Monday, May 14, 2007

“Can Brodhead Survive?”

We’ve just ended a Duke Commencement weekend during which, at various social events, I got to speak with a mix of people, including old friends and other folks I was meeting for the first time.

What they all had in common was some connection to Duke: students, parents, grandparents, many young people including brothers, sisters and friends of graduates, “old family friends” of graduates (“I remember the night she was born. ”), some faculty and a few administrators, none senior.

Some people were in Durham to help celebrate the graduation of the first member of their family to graduate Duke; others were there to see a third or fourth generation “Duke family” member process into Wallace Wade Stadium.

Most of the conversations revolved around pride in the graduates, “old stories” recalled and laughed at, future plans, and fondness and appreciation for Duke. The Hoax was not mentioned or if it was, it was only in passing.

But there were also times when conversations focused on aspects of the Hoax. I never brought the Hoax up in any conversation, but when others did, I responded to their questions and comments.

Very few people I talked with this weekend know I blog but just about all of them knew or learned I live in Durham. So for them I was a kind of “resident expert.”

Tomorrow I’ll say more about those Hoax conversations. Today I’ll confine this post to the question that, in one form or another, came up most often: “Can Brodhead survive?”

[Full disclosure: In late December 2006, when President Brodhead made his “jump the sinking ship” decision that he could after all support the recommendation Duke Law Professor James Coleman had made six months earlier that Nifong remove himself from the Hoax case, I called for Brodhead’s resignation “the sooner the better.”

I’m even more convinced now than in December that Brodhead’s resignation is in the best interests of Duke University.]

I was asked the “can he survive” question directly in one-to-one conversations and in small groups of up to five.

Each time I was asked, I’d pause before answering, sometimes nodding, looking at the questioner and repeating the question.

I’ll bet you know why I did that. Sure, I was giving the questioner and any others who heard it a chance to “go first” on the question.

Many did. (So much for respecting “the resident expert.")

Anyway, in every case those answering the question indicated they didn’t see how Brodhead could “survive” as Duke’s President.

Some wondered why the trustees hadn’t already fired him outright.

The people wondering about that didn’t strike me as necessarily angry, so much as they felt his leadership had been, as one put it, “a disaster for Duke.”

Others felt it was only a matter of time before the trustees would “work something out with Brodhead.” “Something out” to these people meaning what others call “a golden parachute.”

A few people said they thought the threats of suits might be holding the trustees back, since letting Brodhead go would be seen as an admission that Duke had mismanaged its response to the witch hunt and frame-up of its students.

None of those who spoke had anything good to say about Brodhead.

On the other hand, there was no “dancing on the grave.” The people talked about Brodhead’s departure the way we would talk about an impending operation that is necessary and should lead to better functioning, but is not anything to cheer about.

The conversations were quiet; no one tried to dominate others; and while there was some polite interrupting, people were listening to one another.

I had expected to be asked the Brodhead “survival question” and had thought about how I’d answer it. I wanted what I said to be sensible, fair to Brodhead and helpful to those listening to me.

Here’s how I tried to answer the “survival” question:

I can’t say for sure what’s going to happen but it’s a very safe guess that at best Brodhead will have a shortened presidency marked by limited achievement.

A typical term for a Duke president is 8 to 11 years. Brodhead’s just completed his 3rd year. I don’t see him surviving for 5 more years.

I feel sure if the trustees had known when they first considered Brodhead that he was the kind of person who would remain silent when death threats were shouted at Reade Seligmann and “Vigilante” posters targeting Duke students were distributed within sight of his office windows, they would have realized he was not the candidate to whom they should offer the presidency of Duke University.

I doubt the trustees want to or can prop up Brodhead for another 5 or more years.

Except in a case of a president such as President Terry Sanford who assumed office at a time of extraordinary division and crisis, a Duke president is expected to spend his/her first few years getting to know the University, building relationships, and identifying and laying out a plan that will address the University’s needs and expand its services.

By the end of a president’s third year support for the president within the University community should be very strong. He/she should be seen as an admired and uniting figure. That admiration and unity is the “launch pad” for what the president wants to accomplish in the next 5 to 8 years.

This June will mark the end of the 3rd year of Brodhead’s presidency. He reaches it as a divisive and much criticized figure whose presidency is badly damaged.

What’s more it is as certain as anything in this life that Brodhead and the office of Duke President will suffer even more damage in the coming months as the Duke community and the general public learn more of what went on at Duke during the witch hunt and frame-up.

Can trustees have much confidence in a president who won’t say whether or not the Dean of Students advised students under police investigation for committing multiple felonies not to let their parents know that was happening? Can they have any confidence in such a president?

Can trustees have much confidence in Brodhead when they read a Chronicle ad endorsed by 1,000 Duke students asking when he will repudiate the faculty’s Group of 88 with whom he’s widely regarded to be sympathetic, and instead start standing up for students?

Folks, when answering the “survival” question at those social functions, I didn’t always say all or most of the above. But you get the idea of what I was saying.

I want to say more about what will encourage Brodhead to leave Duke “sooner” than he might otherwise. I also want to say something in response to commenters who’ve pointed out that “it’s not all Brodhead’s fault,” something with which I fully agree.

But this post has gotten long. So I’ll end here. I'll post in the near future on Brodhead and the very valid “it’s not all his fault” observation.


Anonymous said...

Brodhead should resign for the simple reason that he is an english teacher. He is not a leader of a major University, it faculty, staff, students, alumnae and frinds of the University. It would not surpise me at all if Broadhead had some knowledge that the accusations were false and the whole thing was a hoax and did nothing about it to make examples of the accused to the rest of the Duke community not to act. Maybe Alleva's comments "its not about the truth anymore" meant a lot more than what people are thinking it meant.

straightarrow said...

I cannot see Brodhead surviving as an employee of any entity. At least not in any capacity requiring judgment, moral fortitude, integrity, and courage.

He simply is too flawed and weak as a man, to be trusted with any ability to impact the lives of others.

This is not written in anger, but as an observation of the facts of his character that he has proven.

Anonymous said...

I still contend that Duke needs to go back to the days when the President or at least some of the senior administration were from the State and had some political base of their own. Terry Sanford was a good example of this. Can you imagine Nifong or DPD trying these stunts if Terry Sanford were still President?

Also, I have a hard time imagining Dean Sue giving these kids such bad advice. She has been there a looong time, and I never heard she showed poor judgement in the past.

Duke Mama said...

As the parent of two Duke alums, I have to disagree about Dean Sue. She is full of psycho-babble and political correctness, and she's getting a little long in the tooth to retain that "just one of the gang" appeal that she's held.

In my opinion, she should be disbarred along with Nifong for her scandalous role in this scenario.

scott said...

Of course it's not all his fault, but what he did was bad enough ...

... to be cut loose.

Anonymous said...

Dean Sue is a great person.

As for Brodhead: :"What ever he did was bad enough."

He should resign.

Anonymous said...

I believe that it will be demonstrated, under litigation discovery, that Brodhead knew the DNA results were negative when he proceeded with firing Pressler and cancelling the remainder of the season, greatly adding to the public perception that "something must have happened".

In this respect, Brodhead was supporting his fellow travelers among the Duke faculty Group of 88 who began to view the revelation of exculpatory evidence in favor of the Duke students, not as a welcome development, but as an indication that the case (aka, the "agenda") was "moving backwards".

To the best of my knowledge, Brodhead's decision to fire Pressler and cancell the remainder of the lacrosse season is the FIRST TIME IN NCAA HISTORY FOR DIVISION ONE ATHLETICS in which a university president has taken such dramatic action on the basis of an UNPROVEN ALLEGATION.

IMO, Brodhead was doing everything that he could do to support the Group of 88 witch hunt. He should be asked to resign immediately.

roper said...

Brodhead should be dismissed for many reasons, among which is the fact that he is a liar.

Duke University, through its PR department, has been putting out, with Brodhead's acquiescence, the statement that "Brodhead always emphasized the presumption of innocence". This can easily be shown to be a lie.

Through Brodhead's reported public comments, it can be shown that he did not "always" speak to the presumption of innocence. There were several occasions in which Brodhead spoke of the "horrors of sexual assaul", and "whatever they did was bad enough", without mentioning the presumption of innocence.

And there was never an occasion in which Brodhead "emphasized" the presumption of innocence. Any comment by Brodhead on this important American principle of justice was usually added to the end of his statements, almost as a tag line.

It is also my suspicion that Brodhead lied regularly to the Duke Board of Trustees about such matters as whether he and Duke were providing support (or even maintaining any level of contact) with the families of the indicted Duke students.

Brodhead is a liar. He sullies the reputation of Duke University. He must go.... now.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Broadhead should resign. However, his resignation will not even begin to solve the problems at Duke revealed by the Duke Lacrosse incident. The problems at Duke run much deeper that Broadhead's inability to lead. Duke (like most other institutions, I fear) has an administration that is more interested in image and damage control than in discerning the truth. Duke's faculty seems to be divided into two groups--idealogues whose ideologies are more important than the truth and the timid who are afraid to say anything. Additionally, you have a board of trustees that doesn't seem to mind its members having conflicts of interest and sat by as the whole hoax worked itself out. In sum, absent more basic changes at Duke, Broadhead's resignation will not change much.

がんこもん said...

Excellent reporting as usual, John. Were I in a position to make a recomendation, I would agree that President Brodhead would best serve the University by stepping down. The rush to judgment, the inability to provide leadership and above all the failure to back his own students, especially in the face of faculty who were apparently doing their utmost to endanger said students all expose him as a person who is not up to the task of leading a great university such as Duke.

While I would absolutely agree that the situation Duke now finds itself in cannot be fairly laid entirely at President Brodhead's feet, his reactions have exacerbated the sitution to the point where it seems neither students nor faculty (aside from the Gang of 88) retain any confidence in his ability to provide satisfactory leadership going forward.

Anonymous said...

By at least June it was already quite clear that this case was a hoax. Why did it take Brodhead until December to speak out on behalf of "our students?"

Gary Packwood said...

I You speak of Broadhead's presidency as if he were a ruling monarch. He Isn't. He is an employee of the Board of Trustees. He works for the Board of Trustees who set policy for Duke University.

President Broadhead implements those policies...and does not ever create policy.

If Duke Alums would review your Cliff Notes on the U.S. legal environment of Not-for-Profit educational institutions you could help the decision making process move along as we intended when we founded this country.

When the Board of Trustees interviewed Broadhead, the members of the board knew what they were looking for. The Board hired Broadhead.

Trustees need to have their feet held to the fire if you want to see Duke grow and prosper.

This idea of treating the President as a Monarch who is running a popularity contest is the reason we jumped on those ships and came to America in the first place.

Enough with the Monarchy!

Anonymous said...

in any abuse there are overtly abusive and covertly abusive.broadshead fits the profile of colluding,covertly abusive and not fulfilling of his responsibilities to ALL students.not just the selected few