Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An independent review at Duke?

In today’s Chronicle, Lee Hamel (Duke ’62), a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white-collar crime litigation calls for an independent review of what is now widely seen as Duke’s bungled response to the lies of Crystal Mangum, Mike Nifong and DPD.

Here, IMO, are the money grafs from Hamel’s column, followed by some commentary:

How does this great University deal with similar problems that may occur in the future? President Brodhead has proposed hosting a national conference of educators, lawyers and student affairs leaders "to discuss best practices in this field."

This endeavor may be helpful to develop "best practices" for universities in general, but it will not get to the heart of the matter-Duke needs a clear factual assessment and recommendation to guide the administration and Trustees in the future. While policy must ultimately come from the Trustees, such policy should not be based on an introspective study by those who participated in the affair or a "best practices" national symposium.

If the Trustees seek an unbiased filter through which to examine the events to which they were a party, they should appoint an independent commission to study the case.

The root cause of the evil resulting in the lacrosse athletes' indictments was a lying alleged victim and a corrupt district attorney-for which Duke's leadership cannot be blamed.

But the administration's reaction to the allegations denied the lacrosse athletes their right to fair treatment by the University, whose power exercised over them and over the lacrosse team's coach and season appeared judgmental-words of presumed innocence notwithstanding. Exacerbating this conduct was the administration's admitted failure to distance the University from the ad signed by 88 faculty members, which, most charitably put, prejudged the athletes' guilt. […]

We should support an independent review of the judgments of the administration and Trustees in the Lacrosse Affair. It is highly likely such a review will provide insights and proposals that would never occur to those who were involved. Hopefully a policy will emerge that will serve the University's interests as well as the presumption of innocence due its students in word and deed.
When Hamel says “such policy should not be based on an introspective study by those who participated in the affair or a "best practices" national symposium,” he’s referring to plans President Brodhead’s announced September 29 to applause from trustees and senior administrators. This from Brodhead’s statement that day (scroll down):
My colleagues in the Duke administration are going over all our procedures to see what we can learn from our experience. But these are complex questions, and they aren’t ones Duke can or should hope to solve on its own. To work through these difficulties and see that their lessons are learned not only here but around the country, we will be hosting a national conference of educators, lawyers and student affairs leaders to discuss best practices in this important field,
What Brodhead’s promising amounts to a fox telling a farmer he and his senior fox colleagues will examine all the farmer’s “procedures to see what we can learn” about why his chickens keep disappearing.

The administrators and trustees who developed and implemented Duke’s response to the Hoax shouldn’t be the ones to assess their own bungled response. Instead, they should fully and publicly explain what they did and didn’t do during the Hoax.

A year and a half after the “CASTRATE” banner crowd shouted threats at white Duke students and “activists” on campus circulated “Vigilante” posters targeting those same students, we still have no explanation from President Brodhead or BOT Chair Steel for their silence when the students were threatened and endangered.

John Burness and the faculty Group of 88 may not need explanations for Brodhead’s and Steel’s silences in the face of dangers to students created by the “CASTRATE” and “Vigilante” crowds and other equally shocking failures, but most of us in Duke community and others do. What’s more, we’re entitled to explanations.

A comprehensive, independent study of Duke’s response to the Hoax is clearly needed.

Message to Lee Hamel: I hope your column starts a robust discussion among Dukies and others concerning an independent commission’s make-up and charge.

Thanks for your column.

Hamel's entire column is here.

JinC Readers, what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Let's keep pressing this point. There is a critical need for an independent investigation of the Duke administration and faculty response to the lacrosse fiasco.

The very idea of Brodhead and his "fellow travelers" examining themselves for "lessons learned", is ludicrous. Brodhead had his chance with his "Bowen Committee" report, and that whitewash of the Duke administration has not stood the test of time.

One should not expect any more substance from a self-examination by the Duke administration than was received from the Baker-Chalmers self-examination of the Durham Police Department.

Like the Baker-Chalmers report, any examination managed by Brodhead/Steel/Burness, etc., will have zero credibility in the larger Duke community that extends beyond Brodhead's on-campus enablers.

Anonymous said...

Heh, I think a conference with Duke, CU/Boulder (Ward Churchil), Columbia (Iran's president), Harvard (Sommers), et. al. would certainly give us best practices.....


Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Lee Hamel is right on with his recommendation. It's common sense that the mis- and malfeasances of Duke professors and administration should be exposed (DIW has made a pretty good start) and examined, and appropriate measures taken to prevent such behavior in future. Not to mention proper sanctions applied against violators of the Duke handbooks.

Of course it's obvious that Duke's administration has no intention of allowing any such independent investigation. In fact, Elliot Wolf's series on the abolition of due process for students is striking evidence of the Politburo-like attitude of the administration toward individual rights in general.

The nest of goodthinkers who supported such an abolition should be the target of Mr. Hamel's proposed investigation, since its mindset almost certainly has infected/been infected by the gang so clearly described in DIW.

Instead of despising due process for everyone except the inner circle, the administration would be well advised to reinstate it, and to face the music (under due process, by Mr. Hamel's independent investigators) themselves.

Ralph Phelan said...

"Not to mention proper sanctions applied against violators of the Duke handbooks."

Brodheads request for a conference was laughable, as this really wasn't a particularly dificult situation in which to know what the right thing to do was.

The problem was always that doing the right thing was going to anger the campus radicals.

The very first thing that needs to be examined is "Why were existing rules and procedures not followed? Why have those who broke existing rules and procedures not disciplined?"

Any examination of the rules and regulations is pointless if the rules and regulations are going to be ignored anyway.

Anonymous said...

"I think" they will do nothing unless forced to.