimately false rape allegations” in quotation marks should be "infamously false rape allegations".)

Anonymous said...

I just learned that earlier this year, members of the Morehouse College basketball team were arrested and charged with the rape of a Spelman College student. Both Morehouse and Spelman colleges are historically black colleges.

The rape allegations have produced anything near the reaction to the false allegations Crystal Mangum made against the Duke Lacrosse players. Race baiter al and race baiter jesse, to my knowledge, have made no comment about the case.

Go figure.

I hope someone from liestoppers picks up on this, if they haven't already.

Anonymous said...

News article:
"Pay-up time for Brawley: '87 rape-hoaxer finally shells out for slander"

“Finally, she’s paying something,” said Pagones’ attorney, Gary Bolnick. “Symbolically, I think it’s very important — you can’t just do this stuff without consequences.”
No matter how long the Lacrosse case lasts, I hope justice is finally served, but justice so long delayed in the Brawley case seems like a bad omen to me.


Anonymous said...

In reply to the 8/4 1:21PM: Four African-American Morehouse students raped an African-American coed in an off-campus housing during an evening of heavy drinking. I don't know how intelligent they are, but they thought, at the time, that it would be great fun to take pictures and a video of the rapes and circulate it among their few hundred friends. Needless to say (but I'm going to anyway), the next day the coed wasn't very happy and filed a complaint with the Spelman administration who then called in the police. Morehouse disowned the four basketball players and they were incarcerated in the DeKalb County jail. Morehouse and Spelman set up a committee to investigate and propose ways to not have this recur. One issue is that the four traditionally black colleges in Atlanta (all near to one another) are getting fewer applicants each year and notoriety could reduce the number even further. Another issue is the need for off-campus housing. It has been suggested that the four colleges pool their money and buy more land and build shared campus housing. One of the four colleges had suggested accepting non-African-American students thereby breaking the tradition. Remember the old saw about whites attending all-white colleges didn't have empathy for non-whites? Is the same true for all-black colleges? Going back to the rape, the coed had gone to the party with some friends, including other coeds, who told the police that they tried to get her to leave when she got drunk but she fought them off (physically rebuffed them, them claimed) so they left without her. One coed said that she got what she asked for (not a PC statement).
As a follow-up, the son of a Fulton County commissioner was accosted on his first day at Morehouse on the steps of a lecture hall and his cellphone and backpack were taken from him. It was a big item in the news. The commissioner said (in the interview) that he didn't understand why some people don't respect the rights of others to own things; that the thief was just a misguided youth who needed counseling. The question is: how many more police can be hired and assigned to patrol the area without having the students demonstrate and/or GA Tech and GA Southern demand the same police protection?
Big Al
Atlanta/Cobb County