Thursday, November 08, 2007

Failing and Serving Duke

On Tuesday the Raleigh News & Observer reported Duke University “was pushed to take … action by an alumnus, Ed Rickards, and … student Kristin Butler.”

Here’s the N&O’s story followed by my comments below the star line:

Duke University has waived any rights it had to enforce restrictions on the deeds of 232 properties in Duke Forest that decades ago prohibited their purchase by African-Americans.

Duke officials say the symbolic waiver, filed recently with Durham County, is an important statement by the university. The properties, which Duke sold as early as 1931 and as late as 1969 to its faculty members, have deeds with racial covenants that have not been legally enforceable since the Supreme Court ruled them illegal in 1948.

Duke had previously repudiated these covenants and announced its intention never to enforce them. In its current action, Duke has taken the further step of amending each of the deeds to eliminate the possibility that the exclusionary provisions could ever be revived.

The deeds said the properties could not be sold to persons of "Negro blood." In 1989, the director of Duke's real estate office sent a letter to affected homeowners saying, "Duke University regrets the presence of this ugly specter from the nation's and the University's past. Just as Duke must bear responsibility for its prior actions in creating these covenants, we now wish to do what we can to eliminate their vestiges."

The university was pushed to take the formal action by an alumnus, Ed Rickards, and has been the subject of several columns by student Kristin Butler in the campus newspaper, The Chronicle.

Often individuals and institutions duck responsibility for shameful events in their pasts. They say we shouldn’t look back at what they did. Instead, they want us to “move on.”

Some months ago the now disbarred Mike Nifong urged us to “move on.” He even offered to help lead what he called “the healing.”

Duke’s President, Richard Brodhead, his “senior team” of administrators and the editorial board of The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, all use the “move on” meme when people ask important, unanswered questions about Duke’s bungled and shameful “throw them under the bus” response to Nifong’s and Crystal Mangum’s lies.

But that’s not what Duke’s doing in regard to the racially restrictive deeds. It’s doing just the opposite. To its credit Duke is, in this instance, affirming values and practices which ought to govern any decent organization, particularly a university.

By again facing up to what was an odious practice and taking another step to leave no doubt Duke today repudiates its past practice of issuing racially restrictive deeds, the University reminds us of how important it is to look back in order to acknowledge and correct, in so far as is possible, past wrongs and injustices.

The same values and practices which guided Duke in taking another step to repudiate the restrictive deeds must also guide it in addressing concerns and questions regarding its Hoax response.

I think it's unreasonable to expect President Brodhead and his “senior team,” complicit in so much that went wrong, to lead without favor a full and open inquiry and evaluation of what went wrong following the Hoax lies.

But it shouldn’t be too much to expect The Chronicle to strongly support such an inquiry and evaluation.

The Chronicle’s editorial board fails Duke when it memes Mike Nifong’s and President Brodhead’s “move on.”

Message to Kristin Butler and Ed Rickards: Thank you for your service to Duke.

Message to JinC Regulars: From prior posts you know of some of the other services Butler and Rickards have rendered Duke.

I’m traveling now so blogging is a bit harder to do. But when I have time this weekend, I’ll pull together a post linking to other instances of their service to Duke.


Ralph Phelan said...

"The same values and practices which guided Duke in taking another step to repudiate the restrictive deeds must also guide it in addressing concerns and questions regarding its Hoax response."

And indeed they will - as one of Duke's most important practices is waiting fifty years before admitting a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Actually this is the first time I have seen Ed Rickards' name. I'll be watching for your follow up post.