Saturday, October 06, 2007

Duke Prof. Starn’s Reply

Many of you know that two days ago I posted Starn's Distortion & Duke's Standards.

The post contained my second letter to Duke University Professor and Cultural Anthropology Chair Anne Allison calling her attention to what can be nothing other than a deliberate misrepresentation by Professor Orin Starn, a member of the Cultural Anthropology holding an endowed chair, of an important statement Duke’s Coach K made. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read it so you’ll more fully understand what follows.

Now, the following for all of you familiar with my efforts for more that a year to get Professor Starn to retract his distortion of what Coach K actually said, and to apologize to Coach K and Raleigh N&O readers to whom he presented the false statement Starn told them actually coming from Coack K:

As a courtesy, I sent Starn a link to Starn's Distortion & Duke's Standards.

Starn responded. Here it is in full just as Starn wrote it:

Dear John:

You flatter yourself if you think I -- or my good friend Anne Allison -- would care in the least about your opinion. Please don't bother with any reply as I have blocked e-mails from your address.

best, Orin
I’ve not heard anything from Professor Allison.

It might be helpful for everyone, even those of you familiar with Starn’s deliberate distortion of what Coach K said, to take another look at just what he had to do to create his false statement. From an earlier email to Starn reproduced in my letter to Allison:
Coach K said:
“The racial aspect of this, in some ways, has been the most sensitive thing and some people have tried to create something that isn’t there in our community.”
You presented to N&O readers the following as representing what Coach K had said:
“Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”
Let’s look at what you had to do with Coach K’s statement in order to create what you presented to N&O readers.

First, you took Coach K's unambiguous acknowledgement of "The racial aspect of this" and substituted in its place something entirely different: "Those who see a 'racial aspect.'" (bolds mine)

Next, you withheld from readers the fact that Coach K had said the racial aspect was, in some respects, the case's "most sensitive" aspect.

Only by eliminating Coach K’s unambiguous acknowledgement of “The racial aspect;” substituting for his words your words that made it appear he was saying some people were merely perceiving a racial aspect ( “Those who see…” ); and withholding from readers the information that the coach had said the racial aspect was in some ways the case’s “most sensitive” aspect were you then able to present to N&O readers as what Coach K had said:
“Those who see a ‘racial aspect’ to the lacrosse case have ‘tried to create something that isn't there.’”
You misrepresented what Coach K said and it’s very hard, Professor Starn, to see how your misrepresentation could be anything other than deliberate.

After misrepresenting Coach K, you went on and falsely accused him of “not see[ing] a ‘racial aspect’ here.”

You owe the coach an apology and N&O readers a correction.

Is your treatment of Coach K’s statement typical of how you treat raw data when you prepare lectures, articles and books?
Folks, it’s so obvious what he did, isn't it?

I put this post up tonight because I wanted to get the news to you, share my current thoughts about about my next step, and invite your commentary.

Before doing any of that I want to say this: In the last day or so, some commenters are showing up here making ad hominems.

I’ve deleted a few already today.

If you’re new to this blog, I work to make it appealing to people who stay close to the facts, and don’t, for instance, say a lot of nasty things about Professor James Coleman’s motivations and character when all they have is a letter from him they don’t like.

One good thing about the blogoshpere: There are millions of blogs.

No one should be commenting at a blog where they feel their comments aren't treated as they deserve to be treated.

If your comment is deleted or you get a caution, don’t be angry. You have choices.

Now, about my next step.

I’m thinking to shorten the letter I sent Allison and send something like it to Provost Lange, Duke’s chief academic officer. I plan to invite his reply which I’ll publish in full here.

What do you folks think?

And BTW – I know I may not get a response but I don’t think I’m wasting my time. For one thing, all of you are reading this and can have some influence on events.

For another thing, one never knows who’s reading a blog post.

If you’re a regular reader of The Churchill Series, I’ll bet you were as surprised as I was to learn Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s official biographer and a great historian, was a frequent Series reader.


DukeEgr93 said...

I have discovered in all this that Provost Lange and Dean Thompson were two people who would always respond fully to e-mails I sent them, even when I went non-linear, and they were both willing to disagree witout beeing disagreeable. I also felt pretty good about my conversation with Anne Allison, dspite how the Chronicle of Higher Ed may have characterized it.

My guess, though, is that your moderate, but probing, e-mail is in the midst of dozens/hundreds or more vitriolic communications and may not find a response from her. Perhaps especially when one of her full faculty members tells her not to care...

Anonymous said...

My take is that you have much deeper and better insights, and matters which merit your time more than taking up an offense against Coach K ( whom I love) when the good Coach himself has probably just forgotten it and moved on.

When you beat a dead horse, you just raise a stink.

In the light of the history-making case that is now before us, I think that Starn's "ill-judged" quote is faily inconsequential. When it's just egos involved, it isn't worth the trouble.

Besides "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still".

Just drop it. It won't change anything.

It's important to keep the main thing the main thing, and right now, the spotlight is on Durham.

It may return to Duke. If it does we can re-open the pertinent issues then.

Anonymous said...


"You flatter yourself if you think...."

The man appears to be high strung.


Anonymous said...

Actually, this man is probably being STRUNG out... by colleagues and critics.

I think we should let them Duke it out on their own for awhile; they're gonna end up shooting each other. It will save us the bullets and the trouble, and quit feeding their blogomania.

Anonymous said...

I think many times in our society we have to look to our children to interpret confusing situations.

My six year old says this means: Neener neeer I can't hear you.

Wonder if this guy fell for Fish's paper too?


Anonymous said...

A. C.

?? interpret please??

Jim in San Diego said...

Prof Starn seems secure in the knowledge he is untouchable. This subsitutes, apparently, for intellectual honesty in his world.

Jim in San Diego said...

What does Coach K think? Has he ever said anything about the mischaracterization of his statement? I bet if Coach K complained to Provost Lange, for example, someone would pay attention.

What would be Prof Starn's reaction to a serious misquotation of his own views by a prominent member of the Duke faculty, I wonder? Would Prof Allison then care about the issue? Just asking rhetorical questions, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be impressed by your efforts. How challenging Starn is compared to beating a dead horse I do not know. His email response is further evidence of who and what he is. Even if exposing the faculty at Duke has no effect, documentation is still invaluable. As with your work with Churchill.

Anonymous said...

It seems that being put on a Duke faculty member's spam filter list is their way of "punishing" different bloggers. I view it as the new way of "being tapped for Bones." Sadly, I've never qualified!

JeffM said...

Starn believes that HIS words are worth putting out in front of the public, but he hides behind his friends and his contempt for any who dare to disagree when someone else's words rebut his. How drearily pathetic is this moral and intellectual midget.

Enoch said...

Of interest is Dr. Starn's implication that Allison will not be interested in his attacks on a fellow member of the Duke community because of her personal friendship with Dr. Starn.

At one level, Dr. Starn's letter reads like a tween dweeb suggesting that "we are friends" and therefore you are on the outside. Dr. Starn's emotional maturity is not really at issue here. What is at issue is his belief that his corrupt actions in attacking coach K will not be examined because of his friendships. It's a classic coverup.
I wonder if Broadhead is ok with this kind of clubby corruption. Or if Allison is quite so sanguine about her "friendship" and the resulting get out of jail free card for Starn.