Friday, October 12, 2007

Standing up for Duke & KC and Taylor

This morning a clear-thinking, articualate Duke undergrad stood up for Duke & KC Johnson and Stuar Taylor.

The student is Ken Larry, who heads Duke Students for an Ethical Duke. Read Ken's letter published in The Chronicle today; then keep reading down this post to learn about two letter which followed Ken's.

Now Ken's letter:

Brodhead needs to apologize for more

By: Ken Larrey

President Richard Brodhead's Sept. 29 apology has been widely mischaracterized, so let's set the record straight. For example, a Chronicle staff editorial recently commended "his apology for a rush to judgment by the administration." Not only did Brodhead not apologize for this, he didn't admit a rush to judgment either.

Read the speech. Brodhead apologized for one thing only, and that was not "getting the communication right" with the lacrosse families, which is euphemistic for "I never allowed them or their lawyers to talk to me or demonstrate their innocence, ever." If you want to be generous, you could count his "regret" that "we may have helped create the impression that we did not care about our students" as an apology. Eighteen months go by, and that's the only apology that he, Orin Starn and Ole Holsti think is necessary?

THAT'S the extent of his administration's wrongdoing that recently cost the University a $10 million-plus settlement? President Brodhead not only sidestepped every major issue for which his administration is under criticism (and soon to be involved in more lawsuits), but he once again closed doors on other issues that require explanation or apology.

First of all, if Brodhead is going to have any chance to remain president, we need answers and explanations, not simply apologies, and this man is one of many who have a great deal to answer for. When one considers the body of performance from this administration, it is one ugly picture.

If we are going to move forward in all of this, we must speak with accuracy and precision. We must be courageous in challenging untruths, but we must be prepared to substantiate our claims and accusations. Similarly, when we are shown to be wrong, we must readily admit that we are wrong. Such is the ethic of a lover of truth.

As much as I respect professors James Coleman and Prasad Kasibhatla, I'm still going to call them exactly like I see them. When one considers the timing and wording of their recent letter as well as their utter refusal to substantiate their accusations, it is tough to view the letter as anything other than an academic drive-by.

Ken Larrey

Trinity '08

Founder, Duke Students for an Ethical Duke

Ken's letter drew a number of comments including this one from Professor Prasad Kasibhatla, who recently co-authored a Chronicle letter with Professor James Coleman in which they were very critical of KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor. You can read the Coleman-Kasibhatla letter as well as initial responses to it by Johnson and Taylor in this post.

Now Kasibhatla's letter:

Prasad Kasibhatla
posted 10/12/07 @ 9:28 AM EST

Ken Larrey's letter is a distilled version of
several emails he has sent me over the last few days,
the tone of some of which I have found to be quite confrontational.

From an intellectual perspective, his arguments are based on one fundamental premise - that the narrative put forward by critics like Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson is accurate. I do not agree with this premise.

As a direct response to Ken Larrey's statement regarding my 'utter refusal to substantiate [my] accusations', I refer him and interested readers to a recent paper, by Prof. Charles Piot in the journal Transforming Anthropology, deconstructing the Taylor and Johnson narrative -



Further down on the thread I responded to both letters. As always, I'll be interested in your comments.

John in Carolina
posted 10/12/07 @ 1:03 PM EST
Dear Ken,

I agree with the first two commenters. You've written an excellent letter which I hope will cause the trustees, President Brodhead, "Dick's senior team," and the faculty to move from denial to a recognition that an awful lot went wrong last Spring; and that it can't be blamed on KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor.

They didn't enable Mike Nifong and certain Durham Police officers and their supervisors. They helped expose the frame-up.

It wasn't the actions and inactions of Johnson and Taylor which have forced the University to settle five lawsuits, with more lawsuits very likely on the way.

Duke's leadership should stop blaming "outsiders" and take a hard, honest look at itself.

Dear Professor Kasibhatla:

Thank you for coming on the thread.

I followed your advice and read Professor Piat's journal article. As you may know, it's based on a paper he read on campus this past February.

However, the ad hominem portions of Piot's current article, while odious, are not nearly as harsh as the ad hominems I recall from February and which my contemporaneous notes confirm. (Audience members who wanted to tape, me included, were forbidden from doing so. Piot didn't pass out print copies. )

This is not the place for an extensive review of Piot's article. So I'll limit myself to three brief, important observations:

1) Piot notes some people at KC Johnson's Durham-in-Wonderland blog make racists remarks. True enough. But Piot sees that as somehow KC's fault.

KC's not responsible for racist comments. He doesn't even know whether the commenter is expressing a genuinely held feeling or simply posting something to make him look bad in the eyes of people who don't understand how a blog which allows comments works.

Most bloggers are in the position KC's in. Having visited his blog at least a few times a day since it opened, I can assure you and everyone else reading this that with an incredibly heavy comment load to review, KC does a first-rate job keeping his threads largely free of racist comment.

That brings me to the second point I want to make.

2) When Piot mentions instances of KC removing racist commentary of the sort bloggers, like almost all people holding public office or editing a newspaper receive, Piot does so only to ridicule KC and disparage his motivation.

On the matter of racist comments which appear at KC's blog, Piot sees them as confirming that KC stirs "file racism," and when KC removes them Piot sees that as also confirming KC stirs "file racism."

3) I hope we agree, Professor Kasibhatia and others, on the most important aspect of Piot's article: He notes a few instances where KC incorrectly stated a few facts concerning the hiring of a few faculty (which errors KC promptly acknowledged and corrected). But other than that small effort, I couldn't find any place where Piot attempted to refute any of KC's many citations of questionable and/or unsubstantiated professional activities and publication claims by Duke faculty, most of them members of the Arts & Sciences faculty. Could you?

Why do you think Piot didn't address those citations? They're very serious.

Would you support Provost Lange, as Duke's chief academic officer, appointing a group to examine them and report its findings to the entire Duke community?

This comment has already gotten long, so I'll end here. But I'll come back to the thread tomorrow to read commentary and perhaps comment again.

I thank The Chronicle for the opportunity to comment.

John in Carolina


Jim in San Diego said...

We have watched for 18 months a whole series of amazing events go down in Durham as it pertains to the Duke rape hoax.

to me ths single most eye-opening, jaw dropping event has not been the unethical conduct of a petty prosecutor; nor the sensationalism of MSM media; nor the gullibility of Durham voters; nor the venality of a private DNA lab. I think we sort of expect these things to happen, from time to time.

Rather, the most amazing event has been the exposure of the anti-intellectual behavior of large parts of the Duke faculty. One would have assumed, I think, that argument based on facts and reason would matter. It is in the nature of intellectual freedom to follow facts where they may lead us.

Not within the Duke faculty, apparently. It seems the standard of many is to ignore inconvenient facts, and explain events not with reason but with something called a "metanarrative".

A metanarrative appears to have the convenient quality that it has no standards based on reason or induction. Truth is whatever its propagandist claims it to be.

This is the quality of a faith based religion. More power to those who hold their beliefs based on faith.

It is not the quality, however, of intellectual thought at a top flight university. Therefore, is Duke really a top flight university?

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Reacting to Ken Larrey's letter, Professor Prasad Kasibhatla says:

"From an intellectual perspective, his arguments are based on one fundamental premise - that the narrative put forward by critics like Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson is accurate. I do not agree with this premise."

This is great, Professor. Voltaire would approve of your disagreement, and of your right to disagree.

But then I'd expect you, as a Professor and all, to present clear well-reasoned support for your position. For instance, how is "the narrative put forward by critics like Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson" inaccurate? Please enlighten us yourself, make your own case, give us evidence.

Attacking the UPI 'narrative' by citing a third-party 'deconstruction' is more like shysterism or cant than an honest defense of an intellectual position. Show us your colors, Professor, put your cards on the table.

Until you do, the overwhelming evidence assembled by Taylor and Johnson in support of their assertions in UPI leaves your position intellectually naked and all too obviously vulnerable.

Anonymous said...


I was raking leaves in the yard last weekend. I turned over a rock and all sorts of bugs and insects scurried for cover.

My thoughts were immediately drawn to the race/gender/class anthropoids known as the G88.



Jim in San Diego said...

It is beginning to dawn on me that many tenured professors on the Duke faculty are simply not very smart. The reason they do not argue logically from consistent facts is they do not know how to do so. The reason these professors do not back up their opinions with facts is they have little practice at it. It is not part of their job description, so to speak.

How else to explain the continuing inexplicable communications from Duke faculty on the history of the Duke rape hoax? Now that the emotions of last March and April are gone, what is left?

It appears the emotions of September and October are upon us. Why does critical reasoning seem to be in such short supply within the factulty? Perhaps there is some sort of selection going on, where the intellectually capable simply remain quiet. Too bad.

AMac said...


I usually refrain from "me too" remarks, but you should be commended for your comment at the Chronicle thread--both its content and its style. I think and hope that people unfamiliar with the details of how Duke's Hard Left faculty enabled the Hoax will contrast what you wrote with what the defenders of the Listeners and Clarifiers have to say.

I had trouble accessing Prof. Piot's 9-page essay directly from the Duke website. If others do as well, here is one solution.

Go to Prof. Piot's home page:

Under "Representative Publications," see #1, C. Piot. "KC's World." Transforming Anthropology vol. 15 no. 2 (2007): 158-166.

Right-click or shift-click on [PDF] and save the 9-page PDF to your hard drive.

scott said...

I have read Piot's piece. I noted his constant references to "right wing", "McCarthyism", "Rush Limbaugh", "Bill O'Reilly" and others as reflective of KC Johnson's positions relating to the entire event that can be termed the Duke Lacrosse Frame / Hoax. And his references to himself and other members of the Duke faculty who came to the attention of Johnson as "progressives" as if only the thought processes held by such "progressives" are indicative of something that can be viewed as "progress."

Well, two can play your game, Professor Piot. For every Rush Limbaugh, I can give you an Al Franken or Randi Rhodes from Air America. For every Bill O'Reilly, I can give you a Chris Matthews. For every "right wing" blogger (such as you characterize Johnson even though he's not), I can give you an Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon, who became embroiled enough in her own notoriety relating to the Duke case to be canned from her position as John Edwards' blogger in chief in less than 2 weeks.

And "progressive"? Please. That's just a made up term to refer to "left wingers" who are trying to flee from the stench that is associated with the term "liberal." And that's too bad because not so long ago, being a liberal was a good thing. Piot and his ilk have so ruined the term that they now have to abandon it and name themselves to create the perception that they, alone, stand for "progress."

The fact is, whether Piot wants to admit it or not, Lubiano sent an email to selected other members of the Duke faculty asking them to sign on to an ad that was specifically addressing the issues relating to the "rape" that took place at the lacrosse party on the night of March 13-14, 2006. He and others can state that people "misinterpreted" the ad and they can try to turn it into something related to the larger picture (the rampant racism and sexism that existed on the Duke campus in general), but that's a hoax unto itself.

I daresay Ken Larrey has a lot more to offer the world than either Prasad Kasibhatla or Charles Piot.

Anonymous said...

Good lord, someone actually read that twaddle?

How do I know it is pedestrian frippery before dragging my consciousness through the numbing jargon?

"journal Transforming Anthropology, deconstructing the Taylor and Johnson narrative"

What more do you need to know? Second rate (if that) journal with the word "deconstructing" in the title.

I would rather listen to a platoon of drunken Quebecers recite the alphabet backwards at a sobriety checkpoint than read another "article" like that.


Debrah said...

Such a wonderful letter by Ken Larrey!

AMac said...

Tortmaster (aka Gregory) has written a seven-part analysis of the Listening Statement, and published it as comments 83 to 87 in the comments thread to Larrey's letter.

Perhaps the next administration will recruit him to the English Dept.'s faculty, to research and teach textual deconstruction? His dissection of the Statement is a performace at a very high standard.

I added the following to that Chronicle thread, as a postscript.


Tortmaster's analysis of the Listening Statement is supported at every point by the text of the original document. Skeptics should make the effort to check.

Here [in online comments at The Chronicle] and elsewhere, Listeners, Clarifiers, and their allies are sure to keep proclaiming the harmlessness of the advertisement and the good intentions of its author and signers. Will they be as faithful as Tortmaster to the words that they actually published, and to the context in which they appeared?

Tortmaster highlighted one important contextual fact that had until recently been kept hidden by the Listeners: Prof. Lubiano's cover e-mail, stating "African & African-American Studies is placing an ad in The Chronicle about the lacrosse team incident."

Another piece of information mentioned by Tortmaster has received insufficent attention: that Prof. Lubiano wrote multiple drafts of the Listening Statement. Apparently, the staff of the Chronicle refused to run the earliest version(s) that Prof. Lubiano submitted, demanding changes that toned down the ad.

Neither Prof. Lubiano nor the Editors of the 05/06 Chronicle have made these versions public.

The discussion has, appropriately, returned to the question of what the Listeners meant. Airing these versions would provide valuable insight on this point.

If any of the parties are enjoined from such a release by the terms of one of the secret settlements that Duke has entered into: revelation of that fact would also increase public understanding of the intention of the Statement's signatories.

Anonymous said...

My favorite comment on the Larrey article thread is from "Grad. Student" who asked a question of Kasibhatia. Kasibhatia countered that if the student was genuine they should meet and talk. The student said.... in my I seem stupid?

The response makes several very good points and I believe is a total & brilliant slap down of Kasibhatia.

Also interesting the Chronicle changed Larrey's title, again.

Locomotive breath said...

And the Chronicle deleted my comment. Seems to be a lot of editing going there lately.

locomotive breath said...

I am mistaken. My comment got bumped from p. 2 to p.3 by people making comments on the posts prior to mine. I apologize to the Chronicle for my error.