Sunday, July 06, 2008

A nice Duke lacrosse story

This afternoon I was at Liestoppers Forum reading Joan Foster’s excellent post, The Big Sleep of the Duke Faculty, and it’s thread on which Locomotive Breath provides a link to Duke Professor of Chemistry Steve Baldwin’s Chronicle letter of Apr. 17, 2006.

I decided to use the link to go to The Chronicle and reread Baldwin’s letter which began:

At the risk of arousing the wrath of the righteous, I would like to offer my impressions of Mike Pressler, recent coach of the Duke men's lacrosse team. I have known Coach Pressler and his family for at least ten years. Our children played together when they were younger and our families have done things together socially. Coach Pressler is humble, reserved, thoughtful and honest to a fault. He has great integrity. …
And concluded:
I am troubled by the lack of support for Coach Pressler from the athletic department. He was hung out to dry by an athletic administration that neither understood the issues nor appreciated Mike Pressler the man. Long before we learn the truth about what happened that night, and long before we learn the conclusions and recommendations of the several committees formed by President Brodhead to address the situation, the athletic department convulsed and threw the baby out with the bath water. …

For Athletic Director Joe Alleva to accept the resignation was wrong. Mike Pressler deserves better; so does Duke.
There were only two comments on the thread.

Here in full is the first one dated and timed 4/17/06 @ 8:29 PM EST
You cheerlead for the coach (and, indirectly, the players) yet appear to be oblivious to the longstanding reputation (let alone arrest record) of the Pressler-led lacrosse team.

Let's hope that this can be ascribed to your myopic devotion to your research rather than to your lack of judgment or to the impurity of your motives. In any case, as a judge of right and wrong, and of who 'doesn't understand the issues,' and of what would 'be a credit to Duke University' . . . I'm sure you are a wonderful chemist.
Would you believe that for almost a year that was the only comment on the thread?

April 17, 2006 was the day Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted in what we now know was a frame-up attempt. It was also about the time Duke President Richard Brodhead pronounced before the Durham Chamber of Commerce that “whatever they did was bad enough.”

In those circumstances I wouldn’t have expected much support for Baldwin’s decent, sensible and gutsy letter. But not even one supporting comment for almost a year?

Now about the second comment:

Attributed to Steve Nation, it’s dated and timed 4/11/07 @ 5:16 PM EST. Earlier that day N. C. Attorney General Roy Cooper had dismissed all charges in the case and declared the players innocent.

Here’s the comment in full:
I would say that you have a Chemistry Professor to apologize to regarding his "myopic devotion" and the fact that he obviously does understand the issues. He stood by a man he personally knows and believes to be a person of integrity. Based on the latest findings, he is correct in that assessment.
It’s too bad the first commenter, an Anon, hasn’t offered an apology yet.

Still, Steve Nation’s recalling Professor Baldwin’s letter on that day and providing the comment he did makes for a nice Duke lacrosse story.

Professor Baldwin’s entire letter’s here; The Big Sleep of the Duke faculty post and thread are here.