Thursday, May 17, 2007

Duke Silent on Student Safety Questions

Readers Note: I’ve just sent the following electronic letter to John Burness, Duke University’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Government Relations.

I always hear back from Burness. I’ll let you know what I hear.

May 17, 2007

John Burness, Vice President for Student Affairs and Government Relations
Duke University

Dear Vice President Burness:

I’m having trouble obtaining information concerning actions Duke may have taken in the interest of student safety last spring when the “Vigilante” poster containing face photos of 43 white male students on the lacrosse team was produced and circulated on campus.

I want to report that information to my readers who include Duke students, parents, faculty, alums, and a few trustees as well as others. I also want to place it on the net where journalists and others can access it.

More than six weeks ago I sent electronic letters to Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Duke Police Director Robert Dean. The letters contained questions regarding specific actions each administrator and his staffs may or may not have taken last March and April in regard to the “Vigilante” poster.

I told both Vice President Moneta and Director Dean I would publish their answers in full on the main page of JinC.

I’ve never heard word one from either administrator, despite sending second copies of links to my letters and leaving phone messages for them.

The questions are important. They are ones members of the Duke community want answers to as soon as they become aware of the “Vigilante” poster, and its contribution to the targeting and endangerment of Duke students and others.

Here, for example, is a brief excerpt from my letter to Vice President Moneta:

It’s my understanding you were the senior Duke administrator present at the lax parents’ meeting on Saturday, March 25, 2006; and that a parent request was made that the University remove from the face photos of all the lacrosse players.

Was such a parent request made? If it was, what did the University do in response?

If you or another administrator responded positively to the parent request, when were the photos removed from
Here is an excerpt from my letter to Director Dean:
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’m sure we agree, Mr. Burness, that anyone who cares about student safety at Duke would want to know the answers to those questions and other equally important ones I’ve asked Vice President Moneta and Director Dean.

Is there any way you can help me to get answers to the questions so I can pass those answers on to readers?

By their silences, Vice President Moneta and Director Dean are putting the University in a bad light.

The URLs in which you’ll find the letters follow:

This to Vice President Moneta:

This to Director Dean:

Thank you for your attention to my request. I look forward to your response.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

John, everyone want all this "crap" to go away. There is only one way it will "go away," and that is for a full accounting by EVERYONE involved, with proper punishments metted out -- ONLY to those who deserve it.
Everyone from the hospital to the police to the university don't seem to understand that the FIRST rule of PR is "transparancy." Everyone is scared they will be sued, but they are going to get sued anyway. My advice to everyone IF they truly want to move on, is to QUIT HIDING and covering up, because it isn't going to end until you come clean. ONCE YOU DO, it will be over in a week or so and only THEN can you move on.

Anonymous said...

Cooper has made his "full accounting". Except for the Nifong trashing, he has made it clear that this case is over. Where are the lawsuits? Other than in people's imaginations? Like the Marshall family, Duke, DuMC and NC have the resources to "duke" this out to the end of time.

bill anderson said...


What we have here is a clear breach of contract. Duke was contractually obligated to protect its students, and the administrators -- Moneta, Burness, and Brodhead -- made a conscious and clear determination that the LAX players would have NO protection whatsoever at Duke, whether being singled out in the classroom or having "Castrate!" signs everywhere, or vigilante posters.

These people made their bed, and they made it by choice. They must lie in it.

Yes, Duke has resources to fight lawsuits, but they cannot fight the bad publicity that surely will come in the discovery process. And the lawsuits will come, trust me on that.

Anonymous said...

What is not known about this case that would be in the Discovery Process? Duke and the BOT have shown no interest in bad publicity, except for Brodhead' talking tour.

Anonymous said...


In the aftermath of the VT shootings, Universities are being asked what they are doing to insure student safety.

We are asking Duke to respond to the opposite, what did Duke faculty do to enhance student endangerment?

Apparently a significant % of the AAAS faculty at Duke believed that the student body required protection from the LAX team! So who needed the protection? Given the death threats against the players, Duke had it a$$ backwards!

Anonymous said...

DUMC & Duke University particpated in a good old fashion lynching. It just goes to show you bigotry & bias run deeper than the color of your skin.

I can hear Brodhead & Burness screaming, "I am not a bigot!"

Oh yes you are! The victim this time just isn't Black.