Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dowd, Duke & Curtis Questions

On the eve of Duke’s commencement the Raleigh N&O reported:

Duke and former lacrosse player Kyle Dowd disclosed that they recently settled a lawsuit filed by Dowd in January.

Dowd, who graduated from Duke last year, charged that Kim Curtis, a professor in political and feminist theory, unfairly gave him a failing grade because of the lacrosse case allegations.

Neither Duke nor Dowd would reveal the details of the settlement. A joint statement was issued.

"This lawsuit has been settled through mediation to the mutual satisfaction of Kyle Dowd and his family and Duke University, and without any admission by any party of legal liability. ... As reflected on Kyle's transcript, he has received from Duke University a 'P' [for pass] in the Politics and Literature course he took in his senior year."

Was it just a coincidence the suit was settled before thousands of parents, grandparents, alums, etc. came to campus? Or were the powers that be at Duke thinking the last month or so about all those questions they’d be asked at graduation about the Dowd suit?

Questions such as:
What has Kim Curtis done that’s so academically outstanding that Duke would invite her to serve as a visiting professor in the first place, and then invite her to stay on as a visiting professor semester after semester after semester?

She’s listed at the Political Science Department’s website as a current faculty member. Is that a mistake?

Curtis hasn’t by any chance been invited back for the fall semester, has she?

She’s one of the Group of 88. Has she repudiated the “social disaster” statement?

And if I’m not taking too much of your time, President Brodhead, has Curtis ever told you who paid to place the statement as a full-page ad in The Chronicle and where the funds came from?
The settlement came just in time for Brodhead, trustees and others to say, “The case has been settled and under terms of the settlement I can’t ……”

I’ve two other Dowd suit questions. The first one takes some “setting up.”

When the suit was filed in January 2007 I posted here and here including this:
Dowd’s attorney, Joseph E. Zeszotarski, is a very well regarded, experienced litigator who, as a result of his peers’ assessments, has earned listing since 2003 in The Best Lawyers in America. …

Zeszotarski’s law firm, Poyner & Spruill, is large (over 100 attorneys) and one of the most respected in the Southeast.

Attorneys in Zeszotarski's position and law firms like P&S are careful about the cases and clients they take on. They also knew before filing that the suit would be a very “high visibility” one that will be closely watched by other attorneys and potential S&P clients. So it’s a safe bet they believe they have a very strong case and confidence they’ll be successful.

That leads to something KC [Johnson, a historian who has taught Constitutional history courses] said in his post [ "Dowd and Duke" ]: “It’s unclear to me why Duke allowed this case to progress to a stage where a lawsuit would be filed.”

Why, indeed?
Since KC asked his question in January, I’ve asked it of a number of attorneys here in North Carolina. Like KC, they’re puzzled.

Duke always had the power to change the grade and, of course, it has very deep pockets.

So why did Duke let this case, which looked like a loser from the get go, reach the point where a suit was filed, and then, just five months later settle the suit with an acknowledgement it had changed the grade as the Dowd’s had demanded?

Last question: The news accounts in January reported the Dowd’s named Curtis a respondent along with Duke. The N&O story reporting the settlement made no mention of whether the Dowd’s settled with Curtis as well or whether she was even still a respondent.

So the question: Does anyone know what's happened as regards Curtis as a respondent from the time the suit was filed until now?