Monday, May 07, 2007

INNOCENT: Prof Chafe Responds

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

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

Readers Note: On May 4 I posted "An Invitation to Duke's Prof. Chafe."

The post contained an email I sent to William H. Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of American History at Duke University and a signatory of the faculty’s Group of 88’s “social disaster” statement that ran as a full-page ad in the Apr. 6 Chronicle. From 1995-2004 Chafe served as Dean of the Faculty of Duke University and Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education.

Those of you familiar with the post know I took exception to Professor Chafe’s statements concerning bloggers as quoted in the Apr. 30 Chronicle and at KC Johnson’s blog. I also remain concerned about some of the content of the Group of 88’s “social disaster” statement and the group’s decision to publish it at such a tense time.

I expressed my concerns in an email to Chafe, a copy of which I included in the post.

I invited Chafe to respond and said I’d post his response in full; and that I’d make no comment on it for at least a day so readers could view it free of my commentary.

Chafe has responded. He included with his response the texts of the email The Chronicle sent him (Chafe’s overseas now) and his response to The Chronicle.

The Chronicle asked Chafe five questions; he responded to each question, numerating his responses. His numeration allowed me for your ease to paste the two emails into one document in Q&A form so that The Chronicle’s Q 1 is followed by Chafe’s A 1, etc.

Four words about comments on the thread: the usual rules apply.

So almost all of you will be able to do what you typically do at JinC: make civil, informed, reasonably questioning and pointed comments free of ad hominems and self-puffery.

For those few who just have to say “whatever,” there are millions of other blogs. I hope by hitting the delete button, I help you find at least one of them.

Now Professor Chafe’s response, followed by The Chronicle/ Chafe Q&A:

Dear John in Carolina:

I made a mistake in generalizing about “bloggers” in my comment to the
Chronicle, and I apologize.

For many Duke faculty who have been concerned about the values expressed in our campus culture, the last months have seen an unremitting flood of e-mails from people who believe that we presumed the guilt of the lacrosse players accused of sexual assault a year ago. That is not the case, I believe, at least in the instance of those faculty members I know.

A significant number of the critical e-mails, often using the same “canned” paragraphs, simply denounced us, without addressing the primary content of the ad; many appear unfamiliar with the fact that most faculty who have expressed themselves are concerned primarily about how we treat each other on campus, the fact that date rape is common, and that many sexual assaults go unreported and unpunished. Some e-mails and phone calls have been vicious, racist and threatening. It was my error to generalize from these.

Perhaps it is time to reassess generalizations on all sides. There is no “group of 88,” per se. We have never met. We do not belong to a political or professional organization, or to a particular discipline or set of disciplines. Most of us signed an ad as a way of expressing solidarity with students who were distressed. I know none of the students quoted in the ad. But I do know my own, who openly stated their concern about the same issues.

Somehow, in the aftermath of this, “the group of 88” has been demonized as left-wing, Marxist, elitist haters of Duke and of Duke athletics, committed to destroying the university. Why would we devote twenty, thirty, even more years of our lives to an institution we hate?

I made a mistake in my generalization. Maybe we can all start paying more attention to our respective statements, consider each other’s individuality and reject simple statements of condemnation for those who disagree with us. Then perhaps we can move forward.

For those who may be interested, appended to this e-mail is the full set of responses I had given to the Duke Chronicle reporter, only one line of which was used. The reporter’s questions are at the very bottom. (That’s now changed because as I explained I put the questions into the Q&A document. --- JinC)

Thank you.

Bill Chafe
________________________________________________

CHRONICLE’S Q’s and CHAFE’S A’s

Q1. What was your initial response to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s announcement that all charges against the three indicted players have been dropped?

Chafe: I expected Cooper's announcement, and given the clear indication that Nifong had made serious mistakes throughout this process, I was pleased to see the record made clear.

Q 2. With the lacrosse case concluded, in retrospect what do you think it revealed about the campus culture at Duke?

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

These issues were not new, particularly the frequency of date rape, unpunished sexual assault, and covert or overt racism among some of our student body. Those of us who had been in
administration and dealing with student affairs for nearly a decade were well aware of these issues. The lacrosse "incident" simply highlighted, and made a more open topic of conversation, underlying issues within our community.

Q 3. Does the proclamation of innocence change the way you feel about the state of campus culture, or is it unrelated?

Chafe: The finding of innocence is unrelated to these ongoing issues. As I hope you and others will acknowledge, most of us never presumed guilt. In the Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed piece I wrote on this in May 2006, I specifically stated that we would not know whether an assault took place until the criminal process was complete. But as I said then, that was not the issue at hand.

The issue is and was how we feel about each other as members of the Duke community, and how we seek to sustain dignity, compassion and caring as values we affirm and pledge ourselves to uphold.

Q 4. As an original signer of the ad that ran in The Chronicle April 6, do you think the issues brought up in the ad are still relevant now that the prosecution has decided that the players are innocent of all charges?

Chafe: From my perspective, the ad simply affirmed faculty concern about students who had experienced denigration or sexual and racial maltreatment. I did not believe it was about whether or not a crime had been committed.

My own students -- not those who were quoted in the ad -- subsequently told me about their experience witnessing strippers hired to perform ON campus, and their regret that more of their peers had not protested sexual assault. These were the issues that concerned us. And these are the issues that still concern us, and should concern us.

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?

Chafe: I support the ongoing engagement of faculty in seeking a community that cares about the dignity and personhood of every individual at Duke. I am appalled at the way that bloggers who have targeted the "Group of 88" have put words in our mouths, denied our individuality, and used racist and violent language to attack us (including sending us e-mails and making phone calls wishing our deaths, and calling us "Jew bitch" and "n-bitch"). It would be good to know whether those who do this in fact want their children to go to a university that sanctions student groups hiring strippers or mistreating fellow students.

23 comments:

kbp said...

Thanks John

I hope to have more to say later, as there is much to cover in those 2 emails.

I will say that my initial reaction (overlooking what the "ad" actually said for now), is that he was all over the board on subjects he claims the ad addressed.

It looked like he was either having a problem with this re-write, was trying to throw as much as possible hoping something would stick, or forgot what the "ad" actually said.

I get back on this one!

AMac said...

Professor Chafe,

Wow.

I admire you for writing this civil, focused, well-written response to the questions J-in-C posed.

Thank you.

I hope others among the signers of the Listening Statement take notice of your example--and of the respect, however grudging, that will be accorded to you as a result.

That is a path to dialog and, perhaps to understanding, that remains open.

In thinking about something contentious, it can help to go back to the original text. Fortunately, the Listening Statement has been preserved, here.

As you say, many words in the Statement are devoted to quotes of students decrying racism and sexism at Duke.

Reasonable people can bring their different perspectives to bear on these perceptions. Have any of the widely-read blogs covering the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax denigrated students for raising concerns about problems with campus culture? Not to my knowlege. But again, people can disagree civilly without being disparaging to one another.

The criticism that Group of 88 has encountered is not due to faculty expression of solidarity with students who feel distressed.

It is the result of the intentional inclusion of other sentences in the Statement--sentences that refer explicitly to the March 13th Lacrosse team stripper party. Statements that directly imply that team members did something terrible to the "young woman" victim. Statements timed to hit the presses when the campus, community, and media Rush to Judgment was in full swing. In these ways, the Listening Statement made a bad situation worse.

Please allow me to illustrate this point with excerpts from the Listening Statement (quotes in bold):

The ad was run because "we [the sponsoring professors] are turning up the volume in a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait."

The Listening Statement:

-- thanked protesters "for shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman"

-- expressed the signers' concerns about keeping "the young woman herself central to this conversation"

-- applauded the claim "that the disaster didn't begin on March 13th and won't end with what the police say or the court decides"

And the Listening Statement ends with:

-- "To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."

To understand the Statement and the overpoweringly negative response it engendered among people of good will, the context of that closing line ("to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard") should be reviewed.

This conclusion was a clear endorsement of the "potbanging" protesters. These demonstrators carried banners that read
"CASTRATE"
"GET A CONSCIENCE NOT A LAWYER"
"TIME TO CONFESS"
and
"GIVE THEM EQUAL MEASURE"

In front of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., these folks "made themselves heard" with the following chant:

Who’s being Silent?
They’re being silent!
Whose protecting rapists?
They’re protecting rapist!
So, who are the rapists?
They must be the rapists!
Out of the house! Out of the town!
We don’t want! You around!


Here, then, are the unfortunate specifics of the Social Disaster that the authors of the Listening Statement created, and that dozens of faculty signers transformed into a national issue.

Whether through a misplaced sense of righteousness, or secret dogmatism, or simple stubbornness, the signatories of the Listening Statement stand by these words.

They were wrong on the day they were drafted.

They were wrong in late spring, when the malign effects of the Rush to Judgment were clear.

They were wrong in late summer, when it was evident to casual observers that false charges had been laid by a rogue prosecutor.

And they are wrong in the aftermath of Attorney General Cooper's exoneration of the lacrosse team.

In my opinion, the single most effective catalyst for "moving forward" and "healing" would be for signatories of the Listening Statement to begin to acknowledge its toxic words and disavow them.

In closing, I will return to my starting point: Thank you, Professor Chafe, for listening, and for responding to John's email.

Anonymous said...

"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?"

Very straight forward question. Unfortunately, the answer was nonresponsive. A simple yes or no would have been wonderful.

Prof. Chafe, do you still support the statements included in the ad? Try it again please. Perhaps you didn't understand the question the first time.

Mike in Nevada

Anonymous said...

I like how he conflated having strippers at parties on campus to sexual assault.

I guess in his world women can do anything with their bodies as long as they're more than 100M from the clocktower or something.

I was also amused by: "The issue is and was how we feel about each other as members of the Duke community, and how we seek to sustain dignity, compassion and caring as values we affirm and pledge ourselves to uphold."

Really? That's an amazingly finely sliced issue. How about the issue is whether or not you endangered those innocent young boys in order to make your personal bones?

_AC

gs said...

I would like to know why when a white woman was raped at a black fraternity party, where drugs and alcohol were in use, he and the other Profs did not issue a statement. Why not? Why no protests, no ads? Why not demand that all the Phat guys be suspended? Crime is not new, even at Duke, why was the only statement by these Profs about the white Lax players?

Anonymous said...

Chafe's still trying to have it both ways. He continues the myth that the Listening Statement simply concerned long-standing "issues" on campus, and didn't impugn the guilt of the LAX3. Bullfeathers, Mr. Chafe! Any literate person reading the G88 statement would conclude that its main purpose was to encourage campus activists to engage in more pot-banging and "Castrate" sign-making. I do appreciate his apology, though I don't believe it is genuine.

Anonymous said...

Can the G88 or Chafe give us any example of what they had done prior to the lacrosse case to combat these huge problems they think they were protesting in their ad? Did they run other ads in the Chronicle about problems? Did they organize other protests? Did they write about these issues in articles (proclaiming that Duke has a special racism and sexism problem over and above what exists on every college campus)? I surely have not seen anything like that from any of them prior to the lacrosse case.

Chafe's cover up now does not wash with me. Sorry, that's the way it is. Chafe and other G88 members saw an opportunity to go for the kill with the lacrosse players (a group they obviously do not like) and that's what their ad was about. Nothing is going to change that.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear Chafe claim that he would have been just as willing to sign on to the Group of 88 Listening Ad if the targeted players were black, or of some other minority race.

Many of the heros of this case have been African-Americans, including James Coleman, Ed Bradley, Jason Whitlock, Randall Drain, Devon Sherwood, and others.

But it was the racists and other idealogues among the Duke faculty, including Chafe, who were only willing to throw gasoline on the fire because they saw the lacrosse players as... in the words of Lubiano... "perfect offenders".

Chafe should choke on his apology.

Anonymous said...

"I made a mistake in my generalization. Maybe we can all start paying more attention to our respective statements, . . . and reject simple statements of condemnation for those who disagree with us. Then perhaps we can move forward."

Too bad he was referring to his comment re: bloggers and not the original statement of the Gang of 88. He's getting warmer, but still misses the mark as far as I'm concerned.

"It would be good to know whether those who do this in fact want their children to go to a university that sanctions student groups hiring strippers or mistreating fellow students."

Oops, did he do it again?

TruthHurts001 said...

If Chafe is sincerely concerned about sexual assault and date rape, then he should be righteously OUTRAGED at Crystal Mangum for the damage she has done to the credibility of all future victims.

Strange that he has not expressed any such outrage.

AMac said...

To be clear, here is Professor Chafe's apology:

"I made a mistake in generalizing about 'bloggers' in my comment to the Chronicle, and I apologize."

This is in reference to this April 30th statement:

"I am appalled at the way that bloggers who have targeted the 'Group of 88' have put words in our mouths, denied our individuality and racist and violent language to attack us-including sending us e-mails and making phone calls wishing our deaths and calling us 'Jew b-' and 'n-b-.'"

Prof. Chafe confirms that emailers and phone callers have done the things he describes, but acknowledges that he cannot connect them to the "bloggers who have targeted 'The Group of 88.'"

Fair enough.

On the matter of the Listening Statement itself, Prof. Chafe has no apologies to make.

From his email to J-in-C: "Most of us [The Group of 88] signed an ad [The Listening Statement] as a way of expressing solidarity with students who were distressed."

Response #2: "From my point of view, and that, I think of others, the lacrosse 'incident' [sneer quotes are Chafe's] simply focused a spotlight on what many of us at Duke saw to be ongoing and critical issues in our campus culture." The named issues are
(1) the frequency of date rape
(2) unpunished sexual assault
(3) covert or overt racism among Duke's student body.

"The lacrosse 'incident' [sneer quotes are Chafe's] simply highlighted... [these] underlying issues."

Response #3: "The finding of innocence is unrelated to these ongoing issues."

I can envision two ways to reconcile these statements with the text of the Listening Statement (see 2:36am comment, above).

(1) From the Statement, cherry pick only those sentences that did not address the Lacrosse stripper party or the response to the party.

(2) Concede that the three charged men were legally "innocent" [sneer quotes are mine], while signalling that the conduct of the lacrosse players during the March 13th "incident" [sneer quotes are Chafe's] exemplified date rape, sexual assault, and racism on the part of Duke students.

There may well be another explanation (one that does not rely on cognitive dissonance). If this is what Prof. Chafe has in mind, I hope he will share it with John in Carolina's readers.

Anonymous said...

Looks like good Prof. Chafe now knows the difference between emailers and bloggers. Never too old to learn, I guess. NOW, Chafe and the others need to understand that their actions gave Nifong the courage to continue with the hoax. They seem like little kids with a book of matches. Someone (CGM) spilled a can of gas and they couldn't help themselves -- they threw the lighted match. I think they actually wanted her to be raped, but I DO hope some of them have the "goodness" to -- in their own little minds -- rethink their position at least on a personal level. I have very little respect for them (especially Baker), but DO commend Chafe for responding to JinC. Whatever his beliefs, it did take a bit of courage to do so in the measured way that he did.
cf

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chafe's response seems to suggest he only agreed with parts of the statement by the "group of 88". I say this becasue his response(s) only included his commentary on some of the statements contained in the ad. He did not answer the more accusatory statements in the ad. I am also wondering why, if his own students were so concerned about events on campus that they did not sign the statement or include their student comments as part of the ad. But, I am appreciative at the response by Mr. Chafe and the attempt by both sides for a better understanding of the lacrosse mess. I would still like to know what his thoughts are about the timing of the ad. Why did he and they wait until some apparent but not true event occurred first before expressing their campus concerns. Why the silence about the black on white rape that occurred at another off campus party? Guess we will never know why there was not the same concerns about rape accusations in that incident.

Jeff said...

Like amac @ 2:36 am I am grateful that Dr. Chafe responded civilly and cogently.

I respect the fact that he acknowledges that whatever e-mails he may have received, the blogs, at least those I have seen, may have been very critical but never threatening.

I'd like to respond to the two fundamental points in his response where he loses me. He was one of 88 highly educated people who signed a statement that is, at best, highly ambiguous. If he was careless in reading it and therefore failed to perceive its ambiguity then, there is no reason not to admit it now. By failing to recognize the harm done by the Listening Statement, he justifies lumping him and the others together; unlike the math professor whose precise name I have forgotten (Petters?), Chafe is still maintaining "solidarity," his word, with the other signatories. That warrants his inclusion in a group, however much he might like to distinguish himself from the rest of the herd.

The other point is the Listening Statement itself. For purposes of argument, take the apologetics at face value: the statement was merely a recognition of concerns raised by the allegations, concerns that were arguably valid regardless of the truth of the allegations. But statements like "what happened to this young woman" and "thank you for not waiting" do not address the general but speak to the specific and immediate. The people who signed the statement are (mostly) professionals in the use of words and are all adults in positions of responsibility; nevertheless they uttered words that DID presume guilt and DID decry due process and cannot, even now, admit that they erred.

Though I do appreciate Chafe's willingness to engage in dialogue and find his explanations far more acceptable and comprehensible than the self-serving and self-pitying screed of Dr. Davidson, that self-described person "of conscience," he missed the opportunity to say, "I am very sorry that I used an unverified accusation as the basis for a statement that contributed, however unintentionally, to a spirit of mob vengeance that I deplore. I failed to read and think when I should have." Why is that so hard?

JeffM

Anonymous said...

Prof. Chafe-
Your responses to both criticism and questions about your behavior are typical for someone imbued with narcissistic traits. You and the other signers of the ad encouraged, by the very wording and timing af the ad, the presumption of guilt towards the defendants. If you had really cared about the welfare of all Duke students you and your cohorts would have waited for the case to be tried in a court and a decision of guilt or innocence made and then brought your concerns out in a calmer atmosphere. Your behavior then and now is unacceptable. All of you in the CCI are the equivalent to the most vile of race baiters. Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

Professor Chafe,

Thank you for your response to JinC's email but for me a simple I'm sorry" would have been a lot more meaningful.

You write of moving forward but I believe that the Group of 88's "We're Listening" ad has effectively hobbled Duke.

I have probably read the ad more times than many of the signatories and I am aware that the ad never mentioned the words "lacrosse", "rape" or "guilty" but as the parent of a Duke alum, I'm telling you that the publication of the ad in April felt like a sucker punch. At a time when campus tension was reaching a flashpoint and the voice of reason was screaming to be heard you and your colleagues decided to add a catayst to an already out of control chemical reaction. You actually thanked people for not waiting and I believe your actions were tantamount to inciting a riot.

You write that "I support the ongoing engagement of faculty in seeking a community that cares about the dignity and personhood of every individual at Duke." This sounds like an admirable pursuit but in April I didn't see any concern at all for the "dignity and personhood" of the individuals who comprised the lacrosse team.

The publication of the "We're Listening" ad was its own disaster and one that will not soon be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to come to a place where everyone isn't shouting.

There are a lot of very good comments here.

I'm going to keep checking in. I'll be interested to see what Chafe says. I give him points for his apology.

Anonymous said...

I am stealing your "meanspirited and conversation stopper" for future use. As always, a hero of the hoax. I hope you have an opportunity to address the effort to roll back discovery in North Carolina. I am not a lawyer but in light of everything that has gone on this year, does not look right.

dukeprofessor said...

Dear Bill: As long time faculty members, both you and I seem to live in alternate universes. I have had a number of students come to me with complaints about humanities faculty members who are contemptuous of Duke undergraduate students in general. Faculty members who, like the oft-quoted Ken Surin, believe and say publicly that athletes are too intellectually limited to take their classes which require "serious reading." Students came to me complaining about the litany of lectures on "rich capitalists" and "prep school privilege" and the like.

I have heard faculty members attack members of the Duke Board of Trustees and Trinity Board of Visitors for their "garish" displays of wealth and for their being representatives of the elites who harms America. Or humanities faculty who say, in class, that "Right-to-Life" groups are fascist, who say that only idiots vote Republican, etc., and that all male Duke students are potential rapists, and all fraternity men are racists, etc.

Neither you nor I would say such things, but others are not so scrupulous in keeping the personal out of the classroom. To teach in the humanities is often done through the personal, as the Duke autobiograpy folk in English showed. But contempt for our students is never ok, especially when that contempt is expressed as contempt for the "group" from which the student or the student's parents comes. If the student were Chinese, or Jewish, or Catholic, and those "groups" were the object of the instructor's public scorn, I would hope we both would be incensed. Is "rich and white" as a term of opprobrium not similar?

dukeprofessor said...

Dear Bill: As long time faculty members, both you and I seem to live in alternate universes. I have had a number of students come to me with complaints about humanities faculty members who are contemptuous of Duke undergraduate students in general. Faculty members who, like the oft-quoted Ken Surin, believe and say publicly that athletes are too intellectually limited to take their classes which require "serious reading." Students came to me complaining about the litany of lectures on "rich capitalists" and "prep school privilege" and the like.

I have heard faculty members attack members of the Duke Board of Trustees and Trinity Board of Visitors for their "garish" displays of wealth and for their being representatives of the elites who harm America. Or humanities faculty who say, in class, that "Right-to-Life" groups are fascist, who say that only idiots vote Republican, etc.

Neither you nor I would say such things, but others are not so scrupulous in keeping the personal out of the classroom. To teach in the humanities is often done through the personal, as the Duke autobiograpy folk in English showed. But contempt for our students is never ok, especially when that contempt is expressed as contempt for the "class" from which the student or the student's parents come. If the student were Chinese, or Jewish, or Catholic, and those "classes" were the object of the instructor's public scorn, I would hope we both would be incensed. Is "rich and white" as a term of opprobrium not similar?

Ken said...

John in Carolina:

Its been my experience that those on the far left never issue a sincere apology. The response is always that "misunderstandings" have occurred.

Those "misunderstandings" seem always to occur in the people who criticize them.

I am convinced that reasoning with people like this is pointless. The best you can hope for is that they go far enough off the ranch to marginalize their influence.

I wonder sometimes whether it has always been this way.

Anonymous said...

Has Prof. Chafe apologized to the Duke3?

I, as a reader of this blog, don't need an apology and neither does this blog. The apology should be to 1) Duke University and the 2) the three defendants who will be healing this cut for years to come! Wake me up when Chafe copies JinC on the apology to the defendants.

Anonymous said...

not convincing.the psudointellect can dance around all they want.if there son was accused of rape,they would expect the world to wait till the facts are out.there is no explanation for the the timing.appears oppurtunistic,less than honest and betraying of innocent students.sorry prof