Sunday, June 17, 2007

INNOCENT: A gutsy and wise Duke Prof

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

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
Locomotive Breath, a Duke alum and citizen journalist, commented last evening to remind us of the gutsy and wise service Professor of Chemistry Steven Baldwin rendered Duke University as the Hoax’s criminal injustices played out on campus and elsewhere last spring.

Below is a copy of a letter Baldwin wrote which The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, published last April 17.

You may recall that was the same day a Durham Grand Jury indicted Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann; and the day before they were arrested before dawn in their dorm rooms, handcuffed and taken to the Durham County jail.

It was also only a few weeks after Duke’s faculty Group of 88 said “something happened” on the night of March 13/14 and thanked those who hadn’t waited.

Those who hadn’t waited included those who rallied at the edge of East Campus under a large “CASTRATE” banner, those who shouted threats at the Duke students who played on the lacrosse team, and the "activists" who distributed the notorious “Vigilante” posters on West Campus.

In that “hang ‘em” atmosphere even Duke’s Dick Brodhead, the University’s President, with all the prestige and power of his office, decided it was best for him to say nothing in support of the players or their Coach, Mike Pressler, whose resignation had been forced despite his 19 years of honorable service to Duke.

But Steve Baldwin spoke out.

Baldwin’s letter follows, after which you’ll see a link to an op-ed he wrote this past fall. Like the letter, Baldwin’s op-ed is a “don’t miss” unless you’re a Brodhead/Group of 88 fan.

For any of you who are Brodhead/Group of 88 fans, just be patient. Duke Trustee Chair Robert Steel will soon send you and all of us another of his “everything is just fine and we're lucky to have Dick at Duke” emails.

Now Baldwin’s April 17, 2006 letter to The Chronicle:

At the risk of arousing the wrath of the righteous, I would like to offer my impressions of Mike Pressler, recent coach of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

I have known Coach Pressler and his family for at least ten years. Our children played together when they were younger and our families have done things together socially. Coach Pressler is humble, reserved, thoughtful and honest to a fault. He has great integrity.

On the occasions when Mike and I would discuss lacrosse and an upcoming recruiting class, his comments invariably focused on the personal qualities of the young men and how excited he was to have those families join the Duke family. He was always more interested in his team members as people than as lacrosse players.

Like any coach whose value is measured by wins and losses, Mike wanted to win. But he wanted to win the right way, with players who were students first and athletes second-players who would be a credit to Duke University.

There is no question that bad things happened at the lacrosse party the night of March 13. At the very least, there was underage drinking and insensitive verbal abuse. At the worst, acts were committed that were truly horrible and that would demand the severest consequences for those involved.

Of course, four weeks after the fact, we still don't know what did or did not happen that night, and whether or not the acts of which the lacrosse team members are accused actually occurred.

I am troubled by the lack of support for Coach Pressler from the athletic department. He was hung out to dry by an athletics administration that neither understood the issues nor appreciated Mike Pressler the man.

Long before we learn the truth about what happened that night, and long before we learn the conclusions and recommendations of the several committees formed by President Brodhead to address the situation, the athletic department convulsed and threw the baby out with the bath water.

For Mike Pressler to offer his resignation was "appropriate."

For Athletic Director Joe Alleva to accept the resignation was wrong. Mike Pressler deserves better; so does Duke.

Steven Baldwin

Professor, Dept. of Chemistry


Steve Baldwin's op-ed is here. Please read it. See if you don't agree it's a "don't miss."


Anonymous said...

John, terrific post. I had missed reading Baldwin's April 17, 2006 letter when it first came out. Thanks for digging it out. It is indeed quite significant.

Please continue to dig for all of us. Happy Fathers Day!

Anonymous said...

Baldwin can never receive enough praise for his courage and integrity.

Anonymous said...

He must be mighty unpopular with certain prof's.....


Anonymous said...

Chemistry. One of those fields that requires intellectual rigor and objectivity.

Interesting that so many of the people who got this right come from fields like physicial sciences, engineering, and economics.

As someone with two degrees in political science, I am embarrassed that my social sciences peers were hard to find on the right side of this one.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how different things would have been had the 3 guys been basketball players and Coach K? Reckon he would've been fired?

Anonymous said...

Professor Baldwin showed a great deal of courage during this ordeal. So did 19 economics professors (Prof. Weintraub and Co). Let's salute all those who spoke out or expressed solidarity with those speaking up. Check out the complete list here:

Duke Faculty for Truth and Justice

Anonymous said...

"Mike Pressler deserves better; so does Duke."

Only half of that statement is true.

Anonymous said...

I was attending the law school at Duke when all this happened, and was taking, among other courses, civil rights law. The professor, one of those who constantly urge full civil rights for terrorists at Gitmo, said nothing as these 3 boys had their civil rights violated. There was such institutional apathy (except for Prof. Coleman) there for what was happening; it makes Prof. Baldwin's courage even more praiseworthy.