Last Spring Duke student’s newspaper, The Chronicle, did some fine reporting on what was then called “the Duke lacrosse case;” something we now recognize was a vicious hoax that’s injured many innocent people and whose full damage we can't yet tally.
Now another year's news and editorial teams are at The Chronicle giving us their latest on the case/hoax. Beneath the headline, “Research reveals impact of lax scandal on Duke's image,” we read:
For months, allegations of rape surrounding the men's lacrosse team splashed across the headlines of the country's most prominent publications, from Newsweek to The New York Times.Research acquired by The Chronicle? What could that be?
But according to research recently acquired by The Chronicle, most alumni and the larger public have since rebounded from the negative impact of the controversy, giving Duke an overwhelmingly positive favorability rating.
And how did The Chronicle acquire that research in time to publish it just as Duke’s trustees are arriving on campus for a weekend meeting?
The Chronicle doesn’t say, but it does disclose this:
Commissioned by the University's office of public affairs, the study was drawn from two sets of data collected in late April and mid-June to analyze the effects of the controversy on public impressions of Duke.OK, we now know the "research" was commissioned by the University’s office of public affairs.
Researchers compiled data from 786 and 801 telephone interviews conducted in April and June, respectively.
But The Chronicle doesn’t say how it got its hands on the “research.” I guess journalists have to protect their sources.
Still, did The Chronicle uncover the “research” it reports as a result hard-nosed digging? Or was The Chronicle fed a selective leak from an “anonymous source high up in the Brodhead administration?”
The Chronicle leaves its faithful readers in what I've heard the University’s office of public affairs Senior Vice President John Burness call a “quandary.”
The Chronicle moves on and reports :
"The overall conclusion that we came to was that this ultimately was not an issue of Duke University's reputation," said Brian Hardwick, vice president for Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, the firm hired to conduct the research.Strong approval? What does that mean?
The study showed that as early as late April, alumni-and to a lesser extent, the public-displayed strong approval of Duke despite the negativity of March's media blitz.
The Chronicle provides many statistical data of which these seem strongest and most relevant regarding Duke alumni:
Although there was a greater than 5 percent margin of error for some statistics, the "directional trends" in the data between the two months confirmed the study's conclusions, Hardwick added.But alas, The Chronicle gives no breakdown between the percentage of alum “very favorable” and the percentage “somewhat favorable.”
In the April results, 97 percent of alumni respondents rated Duke in the "Top 2 Favorability" choices-meaning they felt "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" toward the University.
By June, the Top 2 Favorability among alumni rose to 98 percent.
If The Chronicle “dug,” did it fail to uncover that information? If it relied on source “feeding,” did its source decline to provide the information? Did The Chronicle even ask?
We have no answers to any of those questions.
And what do "very favorable" and "somewhat favorable" mean in the context of Duke and the hoax?
I know many alum who are "somewhat favorable" about Duke and think Brodhead "threw the lacrosse team under the bus." They're "somewhat favorable" about Duke even as they're appalled by the faculty's failure to assert reason and wise leadership in the face of a wildly improbable hoax.
I also know many alum who are "very favorable" about Duke but think the trustees need to replace Brodhead because, among other things, he "threw the lacrosse team under the bus." They also worry about the faculty's failure to assert reason and wise leadership in the face of a wildly improbable hoax.
And what’s this The Chronicle tells us about favorability among alums rising from 97 to 98 percent?
In a “research study” The Chronicle reports has a “greater than 5 percent margin of error for some statistics,” was there any real difference between 97 and 98 percent?
Was “the [rise] to 98 percent” anything more than a source/PR hype point The Chronicle swallowed “whole hog and biscuit,” and afterwards “passed” to readers?
The Chronicle reports at least one top Duke administrator felt some sense of relief when he learned of the “research.” :
"I must confess, I felt some sense of relief," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, of the earliest results. "On one level, you're encouraged, and on another level, I don't think you can ever feel, after what happened, complacent or confident."The Chronicle goes on to report Duke President Richard H. Brodhead’s reaction to the “research” :
"People have voiced a wide range of feelings to me very candidly," President Richard Brodhead said. "I have found, however, a wide level of recognition that the University is taking this seriously and in a balanced way. And I was interested to see that reflected in the research."”People have voiced a wide range of feelings to me very candidly.”
People have also asked Brodhead some very important direct questions, which he won’t answer. Here are a few of them:
Why, President Brodhead, did you say nothing on May 18 when racists repeatedly screamed “Justice will be done, Rapist” at a Duke student, Reade Seligmann, as he walked to the Durham County Courthouse?
Why, President Brodhead, did you say nothing on May 18 when racists in the courtroom shouted death threats at Reade Seligmann? You haven’t forgotten “Dead man walking.”
Why, President Brodhead, have you said nothing critical of the Raleigh News & Observer for its publication and distribution of over 200,000 copies of the “vigilante poster” containing face-photos of 43 white Duke lacrosse players; the distribution occurring after the N&O learned that the posters would add to the very serious physical danger the players faced?
Why, President Brodhead, your silence in the face of racism and danger directed at Duke students.
Why, President Brodhead, your silence now when you were so quickly and unconditionally apologetic to a 911 caller whose identity we were told you didn’t know; and whose accusations were disputed then as they are now?
What, President Brodhead, Vice President Burness and Chronicle staffers, are polls telling you about those questions?
Update: KC Johnson has another fine post today. KC looks at what Brodhead calls "the balance" he's shown when discussion lacrosse matters (KC refutes that claim). KC also demonstrates the imbalance in other aspects of Duke's response to the hoax