Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What happened at Duke's Alumni site?

Readers' Note:

For background on the email letter below, see a JinC post, "Duke Alumni site hacked?" and two research posts by historian and blogger Robert KC Johnson, "Justify or Retract" and "In denial."


President Tom C. Clark
Duke Alumni Association

Dear President Clark:

I'm a DAA member, hold two degrees from the university and blog at

I was surprised and disappointed by "Lacrosse Responses: A Few Key Points," particularly by those talking points appearing to endorse President Brodhead's views that the students indicted by DA Nifong should be tried and there is nothing Duke can or should do about the matter.

Many alums reject Brodhead's views. Our reasons are explicated in two research documents historian Robert KC Johnson recently published: "Justify or Retract" and "In Denial."

Johnson considered Brodhead's views in light of important legal, political, social and higher ed precedents. He concluded Brodhead's views are counter to hard-won rights and standards Americans cherish.

Regarding DAA's talking points, Johnson notes " [they suggest] professors and academic leaders must remain silent amidst procedural irregularities by local prosecutors. Such 'talking points,' of course, would repudiate 80-plus years of the history of higher education, dating back to [then Professor] Felix Frankfurter's public protests against the Sacco and Vanzetti case, and would effectively condemn the thousands of brave professors and academic leaders who stood up against the actions of corrupt Deep South prosecutors in the late 1950s and early 1960s".

Acceptance of Brodhead's views means we will not advocate for what Duke Law Professor James A. Coleman believes is a proper response to the investigative and legal travesties that led to the students' indictments.

From Coleman's June 13 letter to the Raleigh N&O:

Durham District Attorney Michael Nifong should ask the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor for the rape case against three Duke lacrosse players and then remove himself and his office from further involvement. This is the only way to restore some degree of public confidence in the handling of the case. Up to now, virtually everything that Nifong has done has undermined public confidence in the case"
Endorsement of Brodhead’s views means remaining silent even as we know the truth of what Coleman goes on to say:
According to the police account of the identification … the police not only failed to include people they knew were not suspects among the photographs shown the woman, they told the witness in effect that there would be no such "fillers" among the photographs she would see.

This strongly suggests that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice."
Who doubts Coleman is describing a frame-up?

Months after the events, Nifong's principal investigator, Durham Police Sgt. Gottlieb, produced from two pages of handwritten notes thirty-two pages of typed, single space, detailed "evidence" he'd collected.

Gottleib's "notes" are the frame-up's "exclamation point."

Why would alums reject Coleman's solution and instead endorse Brodhead's views?

And why would DAA do likewise?

Professor Johnson is certain DAA's talking points are "repeats" of Brodhead’s views.

Did the talking points just "land" on DAA's site as a result of someone's "good intentions?"

Or are they there as a result of the considered judgment of DAA's officers, directors and executive director?

I appreciate the attention you and others who lead DAA will give this letter and my questions.

I'll post your response in full at I'll also post responses, if any, I receive from others to whom this letter is copied.

I trust you'll keep my email address in confidence.



cc’s to DAA officers, directors, and executive director


Anonymous said...

Nice letter. If you get a response, it will only be the
party line from Mr. Clark. Expect nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Above: That will only show how much they "really" care about the alumni. I predict it will not be too long before the alumni discover what they are dealing with. These are smart "Duke educated" people. They can give “benefit of the doubt” a chance for a while. But after a while, and especially with the mounting evidence, they are also capable of seeing what is really going on behind the scenes.

I expect, just about these days, we are reaching a turning point. The more silence from the administration and more “party line” from the DAA, the more suspicions will be raised in the minds of the alumni. Eventually, it will become a “lose-lose” strategy; it cannot be sustained. They better start working on their excuses/explanations on why they are doing what they are doing! Why did they abandon as basic a tenet as “innocent until proven guilty!” What was the end-game in their heads? Offering sacrifices to the gods of Durham so that the rest of the Duke could be saved from their wrath? You see, it doesn’t work. Nobody buys this nonsense.

tom 1973 said...

i doubt that you will receive anything but a pc response. i recently sent a letter to pres. brodhead concerned that duke's "good name" was being tarnished by law professor chemerinsky's (?sp.)involvement in the valerie plame lawsuit against vp cheney et. al.. the response from the pr office was that all duke alumni should be proud to have such a distinguished constitutional scholar among the faculty. not so with this alum.

Anonymous said...

...duke's "good name" was being tarnished by law professor chemerinsky's (?sp.)involvement in the valerie plame lawsuit

So why didn't the good professor reveal himself as genuinely interested in civil and judicial rights by defending the Duke 3 against an oppressive and tyrannizing prosecution?

This professor recently was given an award; but perhaps the award ought really to have gone to Professor Coleman, the ONLY ONE of the Duke Law faculty to speak out against the atrociously illegal procedures in this case; in fact the ONLY ONE at the law school entirely to do so.

(NOT ONE law student has spoken out, although they have protested against other perceived injustices, as at Gitmo; and even though the incoming class of 2007 was the recipient of a lecture by Darryl Hunt about the need for lawyers to "do what's right". I guess everyone must have slept through Hunt's presentation.)