Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Chronicle Editorial: Parody or Bloviation?

The Chronicle today offers an editorial on the Brodhead presidency and the University’s future in which it declares:

[…]Any discussion of [President Brodhead’s] performance must begin-but not end-with his response to the lacrosse case and its aftermath.

For in times of extraordinary trial, a person's character is magnified as it is not during tranquility, and the lacrosse case is no exception.
If any of you didn’t already know that “in times of extraordinary trial, a person's character is magnified as it is not during tranquility,” by all means immediately copy and paste it into your “Very Important Things To Remember” folder, and then come back to this post.

The Chronicle goes on to say:
The case first exposed Brodhead as a president who has yet to realize his initial promise to be a students' president. The lacrosse case-frantic, sensitive and uncertain-demanded a forceful and assertive type of leadership that Brodhead could not provide.

His approach-from his press releases to his apology at the School of Law-was always substantive but often poorly communicated, detached and awkward. Although he entered the University with a bullhorn imploring Coach K to stay at Duke, since then he has been less accessible to and less identified with students than he had aimed to be.

Secondly, the case brought to painful light the weaknesses of a president who is academic not managerial, cautious not imposing and passive not active.

Brodhead's failure to make necessary personnel changes upon arrival is a symptom of his inability to impose his own trajectory on the University. Not only did he retain but he reappointed two administrators who continue to frustrate the progress of the University-Director of Athletics Joe Alleva and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.
Reading all that you’d think The Chronicle was about to urge the trustees to help President Brodhead put the Duke presidency behind him, “look to the future,” and find a new job.

The Chronicle even tells the trustees and the rest of us exactly the sort of job it thinks Brodhead’s suitable for.

It’s a job calling for someone with “academic not managerial” skills. Also, someone who’s “cautious not imposing and passive not active.”

I was thinking to help with the job search even though I haven't seen any such job advertised lately.

In fact, I can't recall ever reading a "Help Wanted" ad calling for someone “cautious not imposing and passive not active.”

What about you?

In any case, when you read further in the editorial it seems The Chronicle doesn’t really want Brodhead to find a new job.

The Chronicle says it wants Brodhead to remain as President. It feels Duke’s lucky to have had Brodhead who it says “guided the University through a time of peril”

No kidding. I’m not making that up.

See for yourself The Chronicle declaring :
We believe that Brodhead should and must stay.
The Chronicle then announces the lacrosse case “is over” and gushes:
“[T]he case revealed crucial strengths in Brodhead's character.

His academic prudence, appreciation of complexity, willingness to explore deeper issues involved in the case, and capacity for self-criticism guided the University through a time of peril.
Question: Is it possible that what editorial page editor Ryan McCartney and his fellow board members are doing today is engaging in some self-parody? Is today’s editorial a kind of mirthful prank the undergrads all caught but this aging alum missed?

Or is The Chronicle really serious about what it says today?

I’d email McCartney and ask him, but he doesn’t respond to my emails.

I hope one of you asks him. Here’s his email: daniel.mccartney@duke.edu

Final thought: Assuming The Chronicle was serious today, it should have titled the editorial “Bloviating for Brodhead.”

The entire editorial is here.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the Chronicle staff has been put on notice to cease critical comments that embarrass the University? It sure looks that way to this observer. Gee, just like Pravda and Izvestia: No truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.

Anonymous said...


"Any discussion of the president's performance must begin-but not end-with his response to the lacrosse case and its aftermath"

I had to re-read this several times. I believe it's parody under pressure.

On the surface it's a lead-in for the continued support for Brodhead's presidency. But, is it?

The choice of words is wrong. It's not a lacrosse case, it's a rape case. By using the word lacrosse the authors made it a student issue. That's a damming statement.

Supporting testimonials usually bring up the positives first, then the negatives. This reverses the sequence so the reader is left with a negative impression right from the get-go. If you look carefully, the negatives are sprinkled throughout the piece.

Finally, the editorial leaves out any specific instances of outstanding performance by Brodhead. Instead, it uses incomprehensible phrases for the allocades....similar to the phrases that the G88 would use. Then it leaps to the conclusion that Brodhead must stay. Completely illogical.

Anyone else have the same feeling?


Anonymous said...

Dang, now I have to go read the whole editorial, again.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if the edirtorial was actually trying to sound like brodhead sounds???

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no matter how I read it, the editorial reads like it was approved by the administration. If it is an attempt at passive resistance, it is far too subtle to be effective.

Anonymous said...

This crowd at The Chronicle isn't smart enough to parody Brodhead.

They also want to get nice letters of recommendation when they apply to grad schools.

They want Brodhead to stay at least until he and other administrators help them get to a grad school.

Duke '91