Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Butler's last Chronicle column: Comments

Kristin Butler today under the lede, Goodbye, farewell and amen, begins: "Today marks my 58th-and final-Chronicle column as a Duke undergrad."

Some excerpts from the column follow. Then below the star line you'll find tribute comments.

This from Kristin - - -

Writing 45,240 words over four semesters (yes, I counted) hasn't always been fun, and it certainly hasn't been easy. I've watched many a post-deadline sunrise, and this week was no exception (sorry Ryan).

But being a columnist has also been a singular honor, and today I write to acknowledge that. For two years now, I have been privileged to work alongside a group of dedicated (and often anonymous) copyeditors, over-editors and correspondents, all of whom have worked long, tedious hours to bring my words to print. I am extraordinarily grateful for their sacrifices. ...

But as I reflect on my last 57 efforts, many of which offered blistering critiques of Duke administrators and Durham officials, I wonder if the real reason I put pen to paper (or fingertip to keyboard, I suppose) each week has always come through.

So for my parting words, I thought I'd reiterate what I hope has been obvious all along: I love Duke with all my heart and soul, and every word I've written-from the fiercest denunciation to the mildest critique-represents an honest attempt to better this University.

Believe it or not, blasting Duke and Durham officials week after week has brought me no joy. (OK, there were a few times when it was a little fun.)

But I believe the seriousness of the issues I've dealt with-discriminatory, incompetent police work; racist land restrictions; contaminated water; zoning boondoggles; discriminatory health care practices; and financial and administrative opacity, among others -demanded a strong, aggressive approach, and I regret that I haven't had more success in encouraging reform. ...

The entire column's here.



There are already a good number of tribute comments on the column thread.

Here are three of them:

First, from an Anon;

Thanks Kristin, for your hard work and research and guts and love of Duke. Tuesday's won't be the same without your column to turn to.

This from a commenter ID'ing as "faculty:"

It is rare to have a student columnist who presents largely unknown factual material and accompanies it with direct and thoughtful commentary. You did it. You did so especially well during the tense periods of the lacrosse saga, and then on many other topics thereafter, such as admissions. A strong institution depends on strong independent analysis and direct but thoughtful criticism, and you have provided both. Thank you for you many outstanding columns. Godspeed.


And my comment:

No sensible person could ever doubt your genuine concern for Duke. Or your moral courage. They always came through.

If President Brodhead, "Dick's senior team," and the trustees had paid more attention to what you wrote, Duke would have stood for justice and fair treatment of its students instead of engaging in a "throw them under the bus" strategy that enabled the frame-up attempt, brought shame to the University, and will cost Duke many tens of millions of dollars.

Like Churchill in the 30s, you've been an "outsider" But you were both so because you cared deeply and wisely.

Free people and history now acknowledge our debt to Churchill.

I hope in time the Duke community and the University's officialdom come to appreciate your service to Duke.

When most were silent or foolish or worse, you represented Duke at its best.

There's an Irish blessing that begins: "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back."

Those words carry my sentiments as I join others in thanking you and wishing you well in all you do.



Folks, I hope many of you will leave your own comments on the thread here.


scott said...

If other members of the MSM wrote with the thoughtfulness and clarity of Kristin Butler, I might actually buy a newspaper once in awhile.

They don't, so I won't.

She will have a fine career as a writer regardless of what happens to the newspaper industry.

Good luck to you, Kristin. You can leave Duke knowing you made a positive difference. ick ....head won't be able to say the same.

Anonymous said...

Dear John,
Every word of gratitude written about Kristin Butler and every word of praise is well placed. She deserves our every praise and more. Thank you for these comments and my very best wishes to Kristin Butler. She has been tremendous.

JWM said...

To Scott,

Kristin will see your very nice comment.

To Anon @ 5:22,

Yes, she has been tremendous.

Thank you both.


drew said...

Over the course of the past ten years or so, there have been only a scant few newspaper articles (or writers) that I have found impressive enough to print out (a) copy (-ies), and remark to others about. Kristin Butler's work falls into that category.

Strangely enough, another of the writers whose work I found remarkable was a clumnist for a University newspaper, in this case a sports columnist from the Cornell Daily Sun. An article written by a hard-core Red Sox fan about the (then, first) retirement of Roger Clemens was refreshing. It put much of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry into perspective, in that the fans of each loved to hate the other team, but they still recognized the exceptional athletes involved.

Perhaps the quality of the writing is borne of the fact that the writers don't have deadline pressures, or don't need to supplement their incomes by writing for a dozen different publications, but the university journalists' work is both refreshing and commendable.

As for Ms. Butler, I can only hope to see her by-line again somewhere. If she doesn't seek to advance her journalism into a career, it will be us (the readers) who suffer. She's an excellent writer, a keen judge of people, and can recognize BS for what it is. She'll be missed, if only temporarily.

Anonymous said...

John -

Sorry I got to this so late, but Kristin Butler's departure will diminish the Chronicle. She seems to have been one of the few sane heads on board there, and in all of Duke as well.

Jack in Silver Spring