"... 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 email to Professor Paul Haagen, whose term as Chair of Duke's Academic Council ends on June 30.
I'll let you know what I hear back.
Paul H. Haagen, J.D.
Professor of Law
Duke University School of Law
Dear Professor Haagen:
Some weeks back I contacted Faculty of Arts & Sciences Dean George McLendon. I requested he ask the Academic Council to make a statement condemning those who on May 18, 2006 shouted physical threats, including death threats, at Reade Seligmann and expressing concern for him and his family for the ordeal they endured.
In addition to links to news reports of the threats, I provided Dean McLendon with a links to an account of the cross burning in Durham the previous May and the Academic Council’s formal condemnation a few days later of that odious event.
Dean McLendon responded as follows:
I have forwarded your email to Paul Haagen, chair of the academic council.(A [JinC] commentator astutely notes that I have no special standing with [the academic council] ).I’ve heard nothing from you in the weeks since Dean McLendon forwarded my request to you.
I personally deplore and condemn any threats directed at Mr Seligmann,or at any other member of the Duke community,as a result of this tragically misguided prosecution and the events which surrounded it.
I know how easily things can fall off the radar screen, so I’ve included below a copy of the letter I sent Dean McLendon.
I look forward to your response, which I'll post in full at my blog:Johnincarolina.com
John in Carolina
George L. McLendon, Ph.D.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences
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.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.
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.
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