Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Comments Responding To Prof. Chafe

As of 11:30 AM EST today there are 17 comments on the thread of “INNOCENT: Prof Chafe Responds.” I haven’t deleted any comments although I came close to deleting one and would have deleted another which I’m leaving up only as an example of what doesn’t belong at this blog. I’ll add a comment to that effect on the thread which will include a mention that my judgment in the matter isn’t up for debate.

In this post, after some words about those two comments, I’ll write a few comments about all the rest of your comments. I’ll also share with you what I’m thinking to say to Professor Chafe and why.

The “almost deleted” comment was: “Chafe should choke on his apology.” It reflects only ill-will and is a “conversation stopper.” I left it up because the commenter had preceded the “choke” remark with some fact-based argument.

I’ve left such comments up when they’ve targeted me, so I thought: “Why not leave it up when it concerns Chafe?” Because, upon reflection, I remembered my parents and “We treat our guests better than we treat ourselves.” So the next time: delete.

“CCI [Campus Culture Initiative] are the equivalent to the most vile of race baiters” needs only this: it’s an example of the kind of nasty ad hominem of which Chafe and so many of you rightly complain.

Now about the rest of the thread commentary ---

Thank you. You’ve put together of group of civil comments touching important issues and asking questions that deserve answers.

One “strength” of the comments is that they have a good deal of both recognition of the direct and substantive aspects of Chafe’s response and notation of areas where he did not speak to some questions I asked.

I appreciate that so many of you expressed your regard or admiration to Chafe for his apology, even as you saw it as too limited or as part of a complex of statements he made, with most of which you took issue.

Finally, you’ve put together an excellent example of what many bloggers are talking about when we say to folks in the Group of 88 and others at Duke: “Most people commenting on the statement do so civilly and to serious purpose. Please answer their questions and address the issues.”

I need to give more thought to what I’ll say to Chafe. Matters I’m thinking of raising with him which may or may not make “the final cut” include:

1) His concern that people not see the Group of 88 as a unity.

2) His concern for greater civility among Duke faculty. Those of you who are Duke faculty members, especially in A&S, know Chafe’s concern is high on the “concern lists’ of many faculty.

3) His concerns re: student excessive drinking and criminal sexual acts.

4) My concern re: faculty silence in the face of “Castrate” banner and rally, “Vigilante” posters, threats to Seligmann, and trashing by many in media of Women Laxers for simply saying, “Innocent.”

5) His thoughts re: how to build a “conversation” that looks honestly and fully at our differences as well as all the problems at Duke that have come to the fore since last spring.

One part of my response I’m sure will involve encouraging Chafe to select and speak to some of your comments. I plan to do that early in my response.

Another "sure" part will involve introducing the matter of the University's silence in response to the events of last May 18 and seeking Chafe's help in bringing Duke to the point where it reaches out to Durham and together they do what they should have done last year for Seligmann, his family and for Duke and Durham.

Looking back at this post, I can see I’ll need to carefully limit what I ask Chafe to respond to.

I plan to send Chafe a link to this post.

I’ll send him my response tomorrow.

In the meantime, your comments are welcome.

BTW – Writing this post reminded me of President Kennedy and an instance of word choice involving his Inaugural Address. If I can dig out the reference, I’ll post on it in the next few days.


がんこもん said...


Like yourself, I am concerned with Professor Chafe's failure to adequately address the core issue- the demonization of three young men who we now know are completely innocent. If I amy quote you, you stated "My concern re: faculty silence in the face of “Castrate” banner and rally, “Vigilante” posters, threats to Seligmann, and trashing by many in media of Women Laxers for simply saying, “Innocent.”

This is in my opinion the crux of the matter. Professor Chafe and other faculty members at Duke were so eager to criticise the lacrosse team, yet would not speak up in the face of much more threatening behavior. Why?

I had the honor to meet a Duke student associated wwith the lacrosse team shortly after the intial accusation, and was impressed with the demeanor of this young man as he simply asked that we withold judgement until al the facts were accounted for. I wish that others had had the moral fortitude of that young man.

In conclusion, your blog, along with those of Professor Johnson, FODU and others have provided an example of how journalism should be conducted. It is a pity that so many of the so-called mainstream media could not follow that example.

Anonymous said...

As a former student of Professor Chafe's, I has heartened to see his apolgy and to see his full response(s). THAT reminded me of why I had respect for him, and even thought highly of him. I am hopeful,if given a chance to re-do it, he would not have used the inflammatory, and frankly, way-off-base, Till/lynching reference.

Dan McGurn DU grad Trinity 1983

Anonymous said...

JinC said "Looking back at this post, I can see I’ll need to carefully limit what I ask Chafe to respond to."
I dont know what the most important questions are to ask Chafe if they will belimited. I guess the most important IMO,is why didnt they support their own students from the beginning. I mean there are 2 sides to any story of alleged rape cases. That is why we have a justice system. This is what confuses me so much about Duke and its G88 and others at Duke. I dont think any parent or anyone else wanted Duke to babysit their students (kids), but I do think that everyone expected for Duke to support the students toward getting the justice they deserved. That was lacking. It is easy for someone or a group of somebodies to say that the statement was not about the lacrosse players. What would have been even easier would be to strongly state that opinions about the alledged incident should wait for the evidence. Yes rape accusations are bad but lets wait for the evidence. After all, that is what happened in the subsequent black on white rape at another Duke party. I dont think anyone agrees with the real lack of support by Dukes G88 or the administration toward their own students early on in this case. Especially some classroom comments by the leaders of some classes. It should have been about the truth all along and Duke should have known better than to say that justice involves going to court to prove ones innocence. I guess I am just amazed that any educated person would admit that guilt is the result of an accusation.

Illinois Fan said...

John, this is the first time I ever post a comment on your blog. I've read it a lot, though. I very much respect you, and your work, I believe you've contributed a lot to the struggle for justice in the Nifong Hoax case.

However, I could not disagree more strongly with your appeasing attitude in what regards Professor Chafe. Lest you forget, you continued to chastise a certain News & Observer journalist long after she made the PROPER amends, and signed a REAL apology. Contrast this with cunning Professor Chafe's non-apology apology. Professor Chafe's major problem is not having insulted the bloggers (now which blogger cares, to the extent of having their lives shattered by Chafe's opinion, really?).

Professor Chafe's major problem is having been willful part of a conspiracy to railroad on their way TO PRISON three innocent men, who happened to also be students at the same University Chafe's teaching at. Between the hurt feelings of some blogger, however noble, and what those three men suffered, and especially could have suffered, there's little comparison.

Professor Chafe not only did NOT apologize for that, he has continued to slander the wronged party, even now, mentioning the "egregious sin" of hiring strippers as a diversionary way of saying: "hey, we weren't wrong to persecute our students, look, they've hired strippers".

While "Chafe should choke on his apology" sounds perhaps like exceedingly strong language, given this man's utter, confirmed hypocrisy, his renewed attempts to have people forget what he DID, while accusing innocent people of things they DID NOT, make me believe that the sentiment encapsulated in the "choking" formulation isn't at all absolutely unwarranted, as long as we keep ourselves in the realm of the metaphorical.

John, I understand you may have felt flattered by Chafe answering you at all. Don't be. You are a much better person than he is. reading too much positives in somebody's "apologizing" as in saying: "sorry for not opening the door for you, but I still believe that I was right in stabbing you in the back" is naive. More naive than your readers have come to expect from you, John, as you have been one of the exemplary, brave bloggers helping out a lot in this case, with your logic, sense of values, persistence.

I indeed believe that Professor Chafe is an extremely petty man, incapable of truly assuming responsibility for his ugly deeds. I wouldn't want to have a "dialog" with a person of this particular moral caliber.

Feel free to delete this message, if it bothered you so much, however, remember, neither my admiration for you, nor my deeply despising Professor Chafe will change a bit.

Keep up the excellent work.

AMac said...

One issue, I think, is this:

Should we treat people we dislike the same way that we treat people we like?

This could be a subtler question than it may first appear.

I. Social vs. Institutional Interactions

The obvious answer is, "No." I invite friends to parties and to dinners. I do not open my home to people I don't respect, or even to people for whom I have distant and cool feelings.

What about when the "we" in the question concerns professional and institutional conduct? Suppose we had lunch with an acquaintance who proclaimed, "in my practice, I cut corners when treating Jody Smith, because I dislike men/women - blacks/whites - gays/immigrants/libertarians... Or suppose our acquaintance was a State Trooper, chuckling over the moving violation he just handed to Smith.

I think Prof. Chafe would be as repulsed by this hypothetical acquaintance's conduct as you or me.

We hold people to a different standard of conduct when they are acting professionally, or when they are representing an institution--and especially a law-enforcement institution.

II. A Short Counterfactual

Suppose Prof. Smith is driving home from the holiday party of the African American Scholars Association. He collides with a pedestrian, who is transported to the hospital. Shaken, Smith is taken to the Duke PD station and Breathalyzed.

A few days later, Smith is arrested for drunken driving and assault. At his arraignment, the prosecutor proclaims his anger about the high crime rate, especially those committed by blacks like Smith.

Galvanized by the problem of rampant criminality, outraged citizens with long-standing grievances take out an ad to discuss black criminality, defend the stricken pedestrian, and bemoan Smith's conduct.

Of course, in this counterfactual, details come to light in the following days and weeks:

-- The pedestrian was uninjured.
-- She has mental problems, and a history of faking injuries.
-- Witnesses describe her leaping in front of Smith's car, and Smith trying to avoid hitting her.
-- Smith's blood alcohol tested as zero.
-- Smith has a clean driving record.

Supplied with this new information, some folks shrug and go about their business (none apologize to Smith). Others explain that their beef was never with Smith, it was with black criminality, and that the "Smith Incident" underscores the validity of their concerns.

We can imagine Professor Chafe joining us in in emphasizing that a nonexistent crime doesn't illuminate anything about Smith's character, or about the shared traits of any group that Smith belongs to.

Prof. Chafe would, I think, be incensed by a response from an unrepentant Citizen that went as follows:

"From my point of view, and that, I think of others, the Smith "incident" simply focused a spotlight on what many of us at Duke saw to be ongoing and critical issues in our campus culture."

Surely the ethical distinction between this tall tale and the Lacrosse Rape Case is not that a Duke professor might feel affection for a colleague, but none for sports-playing students.

Yet the reasoning behind Prof. Chafe's continued defense of fellow signers of the Listening Statement continues to elude me.

AMac said...

One further comment.

Professor Chafe, given what was known about the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by mid-May, if presented with the "Listening Statement," would you have signed it at that point? (It was actually published on April 6th.)

An answer of Yes would be an extraordinary statement.

An answer of No would exemplify the pitfalls of the Rush to Judgment.

Jeff said...

As usual, amac has got me thinking.

If you go to the Listening Statement, the two statements that leap out are "something happened to that young woman" and "thank you for not waiting."

The "something happened" comment implies that something morally or legally wrong happened, not something benign. It cannot reasonably be read any other way. If you truly believed the allegations, news reports, etc. available at the time, it might have seemed appropriate to use the allegations as a spectacular exemplar of a more general problem.

Presumption of innocence is a legal standard. It does not apply outside the judicial system. I believe OJ Simpson murdered his wife despite what the jury said. So I am not upset that people believed in their own minds that some members of the team were guilty on the basis of what was then publicly available. But I find incredible the claim now that the statement was made then with a presumption of innocence. That makes no sense. If it was quite possible nothing material had happened, how could that nothing have been an exemplar of anything significant? So I find it dishonest to pretend now that there was no assumption of guilt, but I do not get indignant that people then did assume guilt.

The "not waiting" comment, however, is an entirely different issue. The most plausible interpretation is that that comment attacked the legal concept of "due process," which includes "presumption of innocence." I agree that the phrase can be parsed in other ways, but, as I said in my first post, this was signed by highly educated people, most of whom are professionals in the use of words. Surely they readily recognize what is ambiguous or equivocal and know how to write clearly and concisely. And yet they chose not to do so, but to use the equivocal phrase: what specifically were they unwilling to await, reason rather than emotion, evidence, justice, a chance for the accused to defend themselves? The gang of 88 failed to say. That silence was a deliberate step away from civilization and decency on the part of those who are given many privileges to defend civilization and decency. They betrayed their duty. That is why I believe the gang of 88, one and all, owe an apology to the world, not just to their students.


Anonymous said...

JeffM 7:15PM

I thought you might appreciate Karla Holloway's comment on the "something happened to that woman" statement.

"Moreover, as Holloway recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education, no one should have imagined that the ad was accusing the young men of rape. For instance, she says, the phrase "what happened to this young woman" did not mean that the faculty presumed she had been raped. Holloway explains, "Something did happen [at the house]. A party happened. Drunkenness happened. If you want to read ‘happening' in one particular way, that's the bias you bring to your reading."

Her statement is just not intellectually honest. Yeah right...."a party happened" to this young woman and we are so outraged.

Anonymous said...

Chafe wanted to give voice to student concerns? What about the thousand students who expressed dismay over the group of 88's statement?

He obsesses over the small percentage of commenters who use strong language against his position? What about the 99 percent of others who want to engage him in constructive dialog? Should he just ignore them?

The bottom line is his pride and concern for his social standing among the like of the 88 won't allow him to apologize.

He asks us to believe he never thought the lacrosse players were guilty. He's either not telling the truth or he has no intellectual honesty at all. Why is he at faculty member at a leading university if he has no honesty?

Anonymous said...

Prof. Chafe:

Question #5 appears to present you with an Hobson's choice. The question is:

"Q 5. Now that their innocence has been proclaimed, and now that the case has come to its conclusion, do you still support the statements included in the ad?"

If you choose "yes, I still support the statements," then potentially you may be exacerbating damages in a future lawsuit in that you are now showing no remorse, even after all of the facts have some to light.

On the other hand, if you choose "no" you become an apostate among your other 87 (now 86?) comrades.

Your initial response to question #5 indicates that you are simply choosing not to answer the question. Understandable. However, I present to you that this third choice is evidence of moral cowardice.

Mike in Nevada

kbp said...

Thanks John

I had a comment I was working on, but my PC shut down a day ago. Prolly best it's gone anyway!

In the email to you, he made a quick apology to "bloggers" (thanks) and went on with six more paragraphs. Three looked to include complaints, one to explain away the 88 and their ad, one hinting at making up, and the last to let us know he'd included the Chronicle Q/A's.

It looks like a way we can all make up, if bloggers learn to read better.

As for the answers in the Chronicle, I see “canned” explanations I expected. The claims of rapes and assaults (in both his email and answers) did grab my attention.

He wrote "...the fact that date rape is common, and that many sexual assaults go unreported and unpunished." I'm uncertain if he just threw that in, he's talking about a campus problem, or if so, where he got the information.

Since it was mentioned again in the email, it looks to be his way of focusing the topic to what he claims the ad was all about. The rapes were left open, but the assaults were claimed to have not been reported.

Though I do not recall the stats, there has been annual reports posted that did not make Duke's campus look like it had many problems reported. I suppose we'll just have to get along and take his word for it (or not!), as I doubt either claim can be confirmed.

It looks like those that "had been in administration and dealing with student affairs for nearly a decade" need to work more with seeing that laws are enforced. A big group sing along isn't the answer if there is actually such a problem.

bill anderson said...


It seems to me that Chafe still has not apologized for his "Emmett Till" comment. The idea that the LAX players (many of whom I have met) are exactly like the men who murdered Till more than 50 years ago is more than ludicrous: it is downright nefarious.

People like Chafe throw around words and terms irresponsibly and expect the rest of us to bow down to their supposed great intellect. Yes, Chafe is accomplished in his field, but if he cannot tell the different between a Duke LAX player in 2006 and a Klansman in 1955, then the guy really needs to get out of the classroom. And fast.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate Prof Chafe's response also. It is not necessary for me to agree with him or him me. Trading insults has become a cottage industry in this issue.

Anonymous said...

As usual, Bill Anderson has it right.

Anonymous said...

"Moreover, as Holloway recently told The Chronicle of Higher Education, no one should have imagined that the ad was accusing the young men of rape. For instance, she says, the phrase "what happened to this young woman" did not mean that the faculty presumed she had been raped. Holloway explains, "Something did happen [at the house]. A party happened. Drunkenness happened. If you want to read ‘happening' in one particular way, that's the bias you bring to your reading."

Okey, dokey, I had not seen that before.

Of course it immediately brings to mind the famous "is" parsing by a former president.

Which may be useful in considering the behavior of a class of people (people in power) relative to another class (powerless people).

I think that, perhaps, the group of 88, when they were listening by talking (funny that), may actually have had that in mind. In a post modern deconstructionist world, this is probably a reasonable mode of thinking.

The rest of us would, of course, lose our jobs trying to tell a boss or customer, "it depends on what late means to you."

But by putting (supposedly) powerless class (stripper/hookers) above another (supposedly) powerless class (students) have the profs done anything but perpetuate their own class/bias?


Anonymous said...

My initial thoughts with respect to the listening statement were that it was what I would expect from a certain faction within any major academic environment. Having spent over 20 years to ultimately obtain my undergraduate degree, I'm well aware of the "tendencies" of major university faculty. I've spent the most recent 8 years of my life listening to my children as they describe their own experiences and interactions as they have matriculated through three different state universities. They learned early on the value of "go along to get along".... very disappointing to say the least.

All that being said, beyond the standard angry studies' agenda laden listening statement, the obvious timing of it's release and the associated pot banging, I think is a more sinister message. When questioned about their motives and contained within the listening statement itself is the virtually unchallenged message that Duke University and by proxy the entire United States of America is a "social disaster" created exclusively by white racists (specifically males) constantly threatening minorities.

I know this may come as a surprise to many, but hopefully not too many, that may have had similar life experiences. I've was born and lived in the south my entire life except for the 3 years I spent overseas as a child. I can say with clear conscience that I have never seen or heard a white person in my presence make a racist remark to, or taken what could be interpreted as racist actions against a black person. Let me repeat, I've never seen a white person call a black person an epithet to their face or exclude or be mean to a black person because they were black. That is not to say the I've never heard people talk negatively about blacks as a group because I have, not often, but I have heard racist remarks by white people in my lifetime. But I've never seen it in the presence of a black person.

Now, I have experienced many times in my life racist treatment to my face from black people. I've been yelled at "you better be out of this neighborhood by dark, white boy", I've been to convenience stores, restaurants and night clubs in mostly black part of town where I've been told "you don't belong here" or "you better leave". On a trip a few years ago from South Carolina through Alabama and Mississippi in the middle of the night we tried to stop in a small town so that my children could use the rest rooms. The minute we pulled into a grocery type store a local deputy pulled us over and asked us what we were doing. I told him we were letting the kids use the rest room, he said "the store's closed". I told him I could see people in there maybe they wouldn't mind letting us in for a second, he sternly told me in no uncertain terms that the store was closed and we should probably find some other town where our children could relieve themselves. Needless to say all of the people we had seen in that small southern town were black. I could go on about how the media portrays blacks vs. whites, the roles each are assigned, the role of race in the corporation and within peer groups but that would be piling on.

This has been a long story, so what's the point. The point is when the group of 88 tell us they are simply describing the "social disaster" as relayed to them by their offended students I don't believe them. I don't believe that the quality of student population that is recruited by, applies to and is accepted to attend Duke University are individuals that could be generally described by the listening statement. I don't believe the quality of individuals who display the personal self discipline to succeed at the level required to enter Duke would be so ignorant as to prejudge others based on race. I don't believe that there is rampant racism at Duke any more than I believe the listening statement is not about the lacrosse team non-rape.

It seems that the angry studies faction at Duke has succeeded in their efforts to expand their range of influence by creating a false "need" for their areas of "expertise". The results of the CCI has proved informative with respect to the proposed curricular requirements. They've been ceded more power at Duke as a result of this manufactured "social disaster" and they will not be made to feel bad about it.

kbp said...

Thankfully, KC posted a link that leads to reports covering the sexual violence Chafe is trying to convince us exists at Duke (but nobody knows about it except him and a few trusted frinds, about 87 of them).

KC's post;
"...Yet according to Duke’s official statistics, in the past six academic years around .02 percent of Duke’s students have been victims of sexual violence—hardly a “prevalent” condition."

As I understood his post, that .02 was based on about 6,000 undergrad's. It would be even less if you counted the post grad students. If you count all the faculty also, it might rise! ;)