Monday, October 01, 2007

What Brodhead Meant To Do

A lot of people are offering their opinions of just what Duke’s President, Richard H. Brodhead, was trying to do in his statement Saturday which he read at Duke Law School.

Here’s my take:

Brodhead's statement was carefully crafted to avoid the full and honest explanations and apologies he still owes the players, their families and the Duke and Durham communities.

That's why Brodhead’s statement made no mention of the "Vigilante" poster, the "CASTRATE" banner, Reade Seligmann; and that’s why it offered no explanation of his failure and Duke’s failure to speak out regarding them.

That’s why it contained no assurance that the security of Duke’s IT system was never breached either by Durham Police acting on their own or by DPD acting with assistance from some at Duke.

Brodhead’s statement is meant to let him and Duke avoid full, public and honest explanations of what Duke did that it shouldn’t have done and what it didn’t do that it had a clear duty to do.

Some PR people call a statement like Brodhead's a “slip by” statement. As is usual with “slip by” statements, there was almost no pre-announcement and no questions permitted following Brodhead’s statement.

Will Brodhead and Duke be able to slip by with his “slip by” statement? Will enough people say it was “wonderful” and “I’m satisfied” so that Duke can move on to the great national conference on best practices for Hoax management Brodhead announced in his statement?

I think in the short-term there’ll be some gains for Brodhead and Duke, much as there usually were for President Nixon following the damage control statements he made at the time of Watergate.

But long-term the statement isn’t going to save Brodhead; and the trustees will be forced to give a much more detailed account of events involving Duke and the Hoax.

I’ll say more about why I believe that in a few days.

I’ll wrap up with the following:

Brodhead and Steel appear to believe they can put Duke’s disgusting mismanagement of its Hoax response behind them without holding at least one lengthy Q&A information conference to which students, parents, alums, bloggers and press are invited; and at which audio and video recording are permitted.

In that they’re as wrong Nixon was when he thought he could get past Watergate without releasing the Oval Office tapes.

Is anyone reassured by Brodhead’s promise to have Duke’s senior administrators take a look at procedures to see what they can learn from the debacle they helped create?

Count your chickens, folks. Brodhead’s turned the foxes loose.

About that national conference on “best practices” for managing something like the Hoax in the future: Is there anyone reading this who couldn’t do most of the conference’s “work” right now?

I’ll bet just about every one of you would today sign a report whose recommendations included:

The next time something like that happens to white students, Duke must react the same way it would if the students were black.

Duke should abandon its de facto two race student treatment policy.

It should replace the administrators who implemented the two race policy.

It should replace the administrators who failed to counter the falsehoods Nifong, the Raleigh N&O and some faculty members told about the students.

It should recruit administrators and faculty whose careers demonstrate a commitment to treating black and white students equally.

Yes, folks, there needs to be more to the “report.”

But abandoning its de facto two race policy is the essential and most important step Duke must take to avoid in the future the mistakes, gross injustices and perhaps illegal actions involved in its Hoax response.

I’ll end with some things Brodhead’s supporters and critics can agree on: his statement avoided mentioning the important matters I’ve cited here. And that’s what it was meant to do.

Previous posts on Brodhead's statements:

Brodhead's Latest Failure

Brodhead's Statement: Why Now?


Anonymous said...


Re: Brodhead's damage control

All the King's horses and all the King's men......


kbp said...

Thanks John!

Duke should abandon its de facto two race student treatment policy.

Don't hold your breath! Can anyone here even imagine how the master of literature/emperor of diversity could construct a speech telling listeners what he was going to accomplish if he tackled that project?

Anonymous said...

persoally I believe that doing the apology the way brodhead did has opened up a whole new can of worms for duke. Brodhead's actions in this case now (and previously) are just the beginning for requests. maybe demands, for further explanations, by dukies who count. brodheads speech as I have mentioned before is very cartoonish, except after this apology no one is really laughing. Now I can understand why steel hired this guy. He couldnt understand what brodhead was saying.

Anonymous said...

Nifong. Brodhead. The 88. Gottlieb. Himan. Isn't it now time to focus more attention on Steel's role in this now-legendary legal case?

Jack Rutner said...

John -

Well said.

Anonymous said...


thank you....