Monday, August 25, 2008

The Chronicle’s Butler & Rickards are truth-seekers

Great news!

This year Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, will publish on Monday’s a column by Kristin Butler, Trinity '08, and Ed Rickards, Trinity '63 and Law '66.

Many of you remember all those outstanding columns Butler wrote for TC as an undergrad. Her work didn’t go unnoticed. She won a number of prestigious awards for her journalism.

Richards is a former TC editor whose deep love for Duke goes back half a century.

Butler and Rickards have reputations for digging out facts, asking tough questions and telling it like it is. Here’s some of what they said this morning about themselves and their column:

…The column Pro Bono Publico will appear each Monday with a joint byline. We promise to be fair and principled, probative and informative, analytical and critical. Our focus will be university policy and governance, and readers can count on us to hold administrators' feet to the fire. That starts right now.
So how did President Richard (“Whatever they did is bad enough.”) Brodhead and others at Duke react?

Butler and Rickards tell us:
We regret that at the outset President Richard Brodhead has refused to grant us an interview. We explained in summertime e-mails we would be writing more about him and his administration than any other journalists, on campus or off.

John Burness, who recently retired as senior vice president for government affairs and public relations, replied that although Duke "has been more willing than other universities to engage with reporters," it is paradoxically not "in the University's interest" to speak with us, writers from the Duke community newspaper.

Burness's replacement, Michael Schoenfeld, quickly agreed-so quickly in fact that he did not bother to take office first nor exchange a single word with us.

As unsound as we often found Burness's judgment-remember a judge questioned, "Why would anybody be dumb enough to say what (Burness) did" about former lacrosse coach Mike Pressler-we are appalled by Schoenfeld's demonstrated lack of independent thought, not to mention his lack of respect for this newspaper.

Indeed, by signaling that he'll deal only with certain (read: ideologically friendly) Chronicle writers and not others, Schoenfeld has moved toward a brave new world on campus where access seems governed by how lavishly one praises Brodhead.
There’s much more to the column. I encourage you to read it all here.

I left the following comment on the column thread:
I want to thank and congratulate Kristin Butler and Ed Rickards for their column today.

President Brodhead's refusal to grant them an interview is unfortunate, but understandable.

He was undoubtedly concerned they'd ask him questions such as:

1) Why didn't he meet with the lacrosse parents on Saturday, March 25, 2006?

2) Why, on March 29, did he apologize on behalf of the university to the "anonymous first caller" and "your friend" for racial remarks the caller (she was the second dancer, something the Durham Police had known since March 14) alleged were directed at her and "my friend," when Brodhead had no way of knowing if what was claimed in the call was true or bogus? (It turned most of it was bogus.)

3) At the time he made his unconditional, written apology, did Brodhead know "the first caller" was actually Kim Roberts, "the second dancer?" Why hasn't Brodhead ever answered that simple question?

4) Is Brodhead confident Duke didn't violate student FERPA privacy rights?

5) Why did Duke's President never speak out against those campus and community "activists" who rallied under "CASTRATE" and "GIVE THEM EQUAL MEASURE" banners, circulated on campus "Vigilante" posters targeting white students, and shouted threats at Duke students on and off campus; one particularly shocking example being the death threats black racists shouted at Reade Seligmann at the Durham County Courthouse on May 18, 2006?

Dick Brodhead doesn't want to answer those and other such questions.

Kristin and Ed, you've both been out in the wide, wide world long enough not to take Brodhead's refusal to meet with you personally.

If Brodhead was sure you were going to ask him about his "vision for Duke in 2050," and only that, he would’ve welcomed you into his office.

There might even have been a cookie tray out along with Cokes, Sprites and herbal teas, as there often are for interviews with those Brodhead views as "understanding" and "really mature given their ages."

Keep up the great work. Brodhead, his senior team, other Duke defendants and campus toadies may not appreciate it.

But those of us shocked, angered and embarrassed by Duke’s Brodhead-led response to the hoax and frame-up attempt do.

We also appreciate your efforts to lift the lid on Duke’s continuing cover-up of what really happened.

We're looking forward to your future columns.


John in Carolina
Folks, I hope many of you go here to the column thread and leave your own welcome and thoughts there.


Anonymous said...


This somewhat off topic but may be of interest:

"Sacramento Bee offers mass buyouts to news staff"

Its just a matter of time for the N&O


Anonymous said...


I think you may remember Melanie Sill.

"At The Bee, Melanie Sill, the paper's editor and senior vice president, said buyouts were offered to about 200 of the 240 full-time equivalent staffers in the news and editorial-page departments"

Anonymous said...

John -

I have followed the Duke lacrosse hoax/scandal from sometime around May 2006 (which is how I became acquainted with your site). In that time, I have come to conclude that Richard Brohead is not part of the solution, but part of the problem (as appears to be the case for most of the administrators at Duke). Brohead has a history of jumping the gun, being intellectually lazy to the point of ignorance, and never having to say, he's sorry. There is the case of a mysterious murder of a co-ed at Yale (when Brodhead was Dean of Yale College). Brodhead took summary actions that ultimately lead to the dismissal of James Van de Velde, a professor at Yale, and the ruination of his career. Professor Van de Velde was someone the police had been suspicious of, and which suspicions were conveniently leaked. The evidence, such as it was and is, never pointed to Van de Velde. But Brodhead, in anticipation of his behavior at Duke, never looked at the evidence and didn't give a rat's petooty about Van de Velde's possible innocence.

Then there is the case of the Melville scholar, Hershel Parker. Mr. Parker was putting out biographical volumes of Melville and had come across evidence that Melville had written a book called Poems around he 1860 that he could not get published. This evidence had been known since 1922. That did not stop the ever irrepressible Brodhead from claiming in a book review that Parker was making it up, and that caused no end of trouble for Mr. Paker's career.

Do we notice a pattern here? Brodhead for all his education and faux erudition is simply not up to the task of being an administrator, let alone a president of a major university. Moreover, either because he is spineless, or does not disagree with the "academics" comprising the Group of 88, he will allow them to run roughshod over the university. You see the results so far: faux professors teaching faux courses on useless subjects who hate their students because some of those students are a different color or are from a different income level. They are incapable of cognizing that they are committing the same wrongs they attribute to whites.

Jack in Silver Spring