Thursday, May 10, 2007

INNOCENT: “Distribute to Trustees”

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

Historian, professor and blogger KC Johnson’s post, “Twelve (and One) Questions for the Trustees,” will be cheered by all who wish Duke University well.

But it’s not a perfect agreement world.

There are some, including members of Duke’s board of trustees, who stoutly supported University President Richard H. Brodhead when he told the Durham community that whatever Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann “did was bad enough.”

Most of those same people have never expressed any interest in finding out why Duke’s never condemned those who targeted with “Vigilante” posters the white students on its Men’s lacrosse team.

What’s more, not a single trustee expressed any support last spring for the students on the Women’s lacrosse team when they were trashed by many in media for doing nothing more than saying, “Innocent.”

The trustees are meeting at Duke this weekend.

Duke News says they can be contacted via emails to the university secretary, Allison Haltom.

Her email:

Place in the subject line: “Distribute to Trustees”

With that done, I’m told Haltom will distribute your email to the trustees.

As always, some emails can be helpful while others do nothing but let the sender vent and demonstrate immaturity.

I’ve just picked three question from those KC Johnson asked. I’m sending them on with a request that if the trustees can’t answer all Johnson’s questions this weekend (a very tall order), they at least answer the three I picked as, IMHO, important and able to be answered promptly.

If you disagree with my picks, why not send along your own picks?

I’m also sending the news editors at the Raleigh N&O, the Durham H-S, WRAL and The Chronicle links to KC’s post and this post along with a request that they report on whether, at their meeting, the trustees considered KC’s questions and, if they did, what were the outcomes.

I’ll also ask the editors to contact KC as part of their story.

I hope you do similar things.


Subject: Distribute to Trustees

Dear Secretary Holtom:

I’m told by Duke News you’ll distribute the following email to all board of trustee members.

Thank you in advance.

John in Carolina

Dear Duke Board of Trustee Member:

I hold two degrees from the University and blog at

Historian, professor and blogger Robert KC Johnson has posted a set of questions for your consideration and response. If you have not read the post yet, I hope you will. Johnson’s questions express the concerns of many thousands of Duke students, parents, faculty and alums.

I realize it may very well be impossible to consider all the questions Johnson asks, but I hope at the least you’ll consider at your meeting this weekend the following three questions which are very important and can be promptly answered.

1.) On April 6, 2006, an advertisement appeared in the Duke Chronicle claiming the endorsement of a variety of departments and programs, including the following five academic departments:

• Romance Studies;
• Psychology: Social and Health Services;
• Classical Studies;
• Art, Art History, & Visual Studies;
• Asian & African Languages & Literature.

A hallmark of academic self-governance is the principle of democratic, majority rule. Yet no record exists that any of these officially constituted academic departments ever conducted a vote—either in person or via e-mail—on whether to sign onto the statement. (Less than 50 percent of the professors in each department endorsed the ad individually.) Indeed, in the case of at least one department (Classical Studies), I have been told explicitly that no vote of any type occurred.

Will the Board publicly explain the procedures under which these five academic departments—official administrative units of Duke University—endorsed the advertisement?

2.) In an April 11, 2007 e-mail, Bob Steel wrote, “Each step of the way, the board agreed with the principles that [President Brodhead] established and the actions he took.”

On April 20, 2006, President Brodhead informed the Durham Chamber of Commerce, in his first public appearance after the arrests of Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, “If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn’t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.”

Did the Board agree with President Brodhead’s remarks at the time? If so, does it continue to endorse this statement? If not, will the board issue an apology to Seligmann and Finnerty?

3.) Why did no one from the Duke administration publicly condemn the death threats against Reade Seligmann delivered at the Durham County Courthouse on May 18, 2006?

Thank you for your attention to this email.

I look forward to your responses which I’ll publish in full at my blog.


John in Carolina