Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Tragedy at Duke: Part I

A KC Johnson post today provides a detailed, gripping account of how key Duke University administrators acted when confronted with what was on its face a wildly improbable story involving the gang-rape of a black exotic dancer by a group of white Duke students during a party at a University owned house.

Johnson’s account is based “on e-mail or personal discussions with more than two dozen participants in the campus events" he describes.

Today’s post is the first of a two-post series. The second will appear tomorrow. Johnson posts here, usually just after midnight.

Most of Johnson's post is a day-by-day account with probing commentary concerning what key Duke administrators knew, did and didn’t do beginning on March 16, when police first searched the house, and the three Lacrosse captains living there provided them with extraordinary cooperation, including signed statements and voluntary submission to DNA testing.

Johnson's day-by-day account takes readers up to March 26, one day after the Raleigh News & Observer published it's grossly biased, inflammatory and now thoroughly discredited “anonymous interview” story.

Johnson reports new information concerning events and individuals, including a March 25 meeting attended by some Duke administrators and a large group of lacrosse parents. We also learn more about Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek's role in “arranging” for at least some players to be represented by an attorney of her choosing. What she did seems very questionable.

I hope Wasiolek speaks publicly concerning what Johnson reports. The parents of current Duke students should have been informed months ago of just what it was she did concerning the players. The parents of future Duke students and the public that’s followed the Hoax Case will also be interested to know what Wasiolek did.

For me, the post’s “biggest bombshell” was the report that at least some Duke administrators told some of the players not to tell their parents what was going on.

I hope when I finish this post and go to Duke University’s website there’s already a news release there at least responding to Johnson’s “don’t tell parents” report. If not, I plan to contact Duke News and ask for a statement.

Some of what Johnson’s sources provided is “old news.” For example, President Brodhead refused on March 25 to meet with the players’ parents. But that news still shocks.

What’s more, it raises a very important question Brodhead and the PR people Duke’s retained to “help us get past this” won’t answer: Just why did Brodhead refuse to meet with the parents?

While Johnson's is a “can’t stop reading” post, it’s also almost physically painful to learn that top Duke administrators – President Brodhead, Executive Vice president Tallman Trask III, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, Athletic Director Joe Alleva, and others - initially recognized the hoax for what it was, but nevertheless, over the course of many days and for reasons they’ve never explained, frequently acted in ways that at the least enabled the witch hunt and its monumental injustices.

Based on the information Johnson’s sources have provided, it’s even reasonable to ask whether Brodhead’s and other administrators’ actions didn’t, in fact, help make the witch hunt and its injustices inevitable.

Brodhead now tells everyone they shouldn't look back at events at Duke last March and thereafter. He wants us all to “look to the future.”

Johnson’s post makes it easy to understand why Brodhead doesn’t want us looking back. It also helps us understand why Duke’s trustees, top administrators and alumni association officers and directors are so reluctant to talk about what the University did and didn't do in response to the Hoax.

The events that have flowed from the initial false witness have rightly been described as a tragedy for the forty-six victimized students and their families.

Brodhead acknowledges there's been a tragedy at Duke. He’s even assigned himself a role: the well-intentioned but befuddled ditherer new to tragedy and all its complexities.

But Johnson doesn’t let Brodhead walk away with that role.

In the tragedy Johnson describes Brodhead is Cassius, the students and their families are the assassinated Caesar, and the rest of “the Brodhead team” are the other senators,not one of whom evidences any of Brutus’ redeeming qualities.

Back on September 9 I put up a post that included the following:

Brodhead likes to tell alumni groups and others he's been "very fair" to the lacrosse players.


How was Brodhead's withholding important information concerning the players’ cooperation fair to them?

How was it fair to any of us seeking to learn as much truth as possible about the situation?

How was it fair to Duke University or the community?

Whose interests were served by Brodhead's and his top administrators' withholding of that information from the public on Mar. 25?
Johnson’s post revives those questions. More importantly, it takes us closer to the answers.

Advice to Duke: Duck, cover and silence isn’t going to get you “past this.” Start answering the questions. Begin making things as right as you can.

Endorse Professor Coleman’s proposal that Nifong step aside and let a special prosecutor take over the case. Condemn the racists who threatened Reade Seligmann on May 18. Apologize to Seligmann and his family for not doing that when he was first threatened.

There’s much more you need to do but those actions will be important initial steps. They’ll be welcomed by people who love Duke and value fairness.

Words to KC Johnson: You’ve rendered another extraordinary service to those falsely accused; to those who seek as much justice as it’s possible to obtain now; and to those who want Duke to get “past this” with the openness, truth and courage that befit a great university.

Final word to readers: You're right. I plan to post tomorrow on Johnson's second post. I can't wait to read it.



Anonymous said...

Since the beginning, brodhead has refused to meet with the parents. " Don't tell your parents" until 23 March on the way to give D.N.A. at the Durham facility without legal representation, to which all the non-seniors suscribed.

wts said...

"For me, the post’s “biggest bombshell” was the report that at least some Duke administrators told some of the players not to tell their parents what was going on."

Unfortunately this has been known for a while - and like your other comments, it still doesn't stop the sting.

Anonymous said...

"...the students and their families are the assassinated Caesar..." Not sure that is exactly the role into which they would want to be cast...

Anonymous said...

As I mentioned on Johnson's post, we all need to be prepared for the spin job thats coming. Bty, what Duke site are you referring to??

don t.

Anonymous said...

Further, can you delete the 6:30 post??

don t.

Anonymous said...

One of the important things you learn in life is to figure out who people are repping when they claim to be looking after your interests.

Easy to do when buying a used car.

Not so easy when being offered a used lawyer by a school official.


JWM said...

To Anon @7:32,

The matters you mention will "grow in importance."

By that I mean, for example, that from the "don't tell your parents" matter, lawsuits will almost surely result.

I also think it's fair to ask whether at least in part Brodhead refused to meet with the parents because he didn't want to answer a question he knew the parents would ask: "Why did Duke administrators tell our sons not to tell us what was happening?"

To wtc,

True, assertions about "don't tell your parents" have been "out there."
I've given them some credence but have never been willing to say to readers," I think it happened."

Today a blogger with KC Johnson's professional training, experience, credibility reported it in a post he based “on e-mail or personal discussions with more than two dozen participants in the campus events."

For me that took "don't tell your parents" to a new and much greater level of credibility.

That's why, for me, it was a "bombshell statement."

I've appreciated your informed, incisive comments here at JinC and at other blogs.

I hope you keep commenting.

Anon@ 8:55 pm,

Can we agree they never wanted to be treated in such ways that people who supported them could reasonably and metaphorically describe their treatment as "thrown under the bus" or "assassinated Caesar?"

My hunch is we do but I don't want to presume so I put it as a question.

To Don't at 9:27 and 9:29 pm,

On the spin job I'm sorry to say you are very probably right.

Re: the Duke site. I'll post on that tomorrow by 5 pm. The short: If you type in Duke University you get to DU's home page where there's a search box.

On delete 6:30 pm - It's done. Sorry about those spammers.

To AC,

Re: "when being offered a used lawyer by a school official."

You're bang on.

Part of what make's the "used lawyer" so "sticky" for Duke and Wasliowek is that lawyer's keep billing records, they tell secretaries to call clients, they meet with clients, etc.

So there'll be records and witnesses if the Dean did what Johnson reports she did, something I don't for a minute doubt.

Once it’s established she did “make arrangements” some huge questions come into play. Did she tell the student”(s) parent(s) what she was doing? It doesn’t sound like she did. If not, why not?

Thank you all for commenting.


Anonymous said...

jwm - re:855 - just meant Caesar's pretty much portrayed as having had it coming; you probably wouldn't go to a LAXer and say "you're just like Caesar!" and have him appreciate it ;) (especially since, given the academics reported in the Coleman report, he *would* get it)

JWM said...


You make a strong case and you work in some humor, too.

I think I should concede.

I just wish I could think of an appropriate Shakespearian quote with which to make my concession.

I'll leave the post as is but the next time I use an extended metaphor I'll think of you and be more careful.



BTW - KC's second post is up.

Anonymous said...

30 November: brodhead has refused to talk,meet or address this with the parents on any terms.Duke has not met with anyone.

AMac said...

On-point comments, J-in-C.

Those of us following the Hoax are witnesses to a revolutionary change in journalism, in real time. I'll offer the opinion that since the events of March and April the Brodhead administration has figured that the passage of time will allow for multiple, conflicting views of their performance. That most interested people would end up throwing up their hands, saying "So many details! So many allegations and countercharges! Who really knows what happened, so who can sit in judgement of the admisistration's performance?"

Sometimes the traditional press goes after people and institutions that take this route. But look no further than the softball pitches of the New York Times and the New Yorker for counterexamples.

Web-logs and in particular K.C. Johnson have wrecked Brodhead's 'hire a PR firm, stay on message, tough it out' strategy.

Too many facts are known, and many of the competing narratives have fallen by the wayside, abandoned for being unsustainable. In other words, false. Johnson has benefitted from a virtuous cycle of his own creation. By stating facts soberly and evaluating narratives as an academic (in the best sense of the word), Johnson has given bit players who know some small thing the opportunity to come forward and contribute their knowledge. Parents who didn't call the NYT switchboard to speak with Duff Wilson did email Johnson with their accounts of meetings with Duke administrators. As Johnson's narrative becomes more complete and more key junctures are highlighted, additional participants realize they hold important information, and in some cases are being played for patsies--and then they step forward.

With Johnson's last two posts, Brodhead's maneuvering space just got much, much more constricted. When he resigns, will he lash out at Johnson and his other web-log tormentors? Or will he belatedly separate himself from the crusade of his hard-left colleagues, and apologize for his part in enabling D.A. Nifong's abuses?

K.C. Johnson deserves a Pulitzer Prize, actually a less tainted version of same. He's shown what citizen journalism should look like. We'll see how many people take notice.

kbp said...

Thanks John

I found your post here added to KC's blog quite well.

Pleasure to read!


Anonymous said...

You accuse Brodhead of withholding important information about he players cooperating with the police, but if you look at the videotape of his March 25 press conference, which is on the WRAL website, you will see that he did tell everyone that the players had cooperated with the police, so your accusation is false.