Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chronicle Editorial “Untenable”

Tuesday's Chronicle opined on the question of whether Richard (“The facts kept changing”) Brodhead should remain Duke’s President.

The editors told readers Brodhead was someone with “academic not managerial” skills who was “cautious not imposing and passive not active.”

It seemed The Chronicle was about to say something like:

"Whether he chooses to drive or fly, we wish Brodhead a safe trip and the best of luck in his new job.”
But, no, what The Chronicle really did was thunder:
"We believe that Brodhead should and must stay."
When I first read that I thought The Chronicle editorial board must be parodying Brodhead in the way someone might say:
”His hands are shaky not steady and his judgment poor not good”
and then follow that with:
"We believe he should and must stay as surgeon.”
Surely, I thought, after explaining so clearly why Brodhead isn’t fit to be President, The Chronicle editorial board wouldn’t then seriously argue he should remain in office.

Wouldn't they know doing that would only increase the ridicule and questioning of the judgment of this year’s editorial board that’s already been dubbed by some “the Allen Building interns?”

But I was on campus yesterday and most everyone I spoke to said The Chronicle was serious, even as they acknowledged the editorial board had made themselves and The Chronicle look foolish.

Or as Duke Students for an Ethical Duke puts it more kindly, that they'd made themselves look "untenable."

Excerpts from Duke Students for an Ethical Duke's statement at its blog:
[We'll] focus more on the argument of the Chronicle Editorial itself, which should seem untenable to even the most modestly knowledgeable reader.

A peculiarity of the editorial is that while it strongly and repeatedly asserts that "Brodhead should and must stay," the arguments made almost seem to argue the opposite.

As one of our members joked, it seems The Chronicle decided to let each editor write a line in an editorial Mad Lib.

First of all The Chronicle describes Brodhead as "a president who is academic not managerial."

Is there really such a thing as a presidential position that is not managerial in nature? Or do there exist presidential positions that might prefer or even tolerate someone who is "passive not active?" [...]

[What, according to The Chronicle, are Brodhead's] strengths?

The case revealed his "academic prudence, appreciation for complexity, willingness to explore deeper issues involved in the case, and capacity for self-criticism."

We aren't sure what is meant by "academic prudence," how the case revealed it, or how it was an attribute in the affair, and a "capacity for self-criticism" or self-reflection is something that has been conspicuously absent throughout.

Our sources indicate that Brodhead continues to believe he has done nothing wrong, and up to his apology, has asserted that he would have done almost everything the same if he were to start from the beginning again.

As we have noted, Brodhead's apology was far more decorative than substantive. As for the other two strengths, it is probably no accident that the Chronicle avoids explaining how those attributes played out in a positive way.

In short, the Chronicle asserted that among Brodhead's weaknesses as a leader and a president are an inability to lead and an inability to manage. On the plus side though, he is an academic. If that doesn't put the writing on the wall...
Be sure to read the entire statement here.

And don't forget to visit DSED's blog often.


Anonymous said...

Really, don't you think Brodhead and Steele have put a lid on the Chronicle editorial staff? It's so obviously a u-turn in the Chronicle's coverage.