Readers’ note: If you’re not familiar with what people refer to as “the Duke faculty’s Group of 88’s ‘listening’ statement,” please read this post.
Karla FC Holloway
William R. Kenan Professor of English
Dear Professor Holloway:
Since April 6 when you, other faculty, and various academic departments and programs sponsored a full page Chronicle ad called “the ‘listening’ statement,” I’ve read a number of your statements in media and your recent article, "The Cultural Value of Sport: Title IX and Beyond."
They’ve helped me understand what you see as your rights, your victimization, and the shortcomings of other people and Duke University.
But your statements and article say almost nothing about your duties as a Duke faculty member. Nor do they say anything about what you, as a faculty representative on President Brodhead’s Campus Cultural Initiative committee, see as your faculty colleagues’ duties.
I use duties in the common dictionary sense of things one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.
Concerning faculty duties, the ad says its faculty sponsors are “listening [to] the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism.” That’s followed by students’ statements, mostly anonymous, including this one:
“Being a big, black man, it’s hard to walk anywhere at night, and not have a campus police car slowly drive by me.”It’s true that at night campus police cars drive slowly by big, black men. We’ve both seen them do it.
But we also know that at night Duke police cars drive slowly by small white women, elderly Asian couples, Hispanics and grandparents of every ethnicity holding their grandchildren’s hands.
Duke police are watching out for all of us regardless of our size, race, or gender. To do that, they need to see us and any threats that might be behind or about us. So they “slowly drive by” us.
Responsible adults would explain all of that to the “big, black man.” Who would leave him seeing a racial aspect in a police practice that has none? The student’s misperception doesn’t help him or the police who seek to protect him. In fact, it makes serious misunderstandings between them more likely.
Didn’t you, as a faculty member, have a duty to tell the student why the campus police drive slowly by him at night? Didn’t your “listening” statement colleagues have that same duty?
I hope you agree it was a failure of duty to advertise the student’s misperception in The Chronicle under any circumstances, but especially so at a tense time when some on campus were circulating “vigilante” posters targeting Duke students and others were encouraging them.
Reade Seligmann was one of the students targeted by the “vigilante” posters.
On May 18 Seligmann was again targeted when racists twice shouted threats at him. The first threats occurred as he walked to Durham’s County Courthouse and included shouts of “Justice will be done, Rapist.” Then, within the courtroom and before the judge entered, there were more threats including: “There’s a dead man walking.”
The faculty, as far as I know, was silent at the time and has been so since. But surely you agree the faculty has a duty to speak out when something like the events of May 18 happen?
If the faculty remains silent about those events, what kind of campus culture can it provide students?
I’ve heard some of your colleagues say they believe President Brodhead had a duty to speak out at the time and should do so now.
I agree but that doesn’t lessen in any way the duty the faculty has to speak out as well, does it?
I hold two degrees from the University and blog at www.johnincarolina.com. I’ve included this letter in a post. Here’s the link:
I look forward to your response. I will post in full a response of up to about 1500 words.
Thank you for your attention to this letter.
John in Carolina