Readers Note: Below is the full text of a letter published recently in Duke Alumni Association’s Duke Magazine. The writer, A Hope Williams, is president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities and a Duke alumna.
After Williams’ letter is a double star line followed by an email I’m sending her.
I’ll keep you posted if I hear back from Williams.
To the editor:
The most important responsibility of every college and university president is the safety of their students, faculty, and staff. When threats are made against students, as they were during the lacrosse case, those threats must be taken seriously.
Had the lacrosse season continued… and had there been violence against the students, the university would have been in an indefensible position of having placed greater value on athletics than on safety.
During the early stages of the case, President Brodhead was the one individual among those who were quoted often in the media who consistently reminded reporters and the public that under the law the accused students were presumed innocent.
Suspension of students against whom felony charges have been filed is a policy followed by most colleges and universities. The wisdom of this is self-evident. A university could put the safety of its entire community at risk by allowing students who have been charged with crimes of violence to remain in school.
As an alumna in the Triangle, I live in close proximity to the combustible atmosphere of the first months of the case, and safety was clearly an issue. As a Duke parent, I must believe that the administration will keep campus safety as its top priority.
As president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the organization of the thirty-six private colleges and universities in the state, I have viewed President Brodhead's actions in the broader context of all higher education. Based on each of these perspectives, I strongly believe that President Brodhead made the right decisions in accordance with the policies of the university and based on the evolving legal situation. In this instance it is the local justice system through District Attorney Nifong that failed the students, the accuser, the Duke community, and the state.
A. Hope Williams '76
Raleigh, North Carolina
Dear President Williams:
I agree with some of the things you say in your recent Duke Magazine letter. In the circumstances of last Spring, the University’s decision to suspend Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann was proper. And in his public statements at the time, President Brodhead almost always asserted the importance of due process and presumption of innocence.
There’s something else important you could have said in Brodhead’s and the University’s defense: On March 24, 2006 Duke issued a statement in which, among other things, it said the players were cooperating with officals.
In its fraudulent March 25 story which gave credibility to Mangum’s, Nifong’s and DPD’s lies and fueled the witch hunt, the Raleigh News & Observer ignored Duke’s statement and instead promulgated the “wall of silence” lie. The N&O's story of what it said was an "ordeal" which ended in "sexual violence" caught the nation's attention and Duke's statement was overlooked or ignored by almost all the MSM.
There are things you say about which I’d like to ask you questions.
The most important responsibility of every college and university president is the safety of their students, faculty, and staff. When threats are made against students, as they were during the lacrosse case, those threats must be taken seriously.Yes, threats against students must be taken very seriously.
Why then, after an angry crowd swarmed in front of a university-owned house and made threatening remarks about the students who lived there;
after the crowd waved a large “CASTRATE” banner while shouting threats;
after copies of a “Vigilante” poster targeting the 43 white Duke students pictured on it were distributed within sight of his office windows by “activists" who’d come on campus;
and after racists threatened a Duke student with physical violence as he walked to a courthouse and then within the courtroom with a death threat;
did President Brodhead say nothing critical of the perpetrators of those terrible actions and nothing supportive of his students who were the perpetrators' targeted victims?
Have you as an alumna and president of NCICU ever reminded President Brodhead of what you correctly say is “[t]he most important responsibility of every college and university?
Had the lacrosse season continued… and had there been violence against the students, the university would have been in an indefensible position of having placed greater value on athletics than on safety.Can we agree, President Williams, that the University initially canceled two lacrosse games as a punishment for the party which the University said was a “team event?”
And can we agree that when Brodhead cancelled the rest of the season on April 5, he issued a lengthy statement in which he said nothing about concern for the lacrosse team’s safety?
Do you know when Brodhead first said he was cancelled the season out of concern for the players’ safety?
Lest this letter get unduly long, I’ll move now to a concern I want to share with you and then I’ll invite you to respond to this letter which I’m posting at my blog, John in Carolina.
All of the students targeted during the events I’ve mentioned are white but had they been black I don't think any reasonable person believes President Brodhead and the trustees would have stood by and said nothing.
I assume you agree.
If we can agree on that, then we agree Duke, as represented by its president and trustees, has a double standard when its students come under threat, and that the double standard is based on race.
Now I invite your response which I’ll publish in full at my blog.
I’ve been blogging for more than two years. You can see what it’s like by searching the archives here.
I’m copying this to Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations John Burness for his information and in case he cares to say something in response to what I’ve said concerning President Brodhead and Duke.
I look forward to your response.
John in Carolina