Friday, March 30, 2007

DUPD and “Vigilante” questions

Readers Note: For background to the letter below, see these posts and other posts to which they link:

"Duke's Silence on 'Vigilante' and 'Wanted' posters"

"Letter to DUPD Director Dean"

"To DUPD Director Dean - 3/28/07"


Dear Director Dean:

This letter contains questions concerning DUPD and the false and inflammatory “Vigilante” poster which last spring circulated on campus, directly targeting and endangering Duke students on our Men’s lacrosse team, and also placing at greater risk students who could have been unintended victims of unstable individuals and hate groups incited by the poster to target white members of the lacrosse team.

You know that firsthand because of the work you and DUPD did last spring under very difficult circumstances to provide as safe an environment as possible for students and others on campus, even as vice president for student affairs Moneta was alerting students with a campus-wide email concerning their safety and President Brodhead was adding his name to full-page newspaper ads calling on the public to remain calm and let justice take its course.

Most people admired and were grateful for DUPD’s fine work. I’m one of them. Thank you.

My questions are information seeking only; they imply no criticism of DUPD.

While I’m a tech dummy, tech knowledgeable people say it’s a relatively simple matter to ID the computer used to pull from the face photos of the 43 white lacrosse players which appear on the “Vigilante” poster.

Has DUPD done that? If yes, what can you say publicly about what you learned? If not, can you say why not?

What has DUPD done to investigate the production and distribution on campus of a poster that targeted a particular group of students while heightening the risk for all?

Concerning the March 29 Take Back the Night rally on the Chapel steps, most participants spoke and acted in ways we would both affirm. But there were, as you know, a good number of “activists” there who engaged in actions described by one of the TBTN organizers, Geoffrey Lorenz, in an April 2 letter to the Raleigh News & Observer in which he said in part:

As one of the organizers of the March 29 Take Back the Night (TBTN) march and speak-out at Duke University, I want to clarify that we did not plan, nor do we endorse, the distribution of names and pictures of members of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

The distribution of the pictures, the targeting of the lacrosse team, and the violence implicit in the defacement of the pictures are nothing less than violations of the space that TBTN exists to create. The event is neither a protest of the kind we've witnessed recently, a forum for accusation nor a place to target and defame.
What was DUPD’s role with regard to TBTN?

I have one final question, but I want to be as clearly understood as possible when I ask it. So this brief, italicized preface:

I usually avoid getting into matters in the “rumor” category. But the question I’m about to ask has been so frequently talked about on campus, in the community, and at blogs that I don’t think I’m spreading a rumor by asking it.

I’d be surprised if you and most others at Duke and elsewhere who have followed the Hoax and frame-up haven’t heard the rumor already, perhaps many times.

It is that a Duke employee, “free-lancing” and with no University foreknowledge whatsoever, is the prime producer of the endangering “Vigilante” poster; and that the employee did so, at least to a significant extent, using University IT resources, in particular for pulling the students’ face photos from

My question: Has any senior Duke administrator asked DUPD to determine whether there's any truth to the rumor?

My hope is that Duke will refute the rumor.

If it turns out part or the entire rumor is true, the University can take appropriate action.

As I did with your response to the “Wanted” poster questions, I’ll publish your response to the “Vigilante” questions in full and leave it free of my commentary for at least a day.

Once more in closing: I’m asking questions for information with no imputation regarding DUPD, whose professionalism I’ve admired as a Duke student, parent, contract employee and Durham resident.


John in Carolina.

Cc: Robert Steel, chair, board of trustees, D U
Richard Brodhead, president, DU
John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, DU
Larry Moneta, vice president for students affairs, DU
Aaron Graves, associate vice president for campus safety and security, DU
David Jarmul, associate vice president of news and communications


kbp said...

Good to hear all went well on the trip and I hope to see a response soon from Director Dean.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but certainly worthy of JinC's query:


AMac said...

Respectful and concisely-phrased questions. Based on Director Dean's honorable response to your earlier set, there is every reason to hope that he will shed some light on these issues.

Anonymous said...

Dean's attorney(ies) will want to limit what Dean says. Don't expect "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." You are to be congratulated for the tact and politeness with which you framed your questions. It's a shame the other side doesn't have even a tenth of your class.

whippersnapper at Liestoppers said...

John, my hope is that you'll receive something more than a cursory answer, but unless your questions were accompanied by a subpoena I doubt you'll get a real answer.

Cedarford said...

A good, measured letter. I agree that any response will be vetted by Duke lawyers. That's just reality. But info on if any investigation was held would be helpful.

I'll add that if one person, even one Duke employee just created it with the intent of showing it to a few friends for liberal "ha-has" it would not be as important.

But beyond the lone creator - then you have the poster being printed in large quantities (several hundred to over one thousand) by other parties (likely on Duke printing resources) then distributed on campus by the same organized parties.

Who were the parties beyond the lone creator?
Were they concentrated in a single registered on-campus group, or by students and employees from a particular Department. Or by a hybrid organization with members inside and outside Duke (Ubuntu?).

N&O reports they obtained the poster - not from a single "creator", but from one of dozens of Vigilante posters they observed being stuck under windshields in a Duke parking lot by "a group of activists".
And N&O then used the poster along with very biased early coverage to help ignite a national firestorm and to frame the matter as the collective guilt of the 46 for involvement and refusing to come forward.

While there are cherished measures of academic free speech involved, some would say - I have no doubt that limits clearly exist in using "wanted posters" to specifically target any group of persons or a single individual that has attracted ire..

Hopefully DUPD response will give info past the naming the name (if they know it - and one employee did appear to suddenly move on from a new job Duke created FOR him after only a year) - for legal reasons getting an actual name is just giving a better picture.


1. Yes, they investigated it.
2. Yes they investigated based on student, even admin or Board of Trustees complaint.
3. Yes, they have a good idea of who created it and there (a)Have already been repercussions;(b)No repercussions or discipline pending completion of other legal process.
4. Yes, they have a good idea who and under what authorized or unauthorized use of resources the Vigilante posters were printed at Duke. Or - no they don't know.
5. Yes, they have a good idea of which activists distributed the poster and can characterize them as belonging to an internal Duke group or not. NO, they have no idea who distributed it...they were not asked to investigate that aspect.
6. Yes, on whether or not activities involving the Vigilante poster on Duke campus have been examined as being, on not being, protected academic free speech.