Readers’ Note: Last year I posted concerning Duke Professor Orin Starn's misrepresentation of a statement by Coach Mike Krzyzewski. I called the misrepresentation to Starn's attention. He denied it was a misrepresentation.
So I took what Coach K had actually said and demonstrated precisely what Starn did in order to create the false statement he attributed to the Coach. I urged Starn to retract the statement and apologize to Coach K.
Will it surprise you to learn I never heard from Starn?
I also sent a letter to his department chair. I heard nothing from her.
I decided to try again when I read a recent statement by Duke's President, Richard H. Brodhead, reminding us how important it is to do things properly.
So I'm just about to send off the following electronic letter. I'll let you know if I hear back.
Anne Allison, Professor and Chair
Cultural Anthropology Department
Dear Professor Allison:
This is the second letter I'm sending you on a matter of importance. The first one drew no response. Perhaps it didn't reach you or "fell off the screen" at a busy time.
Last July Sally Dalton Robinson Professor of Cultural Anthropology Orin Starn published an op-ed in The Raleigh News & Observer. It contained a very serious misrepresentation of remarks made by Coach Mike Krzyzewski concerning the racial aspects of the Duke lacrosse case.
I called Professor Starn's misrepresentation to his attention via email and said he should apologize to Coach K and provide a correction for N&O readers.
Professor Starn responded in a lengthy email in which, among other things, he denied misrepresenting Coach K.
I sent Professor Starn a second email in which I demonstrated how, by careful word and phrase omissions, substitutions and rearrangements of what Coach K had actually said, he created what it was hard to see was anything other than a deliberately false statement.
You can read the emails in this post which also contains links to the report of what Coach K actually said and Professor Starn's op-ed. (I’ve just tested all its links. They’re active.)
Here, between the star lines, is the portion of my second email demonstrating what Professor Starn did to create his misrepresentation.
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?
Is what you did accepted practice for Duke faculty?
If you can't speak for the broader faculty, than is what you did accepted practice in the Department of Cultural Anthropology?
Professor Allison, I told Professor Starn I'd publish in full his response to my second email as I had his first, but he never responded.
When I was completing masters and doctoral study at Duke (mid-seventies to early eighties) what Professor Starn did - taking what a source said, rendering a judgment on it, distortion what the source said, and then claiming your distortion was what the source said - was unacceptable.
Freshmen and sophomores who did that would get a "sit down" with the professor or GA who’d explain why it wasn't done and request a correction.
Juniors and seniors were more likely to see their misrepresentations circled and points taken off.
If you were in a grad program and you did what Professor Starn did, you pleaded for mercy and promised never to do it again.
I intended last July to bring Professor Starn's misrepresentation to your and Provost Lange's attentions.
However, faculty friends told me I’d be wasting my time.
They said what Professor Starn did is now commonly done by many Duke faculty. “Really, John,” one faculty friend said, “Starn is typical of many of my colleagues.”
I decided to drop the matter.
However, because misrepresentations published by some Duke faculty are now receiving national scrutiny, I’m calling Professor Starn’s very serious and carefully created misrepresentation to your attention as well as to the attention of others in positions of responsibility.
I recognize and am glad that Duke faculty members have freedom of expression.
But when a faculty member says something that’s demonstrably false and deliberately created; and subsequently refuses to correct the misrepresentation when it’s called to his or her attention, don't department chairs and the provost have a responsibility to note the misrepresentation and criticize the faculty member for refusing to correct it?
I will publish your response in full at my blog, www.johnincarolina.com.
Thank you for your attention to this letter.
John in Carolina
Richard Brodhead, President
Peter Lange, Provost
John Burness, Senior Vice President
Orin Starn, Professor