The number of reader comments at JinC keeps growing. I’m very glad of that, but it means, while I read all comments, I can’t respond to them individually.
In this post I'll respond to recent comments regarding Duke’s President, Richard H. Brodhead, in “group fashion.”
I’ve picked three issues concerning Brodhead that keep coming up in reader comments. If your issue isn’t one of them, please comment. I want to hear what you have to say.
1) “It’s not all Brodhead’s fault.”
The “not all Brodhead’s fault” commenters typically say such things as one or more of the following sentences:
Brodhead isn’t responsible for what Nifong did or for the Group of 88’s “social disaster” statement and so much else.
There's only so much a university president can do. Brodhead’s faced with an A&S faculty that’s dominated by loud, ideologically driven, tenured leftists.
Some trustees want only “sunny news;” they don’t want the president locked in battle with the faculty.
University faculties are so entrenched in their “rights,” that a president would be foolish to challenge a faculty, even one such as Duke’s A&S faculty which has so manifestly failed its university in a time of great crisis.
I agree with those who say “it’s not all Brodhead’s fault” when they talk about things he can’t control.
But there’s so much he could have done and didn’t do. And there’s so much he did do that he shouldn’t have done. A few of the “didn’t do” are below under 2.
2) “Brodhead ought to be fired.”
People saying that cite things such as:
a) Brodhead’s refusal last March to meet with the lacrosse parents when they were on campus and his failure since to offer any explanation for refusing to meet with them.
b) Brodhead’s silence when white lacrosse players were targeted by “activists,” including adults employed by DU, with a “CASTRATE” banner and by others distributing “Vigilante” posters within sight of his office windows on March 29, 2006.
c) Brodhead’s decision to say nothing critical of those who shouted threats of physical violence, including death threats at Reade Seligmann both outside the Durham County Courthouse and within the courtroom on May 18, 2006.
What current university president has refused to meet with parents in the circumstances the lacrosse parents were in on March 25; or remained silent as a group of his students came under attack from hate-filled activists whose actions really endangered not just the students they were targeting, but all other Duke students as well?
Among current university Presidents, Duke’s Dick Brodhead is unique in his refusals and his silences.
He shouldn’t be in the president’s office.
But I don’t know if the trustees can fire Brodhead outright. There are very likely contractual arrangements between Brodhead and the board that prevent that except in the most extreme circumstances.
But I believe the trustees can force Brodhead’s resignation if board chair Steel tells him there is a strong feeling among many trustees that he needs to promptly replace a number of members of what’s known as “Dick’s senior team.”
Brodhead couldn’t miss that signal from the trustees. He’d know they want him to go, too; and that they believe his last, best service to Duke should be to start the house cleaning at the Allen Building and elsewhere that needs to be done.
If Brodhead will start that job, he’ll make the very difficult situation facing his successor somewhat less difficult.
As he begins developing “arrangements” and/or “separation packages” with some of his senior staffers, Brodhead can also begin to make his own arrangements and develop his separation package with the trustees:
”Board chair Robert Steel also announced today that outgoing President Richard H. Brodhead has agreed to serve as the first Director of Duke’s new Center for the Advanced Study of Changing Facts. The center, to be located in a group of 88 condos in downtown Durham …”
3) “The trustees pretty much got the kind of man they wanted. That’s why they’re supporting him.”
In one way, I can understand readers saying that. After all, during the last thirteen months not one trustee has, as far as I know, said one public word suggesting the slightest disapproval of any of the actions and inactions of Brodhead and “Dick’s senior team.”
The trustees have been silent even as Brodhead and his team's actions and inactions have concerned, shocked, angered and embarrassed many tens of thousands of Duke students, parents and alumni.
But I just can’t believe the trustees, if they could have “a do over,” would say: “Dick Brodhead’s just the man to lead Duke University. But can we can convince him to leave Yale?”
I’ll be saying more about Brodhead and Duke’s current crisis very soon.
In the meantime, your comments are always welcome.