Wednesday, May 02, 2007

INNOCENT: To Duke’s A&S Faculty Dean

"... 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: I've just sent the following letter to Dean McLendon and will keep you informed.

George L. McLendon, Ph.D.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Duke University

Dear Dean McLendon:

I hold two degrees from the University and blog as John in Carolina.

I’m writing as both an alum and a Durham resident.

You no doubt recall that last May 18, then sophomore Reade Seligmann was subjected to shouted physical threats, including death threats. They were made first as he walked to the Durham County Courthouse with his parents and attorney, the late Kirk Osborn, and then again within the courtroom.

The threats were widely reported in media. Britan’s The Guardian's account said:

Reade Seligmann, 20, sat in a suit at a court hearing. From the gallery one onlooker shouted: 'Justice will be served, rapist!' Seligmann largely ignored the taunts, but as he left came the call 'Dead man walking!' and he blanched.
Among those threatening Seligmann were members of the racist New Black Panther Party.

I know of no member of the Arts & Sciences faculty who spoke out publicly to condemn those threatening Seligmann or to offer their compassion to Seligmann and his parents after what was a terrible ordeal.

The A & S faculty’s silence reflects very poorly on it and Duke University.

That’s especially so when we recall the faculty’s prompt, clear and strong response almost exactly a year earlier to the anonymous and still unsolved cross burnings in Durham.

Here in full for your reference and JinC readers information is the Academic Council’s June 1, 2005, statement as posted for media distribution at Duke News:
As representatives of the Duke University faculty, the Executive Committee of the Academic Council wishes to add our collective voice to the recent events in Durham.

Cross-burning in the United States is a history we all hoped had ended. Such acts have been an extreme symbol of racial violence and of one group's desire to deny civil and human rights to another group. Cross-burning has re-emerged as a practice of intimidation in the present, still carrying the taint of white supremacist, segregationist, and other demeaning policies associated with a not-so-distant time in the life of Duke, Durham, and the surrounding region.

Intimidation and threats of violence against any group are anathema in both university contexts and in society at large. We condemn the cross-burnings that have disgraced our community -- and we renew our commitment to liberty and justice for all.
In June 2005 I was very glad the Academic Council made its cross burning statement as were fair-minded alums and Durhamites who learned of it.

Since May 18, 2006 I’ve been very troubled by the faculty’s silence regarding the threats made to Seligmann.

Why has there been no faculty statement that intimidation and threats of violence against Reade Seligmann or any other peaceful citizen are anathema in both university contexts and in society at large?

I don’t believe the intimidation and threats Seligmann, his parents and Kirk Osborn were subjected to last May 18 by two small groups of hate-filled people disgraced either Duke or Durham. But the wall of silence the University and the City have collectively thrown up since May 18 certainly has.

That wall of silence needs to fall.

I’m told that as Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences you are the proper administrator to place the matter of a faculty response to the events of May 18 before the A&S faculty for consideration of a request to the Academic Council.

That request would, I hope, ask the Academic Council to issue on behalf of the Duke faculty a statement as clear and strong in its condemnation of the threats made to Seligmann as was its June 2005 condemnation of the cross burnings.

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

Thank you for your attention to this letter.


John in Carolina


NJ LAXMAN said...

Do you really expect these people to answer your pointed inquiries? To do so truthfully will cause them great embarassment.However, keep asking because someone needs to join the issue and evidence the agenda. I will be shocked if you get an answer from the Dean.

Cindy said...

John, this has been my point for some time now. Forget the Wendy Murphy's or the SAME nurse. The faculty and administration has been despicable, unforgivable in their silence, which I equate with support for the Gang of 88. Virtually the entire non-student population at Duke has been quiet while a) a corrupt DA attempted to send them to jail b) a segment of the University’s faculty publicly expressed their absolute disdain for the very students they teach. The hundreds of other teachers at Duke let the Gang of 88 speak for the academy, and cowardly have let them take the heat. Sorry, John, but don’t hold your breath for an apology, not from the Dean, not from Broadhead or anyone else that failed to step up. It’s not that they don’t see anything to apologize for – they simply are not sorry.

Anonymous said...

Why restrict it to the death threats against Reade Seligmann? What about the "Castrate!!" sign (and the other outrages)in front of David Evans' house?

Anonymous said...

There is an error here. The Academic Council, elected at large from each school and division of the University, represents the Faculty of Duke University, and is independent of any dean or provost etc.

McClendon is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which has an elected Arts and Sciences Council which is not elected at large, and really represents no faculty in particular, as it is made up of "sort of elected" departmental representatives who look out for departmental interests in matters such as cross-departmental issues of curriculum and so on.

Going to the Duke website, you can look up the constitutions of both organizations.