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The Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax: A Pro-Due-Process Faculty Member Speaks (Sort of)

| 17 Comments

The Duke Lacrosse Rape Case is in the midst of a turnaround in media-sponsored public perception. At first roundly vilified for their brutal gang rape of a black dancer, the three indicted Duke University lacrosse players are now being viewed as underdogs suffering from ill-treatment at the hands of a rogue District Attorney. Last Night's 60 Minutes segment emphasized this point.

When the scandal broke in March and April 2006, there was no shortage of Duke faculty willing to take a stand. Well over eighty-eight of them contributed to an atmosphere of outrage, as if to seek a pre-trial conviction in the court of public opinion. One of the dogs that hasn't barked has been the voices of professors cautioning against a rush to judgement. Until the case was turned on its head by December 15th's bombshell admission of the head of a DNA testing lab that he conspired with the D.A. to hide exculpatory evidence, only five of Duke's faculty had come out publically in support of the Due Process Rights of the accused ( Coleman Baldwin Kimel Gustafson Munger ). And only a subset of the five had ventured so far as to proclaim that the felony charges lodged against the lacrosse team were in all likelihood concocted by a false accuser in league with a corrupt prosecuter.

Does the imbalance of public pronouncements in favor of a politically-correct fairy tale reflect the numerical dominance of the Hard Left on campus? Is it a consequence of the implied threat of dogmatists at the levers of power to the social standing or career prospects of open-minded academicians? Or do the pressing professional demands of most of the professoriate mitigate against them taking the time to state in public what they privately believe? Given the importance of Bad Philosophy to the future of our society, it's a question worth asking.

In the Extended Entry, I present the anonymous opinion of one Duke faculty member from the Reasonable Center.

In mid-September, Winds covered the shoddy work of the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun. By far the most insightful and complete coverage of the Hoax has been provided on a daily basis by Brooklyn College Professor of History K.C. Johnson, at his web-log Durham-in-Wonderland. Johnson has been unparalled in keeping the spotlight on the maneuverings of many participants in the affair, as they attempt to toss their contributions to Injustice down the 'Memory Hole.' Recently, the author of an extensive writeup of the case aptly characterized Johnson as the Emile Zola of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax.

I heard in early January that Professor John Doe (a pseudonym) of Duke University believed:
* that D.A. Mike Nifong was acting unscrupulously,
* that virtually all of his faculty colleages recognize that the events of the spring amounted to a rush to judgement, and
* that there is a widespread desire to set things right with the two suspended students.

I initiated contact with him to find out more about his thinking. After a useful exchange, Prof. Doe gave me permission to post extracts of our correspondence. Why pseudonymously? Because he doesn't think it's appropriate for him to speak on behalf of Duke faculty.
From: doe-at-duke.edu
To: amac-at-windsofchange.net
Date: January 5, 2007

I wanted to share a few observations you might find helpful...

  • [The bloggers and blog commenters who assume that there is] some kind of university-wide strategy to come out in favor of the LAX players to avoid liability are just wrong. Universities are very decentralized organizations (largely as a result of tenure). I have taught at [numerous prestigious universities] and never seen or heard of a central administration telling faculty what they can or can't say on matters of public importance. I am not aware of any direction by the Duke administration on what we should or shouldn't say about the matter.

It definitely is not the case that the hard left has intimidated anyone. The main issue behind the lack of a "counter petition" [to the 'Group of 88's' Listening Statement' ], I suspect, is two-fold.

  • First, most of the faculty, like most people in America, are not political activists. We don't draft and circulate petitions in our private or in our professional lives. There was a petition circulated a few months ago, right before the general election, that properly decried the lack of due process protections, but it also denounced a number of other tangentially related issues that, in my view and likely in many others, were too over-the-top to sign.
  • Second, [there has been intense focus by bloggers on the above-mentioned "Listening Statement."] I certainly didn't view it as a defining event nor, I suspect (though I can't be sure) have many others on campus. Indeed, I had never even heard the term "Group of 88" until [recently reading blogs on the case]. I was aware that a group of faculty had published a critical open letter early on, but then heard no more about it. I assumed at the time (and still do) that this was a diverse group -- some signed because the event satisfied their ideological bent (the hard left you refer to), some because of a preexisting concern over the role of athletics within the university, and many because they were genuinely outraged by what [District Attorney] Nifong said had occurred. While you may find this view surprising, you need to understand that it was published at a time of frenzied media coverage. This story went from a local item to international news in a matter of days. The main parking lot was literally overflowing with news media trucks and the story was being debated every night by talking heads such as [CNN host] Nancy Grace and others. The open letter was simply one more blur along with protests of banging pots and pans (mainly by local residents angry about off-campus parties, not students or faculty as some of the posts seem to assume), denunciations by many media figures, release of the inflammatory email by the student about skinning the strippers (not known until later to be a paraphrase from a book [sic-actually, a parody of American Psycho, studied in class-AMac]), etc. People on campus do talk about the small number of faculty who publicly condemned the players in a rush to judgment, but they are definitely not viewed as a monolithic group.
In terms of public statements by the faculty once questions started to be raised about Nifong's conduct, all I can say from my own view is that [Duke Law School professor] Jim Coleman is a national expert on criminal procedure and has done a great job speaking out on the issue. This struck me as entirely appropriate. I make public statements on issues I know a lot about, that Jim is publicly silent about. Now that the econ department has distributed [ their early January letter ] in support of the return of the accused students, it will be interesting to see if other departments do so, as well.

In an ideal world, where professors from across the political spectrum undertook to speak as "public intellectuals" about matters of concern to the Academy and the Citizenry, this post would be superfluous. While Duke's Hard Left has often been inane, sometimes vicious, and all-too-often disingenuous ( revisionism / critique ), nobody can doubt their willingness to proclaim their beliefs. During the criticial first nine months of the Hoax, it's was the Decent Left, the Center, and the Right that were largely missing from the the fray. Perhaps the Economics Department's welcome-back to the falsely accused students will be the harbinger of a change, as this travesty approaches its paper anniversary.

17 Comments

As an ex-college athelete, I initially beleived this story because I heard these 'types' of stories all the time... not nearly to this extent of course, but stories of minors getting drunk, causing hell, breaking things, engaging in 'unwise' sexual activity, and then getting off scott free because the administration wanted to keep things under wraps.

I was also a grad student at ASU, about every other month a football/basketball athlete was arrested for something or other. The line was always "The university had previously withheld information about other violent violations but recent allegetions have encouraged the university....".

I let my prejudice's of 'fraternity atletics' to assume the worst more than race, but when the DNA evidence started to come up, I realized my error. I would guess that Administration has some reason to beleive the worst case scenario could be accurate, and tried to deflect cricism before it could be piled on.

Personally, if I were an academic President, I would have come down hard simply for the illegality of the party itself, with no comment about the specifics of the case until it had gone to trial.

I think you're being fed a load. I hear the same non-denial denial at my uni. "...many because they were genuinely outraged by what [District Attorney] Nifong said had occurred." If so, why are they silent now when it's butt-obvious to all but the most ideologically deluded that there is no reason for 'genuine outrage' other than what has occurred to the three accused? Where are there retractions or apologies.

Like I said, a load. Sorry if the writer is a friend, but I know a load when I smell (read) one.

I let my prejudice's of 'fraternity atletics' to assume the worst more than race ...

Very many people without that prejudice made the same assumption, because we don't like to believe that DAs accuse people unless they have a case. We like to think that someone would stop that from happening, even if it was only to save themselves from liability.

So here's the state of my prejudices now:

1. In Durham County, at least, the prosecutor's oath to uphold justice isn't worth a paper bag full of diarrhea - and that goes not just for Nifong, but for every single mother's son and daughter in that office.

2. Duke University is named after David Duke. I didn't used to believe that, but in my anger and frustration I'm turning to that conclusion for solace.

3. This kind of thing is going on all the time, unpublicized, and the Nifongs of this world rely on political support to get away with it, and they rely on a politically sympathetic media to make sure they get away with it clean.

4. This is symptomatic of a larger nihilism, and as a prime example I point to Nancy Pelosi, who took an oath that specified duty, allegiance, obligation, and true faith, but the only word she heard was POWER, POWER, POWER.

My initial inclination was also to believe the accusations. I had a less-than-pleasant relationship with jocks on my dorm floor (which got them a command appearance with the dean when the sophomore on the other side complained), and I've known second-hand of fraternity parties where women were paid for sexual services, as a colleague of mine in student government was caught at such a party (and the girl was a local 12th-grader, making it much worse), admitted it was true not only publicly but to me personally, and resigned. Certainly nothing in the original story would have seemed outlandish to the faculty.

In my defense, I didn't believe Tawana Brawley for a minute.

At this point, I think all the sex accusations are crap (allowing minors to have alcohol is a much lesser matter). The extent to which the DA was influenced by race, or by making his rep grandstanding with his big case, or both, scarcely matter relative to his removal from office and rehabilitation of the falsely-accused.

I would suggest that this incident shows the merit of defense counsel, open trials, and cross-examination. I have no doubt that the alternative techniques we use in, ahem, other matters would have obtained splendid confessions by now. Water polo players might stand up to waterboarding, but laxmen, probably not.

JorgXMcKie #2 wrote:

I think you're being fed a load.

No, I found Prof. Doe to be sincere. Further, I suspect he's representative of how most Duke faculty have felt, and behaved. Besides the five faculty mentioned and, now, the 17 Economics professors, Dr. Doe is more forthcoming than his peers--anti-due-process extremists excepted, of course.

why are they silent now when it's butt-obvious to all... that there is no reason for 'genuine outrage'...

Well, that's a good question. Because faculty keep silent, the public still lacks good answers.

Where are there retractions or apologies?

Durham-in-Wonderland gives a clear read on that one. Time after time, being Hard Left means never having to say you're sorry.

AJL #4:

I would suggest that this incident shows the merit of defense counsel, open trials, and cross-examination.

I think the Hoax has significant implications for how our society deals with enemies, quasi-enemies, and people-mistakenly-thought-to-be-enemies. One point brought home by Bill Anderson (e.g. here ) is that DA Nifong's valuing verdicts over justice is not so aberrant in the criminal justice system.

So why expect the dynamics of "absolute power..." to be different elsewhere?

“Conspiracy” is such a hot button, but the Nifong Rape case does fit that word. The stripper isn’t the head of the conspiracy, she only made up the lie to get out of being arrested..again.

Mike Nifong certainly didn’t plan a conspiracy. He went down that road totally ignorant. He saw an opportunity to grand stand a crime he “hoped” really occurred so he could use to grab the media lime light to further his career. Many sexist and racist groups descended unto Durham to grab a piece of the media pie to further their political agendas, But even before the DNA evidence came back, Nifong claimed a “blue wall of silence” even though the boys voluntarily submitted DNA samples and submitted themselves to police interviews lasting over six hours without any lawyers. When the parents recognized the DA wanting to railroad these boys, that’s when the expensive lawyers were called in, but they weren’t called in to defend these boys against the accuser, these lawyers were called in to protect the bys against a rogue DA who had the power of the state of NC behind him.

When the DNA evidence came back not matching anyone on the lacrosse team, this is when Nifong should have tried to calm things, but it was difficult because he had granted of 70 interviews proclaiming the entire Duke Lacrosse team’s guilt and conspiracy to cover heinous crimes. Instead, he further “spun” any information into something that could possibly be plausible, but in order for people to believe his “far-reaching-plausibilities”, he had to hide other evidence. Including ignoring the exculpatory evidence that solidly proves the “prostitute” was lying. At this point weather Nifong’s actions rose to the level of “conspiracy” is questionable, but when he involved Mr. Meehan – manager of the DNA Lab – to break his own lab’s policy to hide exculpatory evidence, this reached the definition of conspiracy.

Nifong seemed to be slipping further down a slippery slope. If he wasn’t forced to recuse himself from the case, it’s not hard to believe that he wouldn’t have correlated the accuser’s story to fit the evidence remaining to create a plausible crime that could possibly be sold to an ignorant jury. The latest version of the “accuser’s” claim explained many holes in Nifong’s case (mustache, ATM pictures, etc…), but it changed the time line so bad that it contradicted statement given by neighbors that night.

What disturbed me most about the faculty reaction has actually been the unwillingness of the hard-left contingent of the Group of 88 to back down now that it is abundantly clear these kids have been railroaded, and increasingly likely the alleged victim is in fact a mentally disturbed liar.

There has, on the contrary, been a bunch of 'yes-but' going on. Check out the apologia issued by one of the Group:

"I am positive I am not the only professor who was and continues to be adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade while also being dismayed by the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13."

"A team of distinguished athletes at an elite and highly respected university hired two local women to strip at a house filled with men (including those underage) who had been drinking too much. That's sleazy, to say the least. That those women were women of color underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation."

So once again it looks like the activist contingent of the left has basically embraced the 'fake but accurate' school of accusation. These particular charges may be false, and their characterization of the event may be misleading (the team didnt intentionally hire 2 black strippers/underage drinking and exotic dancing happens in all kinds of campus settings not exclusively 'elite' social groups by any means), but the 'greater' picture is what is important. The willingness to embrace this kind of thought is ultimately much more dangerous than a rogue prosecutor.

Mark -

I don't think "fake but accurate" quite expresses it; for the heroic Post-Mods of Duke there is no difference between fake and accurate, or between truth and lies. All of these things are trumped by the super-reality of race/gender/class.

This super-reality is the Post-Mod God, and their all-purpose excuse for total intellectual irresponsibility. No matter how wrong they are, no matter how hysterical they get, no matter how nasty and bigoted their rhetoric becomes, at the end of the day the super-reality remains - which proves to them that they were 100% correct all along.

For a prime example, Duke Prof. Karla Holloway of the 88:
Justice inevitably has an attendant social construction. And this parallelism means that despite what may be our desire, the seriousness of the matter cannot be finally or fully adjudicated in the courts. The appropriate presumption of innocence that follows the players, however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts. Judgments about the issues of race and gender that the lacrosse team's sleazy conduct exposed cannot be left to the courtroom. Just as aspects of their conduct that extend into the social realms of character and integrity should not be the parameters of adjudicatory processes, the consequence of that conduct will not be fully resolved within a legal process. Those injured by this affair, including the student and the other young woman who were invited to dance under false pretenses and then racially (at least) abused, as well as Duke's campus and Durham's communities, are bodies left on the line - vulnerable to a social review that has been mixed with insensitive ridicule as well as reasoned empathy. Despite the damaging logic that associates the credibility of a socio-cultural context to the outcome of the legal process, we will find that even as the accusations that might be legally processed are confined to a courtroom, the cultural and social issues excavated in this upheaval linger.
This is someone who is never going to feel the least bit sorry, much less say so.

Mark Buehner,

Judging by the quote in your post--and only by that quote (I have no other information on the matter)-- you seem to be over-reacting.

The person you quoted spoke only of his or her "dismay...of social disparaties" and belief that some people's actions were "sleazy." Why are such opinions so dangerous?

You may have a point, but this quote doesn't seem to back it up.

Glen's subsequent post similarly fails to back up claims with a pertinent quote. The views quoted don't seem to justify his description of them.

Mark #10,

I think you've hit on one of the fascinating aspects of this case. When we encounter an ongoing, polarizing dispute, it's usually a safe bet that each side has some of the right.

The Hoax seems that way, too--at first. But on closer inspection, the seemingly reasonable arguments of the faculty who signed that Listening Statement dissolve into nothing.

The Statement that Profs Davidson (quoted in #8) and Holloway (#9) still support was run because "we [the sponsoring professors] are turning up the volume in a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait." [Presumption of innocence? Possibility of innocence? Respect for Due Process?]

Its points include:

  • thanking protesters "for shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman" [what happened was a party with underage drinking and stripper entertainment, with no sex, no rape, no assault]
  • mirroring concerns about keeping "the young woman herself central to this conversation" [this can only be taken to mean keeping the undoubted merits of the woman's accusations of rape central to this conversation]
  • applauding the claim "that the disaster didn?t begin on March 13th and won?t end with what the police say or the court decides" [Presumption of innocence? possibility of innocence? Respect for Due Process?]

And ends with

  • "To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard." [Reference the posters saying "CASTRATE" and "GET A CONSCIENCE NOT A LAWYER"]

Eighty-eight members of Duke's intellectual community signed this statement. On the basis of their prejudices, they rushed to join bigoted protesters to provide key cover for a corrupt prosecutor who would spend the next nine months trying to railroad three men into jail on false felony charges.

Nine months later, how many of the signatories have retracted their endorsement?

None.

To this day, how many have apologized to the three men they most directly injured, or the forty-five others they groundlessly smeared?

None.

For a point by point dissection of the Cathy Davidson op-ed that Mark Buehner links in #8, see KC Johnson.

I think the faculty Stalinists and reverse-racists of the Hard Left are beyond hope. That so many have tenure will simply be Duke's cross to bear, a reminder through the years of good intentions gone awry.

What's more interesting to me are the actions of all but five of the professors who didn't disgrace themselves by joining the frameup, and who would never stoop so low as to do so. Like Prof. Doe, I think they don't want to serve as lightning rods in this controversy, and hold their tongues (or their keyboards) in public.

Much like, I would suppose, most of Ole Miss' teachers in James Meredith's day. Understandable, yes. Admirable?

AMac,

Thank you for all the information contained in #11, and all the pointers & links.

I am new to this story, not having followed it all, and had never heard of the 88. My interest and involvment was limited, as I said, to Mark Buehner's quotations and his subsequent interpretation of those quotations, which seemed to me to be incongruous.

I have since read the "listening statement." I have to say that based upon your post I was expecting something entirely different.

The intent of the statement seems to me to be to address issues raised by all the noise surrounding the alleged incident and not the incident itself. Unless I am very wrong (& I often am), the listening statement is addressed to those who believe that there are serious racial issues alive in the community & who felt drowned out by all the clamour. The 88 seemed only to be telling those people--minority students, for the most part--that their concerns were being heard and that they, the 88, were acknowledging the legitimacy of those concerns.

I think the crucial point being made was that should the stripper turn out to be an unstable lying sack of sh#t and the prosecuter the same, people should not then assume that all is well and that racial concerns, issues, etc. shouldn't be addressed, are not legitimate or are baseless. I think there is a fear that the backlash against the stripper will assume the form of a belief that the underlying assumptions about the racial divide in America that led people to believe her tale credible will themselves be undermined. The 88 were addressing those fears. In, I think, a quiet and thoughtful manner, despite their silly rethoric about making noise.

But I don't see they have any thing to apologize for. I don't see how they violated the principle of presumption of innocence.

mark,

1. If some professors want to write about the racist, sexist, hegomonistic, and oppresive environment of their university, they can do so.

2. If those professors want to illustrate those general premises by referring to a terrible sex crime that university students just committed, they can do that, too.

3. Since professors aren't naifs, they know that endorsing protestors holding "CASTRATE" and "CONFESS" signs up for the TV cameras will "turn up the heat" on the accused.

4. Unlikely though it seems, it might turn out that the accused students didn't commit the crime, because the crime never happened.

This is, of course, what did happen (excepting the "unlikely" part; many skeptics already suspected a hoax by early April).

This series of events doesn't invalidate Point #1. The professors still profess that it's true. Maybe it is.

These professors have done great harm to their university's students by conflating #2 and #3 with #1.

None of them have had the decency to apologize for #2 or #3. Instead, they claim that protesting generic racism etc. was all they ever intended.

This is dishonest and it is immoral.

Pretty simple, really. More detail here.

AMac,

I think you are stretching things further than they can rightly be stretched with #2 and #3.

Limiting myself to the actual "letter" that was written, I don't see that they are realy using the "incident" to illustrate their general premise.
Clearly the letter is a reaction to a public discussion that was prompted by the alleged incident. But the letter only asserts that the authors are listening to the views of others.

As for #3, it seems to me unfair to claim they are endorsing ALL protesters. I certainly, in my long lifetime, have been to a few protest marches where there were others whose signs reflected views that were not my own. Still, I supported the general causes for which I marched without feeling an obligation to support every single over-the-top view expressed at that same march. Sometime, I have even strongly disagreed with individual speakers at such rallies, but nevertheless felt able to attend without fearing I was supporting every single view expressed.

Apropos of the general topic, i.e. the "hoax" as you call it, did you see that today the 12th person convicted by the Dallas DA office has been exonnerated by DNA evidence. Have prosecutors' perhaps run amok in this country? Should they be reigned in?

AMAC,

Enjoying your posts at DiW.

What has happened here is symptomatic not only of rogue DAs (a nation wide problem) but also people promoted beyond their mental capacity because there are not as many higly intellegent disadvantaged (per capita) as the requirement of "equality of result" demand.

I.e. the ___________ studies departments need to shrink or disappear.

The Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax: A Pro-Due-Process Faculty Member Speaks (Sort of)

What an odd posting.
A bunch of intellectuals sipping tea alone at Duke University while watching re-runs of Hogan's Heroes --- and repeating after Sgt. Schultz... I KNOW NOTHING.

It is going to take more than that professor to re-write history.

You watched back things happen to your students and you did ...nothing.

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