Saturday, September 29, 2007

Brodhead’s Latest Failure

This from Duke News:

The Duke lacrosse case highlighted “crucial problems of our culture -- problems of achieving justice in a media-saturated society, problems of fundamental fairness to individuals, and problems in the way the American public is informed and misinformed about the world we live in,” Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead told participants in a legal conference on Saturday.

“As president, I had responsibility for the statements the university made and the actions the university took in a virtually unprecedented situation, and I take responsibility for them now,” Brodhead said in his first public comment about the case since the disbarment and resignation of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

“When a case like this is over, it’s tempting to think that the facts so clearly established at the end of the day must have been equally clear throughout the process. This was not the case,” Brodhead said in his talk during a two-day conference at Duke Law School on the practice and ethics of trying cases in the media. “[S]tarkly opposite versions of the truth created deep uncertainty about what had happened.
The Duke News story continues here and includes the full text of President Brodhead’s statement and a link to a video of it.

My comments:

Are you satisfied if President Brodhead admits a few mistakes were made much as Nixon did in the “damage control” statements he kept making at the time of Watergate?

Remember Nixon's “Yes, mistakes were made?”

Are you satisfied if Brodhead just says he‘s sorry he didn’t meet with the lacrosse parents without bothering to say why he refused to meet with them in the first place and for months thereafter?

Are you excited by Brodhead’s promise that the same Duke administrators who planned and implemented a bungled, even disgraceful response to the falsehoods of Nifong, the Raleigh N&O and some Duke faculty will now go “over all our procedures to see what we can learn from our experience?”

Are you happy when the foxes agree to help you find out why your chickens keep disappearing?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, you must be either John Burness or a Duke trustee.

Moving on, Brodhead said today:
When a case like this is over, it’s tempting to think that the facts so clearly established at the end of the day must have been equally clear throughout the process. This was not the case.

When the accusations were made, our students said emphatically that they were innocent.

On the other hand, the district attorney made a series of public statements expressing absolute confidence that a crime had occurred and that the students were guilty of criminal charges.

These starkly opposite versions of the truth created deep uncertainty about what had happened.
If you know little or nothing about the events of last Spring, what Brodhead said today sounds reasonable enough: One side said this, the other side said that. Who could know then what were the right things to do?

But what Brodhead’s saying now is sly, if not disingenuous.

The issue of guilt or innocence aside, Brodhead and Duke's trustees knew last Spring what all of us knew then: Nifong was savaging Duke students for doing no more than following their parents’ and attorneys’ advice to exercise their constitutional rights.

Brodhead, Duke's trustees and "Dick's senior team" knew the student were doing exactly what Duke Law Professor James Coleman has said they should have done.

But neitherBrodhead, any member of his "senior team," or any trustee said anything critical then of Nifong’s savaging.

Brodhead knew last Spring the N&O, Nifong and the Durham Police were lying when they said the players had formed a “wall of solidarity” and weren’t cooperating.

But Brodhead said nothing then to counter those lies, even when they endangered the players’ safety.

He said nothing today to explain why he didn’t.

Nor did he say anything today about why he told the community that whatever the Duke students did “was bad enough.”

Or why he’s never said anything critical of the hate-filled people who screamed threats at Duke students, rallied beneath a CASTRATE” banner and circulated “Vigilante” posters within sight of his office windows.

If you’ve read Brodhead’s statement, you know he said nothing about his silence and the trustees silence when Reade Seligmann was subjected to first shouts of physical harm and then death threats in Durham last May 18.

There are many at Duke, in the Durham community and elsewhere whose self-interests are served by Brodhead remaining as President and Trustee Chair Robert Steel continuing to control the trustees and Duke.

But other than such self-interested people, who wants Duke to continue to endure much more Steel-Brodhead “leadership?”


Jack Rutner said...

John -

All your questions are right on the money. To those questions I would add the following:
1) Why did Duke advise the LaCrosse players not to tell their parents about events of that infamous evening and why did it advise them not retain counsel.
2) Why did Duke tell the players to talk to Wes Covington who had a clear conflict of interest.
3) Why did Duke violate the FERPA rights of the players by giving Nifong protected information?
4) Why did Duke tell the players there was a college/student privacy right when no such right exists?
5) Why does Duke continue to employ Kim Curtis after she gave a failing grade to a LaCrosse player in her class despite the student's prior passing grades?
6) Why has Brodhead and Duke shielded the Group of 88 from lawsuits by the three accused players?

gs said...

John check out the NY Times
reprinted AP story

5 hours ago
But even as Nifong won indictments against the players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, it became clear the charges had no merit.

1 hour ago
But even as Mr. Nifong won indictments against the players, Reade W. Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David F. Evans, there was growing skepticism over the charges.

So did AP change the wording or did the NY Times?

Anonymous said...


I read Brodhead's statement.

I am afraid the poor man is living on borrowed time. The next step is the automatic "vote of confidence" from the BOD before he is ushered out the back door.


kbp said...

Thanks John

First, this man did not give an apology for what he did, but for what "duke, we, our, us..." did in the mess.

I hope you pick it apart a paragraph at a time. It's ripe for a master like JinC to tell us what the message actually was!

Anonymous said...

Just as Nifong never really seemed to understand what he did wrong, Brodhead shows the same failing. Sad that those two men are so much alike. Sad that the two of them happened together at a point in time where they could do the maximum damage to the greatest number of people and institutions. It's all terribly sad.

wayne fontes said...

Has every one forgot that one of Brodhead's first actions was to form the Bowen/Chambers commission? The make up of the commission ensured that a document portraying the players in a negative light would be produced. I wonder if he will stack the upcoming conference in a similar fashion.

Anonymous said...

I am really tired of brodhead saying that he needs to organize conferences all the time to learn things. A leader knows what he did wrong. He does not need to bring in folks from all over the country to discuss why he and duke did the wrong thing to these students. The event happened at Duke and no where else. He leads duke and failed at that job.

I wonder out loud if brodhead was ever faced with a similar problem involving his son and a rouge DA, would he believe the DA over the fact his son told him that he was innocent? When one is responsible for kids, treat them like your own. People like PC distinguished brodhead would rather convict for convenience than protect the process. yep "until proven innocnet"

kbp said...

At the N&O,James Coleman on Brodhead's non-apology:

"None of this stuff happened in a vacuum ...What Duke did affected what others did."

Anonymous said...


You get better and better.

I come to JIC every day.


Stephen said...

Rob: Amen. So do I.