Friday, May 04, 2007

An invitation to Duke's Prof. Chafe

Readers Note: William H. Chafe is 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 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Duke University and Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education.

I just sent Chafe the following email with a link to this post. I’ll keep you informed.


Dear Professor Chafe:

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

My blog is not a Duke Hoax blog, but I post often on the witch hunt, the frame-up and their active enablement by many, including many in senior positions at Duke.

I read your extremely serious but unsupported charges in the Apr. 30 Chronicle:

"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-,'" Chafe wrote in an e-mail. "Most of us never presumed guilt."
Yesterday KC Johnson posted regarding an opportunity he gave you to clarify your unsupported charges. You were quoted as saying:
“There were repeated phone calls and e-mail messages. I never claimed they were from you, but they were concerted.”
To your unsupported Chronicle charges, it now appears you’re adding conspiracy.

Every decent blogger condemns those making physical threats to law abiding people. We also condemn those who make unsubstantiated charges that can often be false.

You surely know some people sending emails and making phone calls are not always who they claim to be and don’t necessarily believe what they say. What could you make of an email that said:
Dear Professor Chafe,

Thank you for never joining who’ve attacked us for our rally under the “CASTRATE" banner or for distributing “Vigilante” posters on campus and elsewhere.

We were all so encouraged last spring when you and the rest of the Group of 88 supported us in the “social disaster” statement: “to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.”


A Grateful Former Student?
Is the person really a grateful former student?

Couldn’t the email be from a former student scornful of your silence in the face of demonstrable threats to Duke students; and worse, your signing on, in the face of those threats, to a statement widely regarded last April and now as thanking those whose actions made an already dangerous situation even more dangerous?

Just a few days before the “social disaster” statement appeared, Vice President for Student Affairs Moneta took the necessary step of cautioning Duke students concerning their safety while at the same time Duke and Durham police increased patrols on campus, in Trinity Park and the Ninth Street area.

Shortly after the "social disaster" statement appeared, Durham Mayor Bill Bell, North Carolina Central University Chancellor James Ammons and President Brodhead took the unprecedented step of placing full-page ads in area newspapers calling for community calm.

In such a tense and dangerous time, whatever possessed you, many other Duke faculty and 15 academic departments and programs to issue your statement and go out of you way to say: “to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard?”

If you don’t feel you can answer for the others, will you answer for yourself?

In the last year I’ve seen copies of many hundreds of civilly worded emails sent to you and other “88” faculty members. They’ve raised important issues and asked reasonable, fact-based questions.

But rarely have those emails received similarly civil and fact-based replies addressing the issues raised and the questions asked.

I hope you will respond to this email.

I’ll publish your response in full up to 1000 words. I’ll make no response for at least a day so readers can have a look at what you say free of my commentary.


John in Carolina


Anonymous said...

John - No one will ever accuse you of going belly up. hope you hear back.

Anonymous said...

John, great post. I hope Chafe responds.

kaz said...

While hearing back would be good, I suspect you just got added to Chafe's blocked sender list.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath. Professor Chafe has demonstrated that he thinks most of us are yahoos who are no better than the murders of Emmett Till. He is certain we peons cannot appreciate the enlightenment he has received as a result of his vastly superior intellect (an intellect that transcends the limits of pedestrian concepts such as fact-based, rational inquiry).

Texas Professor

kbp said...

Thanks John,

We have to remember that Chafe is the type which loves Positive attention, negative attention or any attention.

None of us will ever shame him. the best we can hope for is to reveal what he is to any that are aware of his existance.

p.s. This "Word Verification" sucks sometimes!

AMac said...

J-in-C, you make a series of telling points.

I have occasionally blogged and often commented on the Hoax, and in particular on the actions of many of Duke's faculty.

On a very few instances, I have emailed or written directly to such individuals. Always civil, always signed. No person who has arguably taken an enabling role has ever responded: they seem to prefer one-way Listening. Which is certainly their prerogative.

For urging skepticism and civility, I've been on the receiving end of sarcastic, obscene, and venomous comments by some hot-headed anti-hoax writers. So perhaps I give more credence than most to Chafe's claim of getting nasty emails.

On the other hand, there's a spectrum with "unpleasant" on one end, and "imminent, credible threat of harm" on the other. Hoax-enabling faculty seem as sensitive to brickbats directed their way as they were indifferent to their contributions to the dangerous environment that the innocent lacrosse players faced.

Surely we can expect more consistency on this point from Public Intellectuals like Dr. Chafe.

I hope everybody will heed the call of bloggers like J-in-C, KC Johnson, Jason Trumpbour, and Philip Wood, and focus on issues. The record of personal statements and behavior is one of those issues, but that's no excuse for ad hominem attacks, far less for threats.

I hope Professor Chafe will start linking his charges of conspiracy to evidence of same.

I hope he passes serious threats to the police, and urges administrators to have Duke's I.T. and campus police work together to identify perpetrators and mitigate any danger.

And I hope he develops a thicker skin as regards unpleasant and trollish communiques.

wayne fontes said...

The listening statement was generated from a meeting which was attended by about 60 students out of a total student population of about 12,000. These students to my knowledge were the most radical, politicized students available on the Duke campus. A rather selective "biopsy" of the opinion of the student body. To subsequently claim you were listening to your students based on this minuscule sample effectively "put words into the mouths" of the student body. Chaffe buttressed his arguments with anonymous student quotes in two subsequent letters. Even if I concede the point that an actual student is behind the comments (which I don't)to try to portray these comments as a reflection of a broad swath of student opinion is a dubious exercise.

In my view Chaffe has engaged in the same activity he is accusing bloggers of on at least three occasions. Perhaps Chaffe can substantiate his accusation and respond to my point when he responds to you.

Breath holding commences immediately.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Wayne - if you held your breath until Chafe responded, the only sound you'd finally hear would be your harp playing in heaven.

Time to exhale, hon.

Mike Lee said...

It is now 5/7, four days have passed since this post and your message to Professor Chafe. As there has been no response posted I have to assume that none has been forthcoming.

It's sad and very clear that these Professors don't really want to engage in an open discussion or real debate about their positions. This is the absolute antithesis of academics.

For over a year we have been waiting for these Professors to be honest and open and advance the discussion. Unfortunately it's clear that the wait will never end.

Professor Chafe, I am sorry to say this, but you and your ilk are cowards of the first order.