Thursday, October 04, 2007

Duke’s Friends Speak

“A friend is someone who tells you what you need to hear: not what you want to hear.”

Friends of Duke University (FODU) is a volunteer organization formed last Spring to work with the University to assure that Durham’s political establishment, its DA and its Police Department treat Duke students justly.

Today FODU issued a statement made necessary by the University’s response to the false statements of Crystal Mangum, Mike Nifong and many Duke faculty.

If you've followed the Hoax case, you know Duke's response has been so mismanaged and disgraceful that Duke's already had to settle five suits out of court, with more suits very likely on the way.

Like a good friend should, FODU's statement today tells the Duke community what it needs to hear.

I’ll say more in support of FODU in a day or so.

Now, first, extracts from FODU’s statement, released by its spokesperson Jason Trumpbour, who holds undergrad and law degrees from Duke. Then, second, comments from people reacting to FODU’s statement.


In an address to a conference at the Law School on Saturday, President Brodhead apologized for several aspects of the administration’s handling of the lacrosse case. [...]

Apologizing to the players was the right thing to do. However, I cannot help but feel that, once again, circumstances forced his hand. After all, the administration had been belligerently insisting that they had gotten things more or less right and have clung to that position up until this speech.

Now, there is the prospect of imminent lawsuits by the unindicted players and a review of President Brodhead’s first three years in office is underway.

Just as the revelation that Mike Nifong was hiding evidence forced him to speak out in December, we see President Brodhead reacting rather than leading.

His apology also is incomplete. It is inevitable that mistakes would be made in trying to deal with such a bizarre and unprecedented situation. No one would have expected different. That mistakes were made is not really the problem.

What President Brodhead really needs to take responsibly for and has yet to do so are the selfish motives that drove the administration’s policies.

The administration wanted the case to go to trial. It believed that, if it were dismissed before trial for whatever reason, people would say that Duke used its influence to have it dismissed. Robert Steel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees told me that a year ago.

That is also why President Brodhead, despite being savagely maligned for doing so, clung to the concept of Reade, Collin and David “proving themselves innocent.”

That was not just an isolated, unfortunate choice of words. President Brodhead repeated this formulation only a few days ago. […]

The most disturbing outgrowth of this policy was that the administration not only did not want to speak up itself. It did not want anyone else doing so either. […]

In the end, the administration’s policies were never about ignorance of the facts or credulity concerning the motives of public officials. The facts were irrelevant..

President Brodhead, as he did in May, reckons that he has things figured out now.

However, a recent series in the Chronicle detailed how the administration has been modifying the University’s judicial code to eliminate most of students’ procedural rights and how the administration punishes students on the mere accusation of Durham police officers without further proof despite well documented abuses by the Durham Police department.

If the lacrosse case has taught us anything, it is that procedure matters. Unfortunately, it appears that the administration has learned absolutely nothing at all.

Duke needs and deserves strong leadership. In making his apology, we find President Brodhead doing precisely what he has been doing all along: embracing and conforming to whatever the prevailing understanding is regardless of its validity.

It is gratifying that people finally understand what was actually going on. However, nothing has changed at Duke.

Throughout this entire ordeal, we have criticized the administration, but, unlike a number of other critics, we did not call for President Brodhead to be removed. Instead, we tried to support him and give him the courage he needed to be a leader and to do the right thing.

We tried to engage the administration in a respectful dialogue about the issues. We have nothing to show for those efforts. I am glad that FODU could help the public understand the extent of Mike Nifong’s misconduct. However, that satisfaction is tempered by the fact that we spent a year doing someone else’s job for them.

It has long been our position that the administration’s words must be matched with deeds. Unfortunately, the time for action has come and gone. Last May, I wrote President Brodhead asking him to appoint a commission to look at the administration’s response to the lacrosse case. […]

That is what [FODU] wanted and that is what most of the families, despite the wrongs done to them, really wanted.

President Brodhead gave us the brush off. […]

President Brodhead is now undergoing a performance review to determine whether his contract should be renewed. Information on how to participate is here. I know what we will be recommending.

In criticizing President Brodhead, it should be kept in mind that he alone is not responsible for the University’s official policies and conduct. Indeed, those above him and below him bear greater culpability and their status needs to be addressed as well.

Robert Steel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, bears the greater responsibility for Duke’s official policies regarding the lacrosse case. […]

President Brodhead often simply appeared to be there in the middle. However, that in and of itself is a huge problem.

Reader comments at FODU’s website include:

At 2:54 PM, October 04

Many of us agree wholeheartedly: Brodhead and Steel must go! It is time for new and more competent leadership at Duke, one that does not revolve around self-interest. Thank you FODU, for clarifying where things stand now and where they stood all along.

At 3:12 PM, October 04
Great post, it is pretty clear Brodhead's time at Duke is up.

At 3:41 PM, October 04

Excellent post, FODU. I can only wish you good luck and Godspeed. I hope that there are ears that will hear you.

At 4:00 PM, October 04
Finally, the truth is coming out.

At 4:04 PM, October 04

Thank you for an excellent post and your leadership throughout this Hoax.

At 4:55 PM, October 04

Yours has been a voice of reason and restraint. I have read 4 blogs about this simultaneously. Each has a point of view and a particular voice. But yours has been especially temperate and respectful.

Even the tone of this blog is sober and somewhat sad... that men who were handed numerous opportunities to redeem themselves and the reputation of Duke for fairness and due process could not find the courage to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right time.

Thank you for continuing to speak for those of us whose voices are mostly anonymous, but who care deeply about what happens to Duke.

Folks, Duke doesn’t have to be a place where the President says “the facts kept changing” and “whatever they did was bad enough,” after which everyone nods and says, "My, what a wonderful President we have. Where did we ever find him?"

It doesn’t have to be a place where faculty thank hateful and dangerous people for waving a “CASTRATE” banner and targeting students with “Vigilante” posters.

It doesn’t have to be a place where all the trustees, the President, his “senior team,” the Academic Council, just about every tenured professors, the officers of the alumni association, and the editorial board of the student newspaper all say nothing when a student is threatened by racists shouting death threats.

Duke must change!

The first steps in that change need to be the resignations of Board Chairman Robert Steel and President Richard Brodhead.


WOW said...

The partial quote from the Oct 4 FODU Jason comments is paasted below.

How anyone could offer any type of verbal. monetary or phsycological support toward these 2 lead administrators of the charter of Duke University is beyond comprehension. Steel and brodhead...{screw the students but dress them up real nice.}

part of the quote below.
If Reade, Collin and David had to be exposed to the risks associated with a trial by a corrupt, unethical prosecutor who had done everything he could to inflame the jury pool, that was just the way it had to be. Steel told me that it did not matter if they were convicted because all the problems with the case would be sorted out on appeal. That is not the way the appeal process works and I told him that, but that was still his plan.

The most disturbing outgrowth of this policy was that the administration not only did not want to speak up itself. It did not want anyone else doing so either. Administration officials would privately bad mouth the players to reporters and anyone else who expressed doubts about the charges or the fairness of the procedures used. I know. I heard this garbage myself. They were still doing it after the Attorney General’s report came out to justify their actions.

In the end, the administration’s policies were never about ignorance of the facts or credulity concerning the motives of public officials. The facts were irrelevant. It was all about keeping up appearances. Moreover, the views of some groups carried more weight than others. It is the same policy that lead to Ryan McFadyen being suspended, Mike Pressler being fired and Kim Curtis going unpunished.

Anonymous said...

It is chilling, indeed horrifying, that Steel and Brodhead thought it would acceptable for the Duke3 to be tried and convicted "because it would all be straightened out on appeal." After seeing how the North Carolina judicial system bends over backwards to support prosecutors, I have absolutely no faith in my State's system of "justice." Further, displaying an incredible ignorance of the American principle of presumption of innocence, Steel and Brodhead prove they are not equipped, morally, ethically, philosophically, or mentally to hold positions of trust and responsibility in what was once a fine university. If Duke keeps these two poseurs on the payroll, it will be proof positive that the inmates now control the asylum.