Thursday, July 06, 2006

Duke lacrosse: Prof who misrepresented Coach K responds

Reader’s Note:

Welcome visitors from Court TV, Duke Basketball Report, Friends of Duke University, Free Republic, History News Network, and Johnsville. If I’ve missed some blogs linking, please let me know.

If you’re not familiar with Duke professor of cultural anthropology Orin Starn’s misrepresentation of remarks by Duke’s Men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski go here for background.


This post contains: 1) a copy of the email I sent Starn yesterday, July 5; 2) a copy of Starn’s reply which I received yesterday afternoon; and 3) my response to Starn’s email.

Item 1) my email to Starn - - -

Dear Professor Starn:

I blog as John in Carolina and read your Raleigh N&O op-ed, “Let’s Talk Sports.” I’ve just posted a response, "Duke lacrosse: "Prof misrepresents Coach K."

Surely we can agree that at his recent press conference Coach K said: “The racial aspect of this, in some ways, has been the most sensitive thing and some people have tried to create something that isn’t there in our community.”

Could Coach K have been any clearer when he said the “racial aspect of [the Duke lacrosse case is], in some ways, its most sensitive aspect?”

And after reading Houston Baker’s letter, listening to the rants of some Duke faculty and the New Black Panthers, and watching DA Nifong at work, who doubts that some people have exploited a terrible situation by creating “something that isn’t there?”

Yet you told N&O readers: “It's hard to understand how Coach K or anyone else could not see a ‘racial aspect’ here.”

Frankly, Professor Starn, it’s hard to understand how you could have misrepresented what Coach K actually said, even allowing for your bias toward him.

Whatever the explanation, you owe Coach K an apology and N&O readers a correction.

In the coming days I’ll be posting on other parts of your op-ed.

In the meantime, why do you single Mike Nifong out for resignation? He had so many enablers. Shouldn’t they be held to account?



Item 2) Starn’s email to me - - -

Hi, John:

I really disagree about this. Coach K was saying that the "racial aspect" of the case was brought in by people (I guess the media, professors, or others, although I'm not sure who he meant) trying to "create something that isn't there." That he says he thinks it's now a "sensitive thing" (as, of course, it is) does not take away from the fact that he was saying it was made up from nothing in the first place. In fact, he went on directly afterwards to talk about Durham's "excellent" race relations, as if to underline his assertion that race was not a factor in the case. I don't know if Coack K saw that statement, but it reminded me of when Joe Cheshire said at the courthouse press conference words to the effect that race was absolutely no factor in the case. The charges of sexual assault may indeed not be true as I said in the article (although we are now only getting the defense version), a sadly terrible false accusation if it is so. But for Coach K, Cheshire, or anyone to say there is no race element in the case is just wrong, at least if the reports of what was said at the party are true (and I suspect the defense would have denied them by now if they were not, although I could be wrong). For me, this is more than a matter of just back-and-forth argument about the case. If students at an all-white Duke party are using racial epithets as it appears, it suggests that we need to do more work around race relations, as opposed to assume that things are fixed already.

As to judging who has acted badly in this case and who is not, I want for my part to hear the defense case -- and the testimony of the woman making the charges -- before making up my mind. I do think, if the charges prove false, that Nifong bears a central responsibility. He is our chief law enforcement officer -- and he told us all in no uncertain times and in many forums that the lacrosse guys were guilty. Although there may be lessons to be learned all around, it does seem to me that his role, especially if he knew otherwise, is probably the single most problematic one. Contrary to what some have suggested, neither Houston Baker nor the AAS faculty in that add said that the lacrosse players were guilty (and, in fact, both mentioned that we'd have to see what happened) -- and in that sense were more cautious than Nifong.

all the best, Orin

Item 3) My response to Starn’s email to me - - -

Dear Professor Starn:

Thank you for your response yesterday to my email. I hope by now you’ve also read the JinC post, whose URL I included in my email.

Coach K said:

“The racial aspect of this, in some ways, has been the most sensitive thing and some people have tried to create something that isn’t there in our community.”
You presented to N&O readers the following as representing what Coach K had said:
“Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”
Let’s look at what you had to do with Coach K’s statement in order to create what you presented to N&O readers.

First, you took Coach K's unambiguous acknowledgement of "The racial aspect of this" and substituted in its place something entirely different: "Those who see a 'racial aspect.'" (bolds mine)

Next, you withheld from readers the fact that Coach K had said the racial aspect was, in some respects, the case's "most sensitive" aspect. (bold mine)

Only by eliminating Coach K’s unambiguous acknowledgement of “The racial aspect;” substituting for his words your words that made it appear he was saying some people were merely perceiving a racial aspect (“Those who see…”); and withholding from readers the information that the coach had said the racial aspect was in some ways the case’s “most sensitive” aspect were you then able to present to N&O readers as what Coach K had said: “Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”

You misrepresented what Coach K said and it’s very hard, Professor Starn, to see how your misrepresentation could be anything other than deliberate.

After misrepresenting Coach K, you went on and falsely accused him of “not see[ing] a ‘racial aspect’ here.”

You owe the coach an apology and N&O readers a correction.

Is your treatment of Coach K’s statement typical of how you treat raw data when you prepare lectures, articles and books? Is what you did accepted practice for Duke faculty? If you can't speak for the broader faculty, than is what you did accepted practice in the Department of Cultural Anthropology?

You know those are important questions. I hope you'll answer them. I also plan to ask them of others.

I’ve said what I feel needs to be said at this time about your misrepresentation and false accusation.

If you care to respond, I’ll find a way to post your email but other than referring readers back to what I say here and my posts yesterday and today, I don’t see any need to get into extended and tangential discussions.

I raised a clearly defined, important matter and called it to you attention and the attention of readers.

What I’ve said and what you published in the N&O and your response(s) here will be in the blogosphere, and available for anyone to look at and make whatever judgments they care to make.

Here’s a link to today’s post:

During the next few weeks, I’ll be posting on others parts of your N&O op-ed, your email of yesterday, and your writings about Duke, particularly those relating to the lacrosse case.

I’ll send you links and will share with readers any responses you care to make.




wts said...

Prof, isn't it people leaping to judgement without facts that "begins" a number of prejudices, be they race, guilt or innocence. Isn't it people insinuating judgement, such as the crime-stoppers ad, or, even that which you signed, again, without all the facts, that teaches so many people to judge first before learning the facts?

Facts are we don't have all the facts, and in fact we probably won't have all the facts.

But, in your role as a leader and role model for students in my opinion you could become a real leader by stepping up and indicating that you yourself may have caused a number of different prejudices and you apologize. You could teach your students that prejudice (race, guilt or innocence, etc) or the insinuation of prejudice isn't a step up the ladder or improving race relations, or to an adherence to our shared ideals of innocent until proven guilty.

Tate Scott
EK Powe Elementary
Trinity '75
MBA '78

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tate Scott's comment entirely. The professor needs to apologize to Coach K, the Duke community, and the N&O readers. This is the only thing that will make it right. While he is at it, Professor Starn might want to express some regrets about signing that chronicle ad too. That was a perfect expression of "reverse racicm". It is not too late to aplogize and show the way for the other 87 to follow. We, in the Duke/Durham community, will gladly accept any apology offered, and we will gladly put this behind us.

wts said...

For the record, I was incorrect to insinuate that Prof signed an ad. In a private email to me he very clearly stated that he did not sign an ad, and I offered my apology. I double checked the AAAS ad and he is no where to be found. My public apologies Professor for insinuating otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Holy crapola, where do you begin?

One bete noir of the PC set, the "alleged epithets" that have not been denied.

That, if it happened, is not against the law. Good thing for the Rap and Black Comedy Def Jam circuit!

Other than that, it's like untangling spagetti after a 5 year old worked on it.

Is that how they teach Duke prof's to reason and write?



Anonymous said...

John in Carolina once again demonstrates why those interested in the Duke lacrosse case must read his posts. The professor needs to explain why he misquoted Coach K.

Anonymous said...


Did he misquote Coach K or did he just passively reconstruct him in a post modern de-referentialized fashion in a non Western/centric neu-logic fashion?

Heck, without the proper Ph.D. how are we to know?


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