Thursday, January 22, 2009

Duke’s Chronicle Ignores Insurer’s Charges

Yesterday, Jan. 21, The Chronicle published its first and to date only story reporting the response of National Union Fire Insurance, Co.(NU) to a lawsuit Duke University (along with DU Health System) filed in November.

Duke alleges NU is responsible for certain costs associated with lawsuits resulting from Duke’s actions and inactions in connection with the Duke lacrosse case.

The Chronicle’s story quoted Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, who said Duke “can't say much … and the legal system will determine what is owed to Duke."

The story also provided some background to Duke’s suit and reported a NU spokesperson had not “immediately” responded to a request for comment.

But TC’s story said nothing about the extraordinarily serious charges NU made in its response. For example, that Duke had, in its suit filing, made claims against NU which were
“knowingly unfounded, malicious, frivolous, and in bad faith.” (See this JinC post)

TC also said nothing about a February 2008 letter concerning which KC Johnson reported:

National Union informed Duke that some of the lacrosse players’ claims—if true—involved actions by University officials beyond topics covered by the insurance policy.

The letter cited items such as allegations of “false and misleading statements made with intent to conceal”; “public statements made with deliberate indifference and callous disregard for the truth”; and “repeated proffer of false testimony.” (On this point, allegations regarding Duke’s violation of FERPA seem especially troublesome for the University.)

The carrier also noted that other alleged actions seemed to involve the defendants’ personal behavior (Pres. Brodhead’s public musings about the lacrosse players’ personal character?) rather than any action in their official capacity. …
NU's allegations are not ones the Allen Building wants bruited about.

But they're an extraordinarily important part of the NU-response-to-Duke’s-suit story.

By deciding to say nothing about them, The Chronicle failed its readers.

TC owes readers a follow-up story that details what NU is saying about Duke’s actions and inactions during one of the most important episodes in the university’s history.

The entire TC story’s here.


Anonymous said...


While I agree the Chronicle could have been more forthcoming in its article, there are often claims (and counterclaims) made in court filings. Some are true. Some are without merit. I think we need to be careful here.

There is plenty of time for evidence to be presented and the guilty parties to be publicly humiliated.

Having said that, Duke's well documented violation of federal FERPA laws should have been noted. The student body needs to know that its personal information is not being kept private. Now that I think about it, perhaps that should be a separate story in the Chronicle.


drew said...

I wonder whether The Chronicle's reference to the fact that the rape charges were false created any ripples in the Administration? I don't believe that there has ever been a clear admission from anyone in the Duke administration that in fact the charges were false. Didn't "something happen", and isn't that part of the underpinning of the University's defense in all the matters related to the players?

Perhaps The Chronicle has gone into uncharted waters from the perspective of those in the administration at Duke when they didn't conform to the "fact" that "something" occurred.

Steve said...

Just like Nixon. You can now ask "how's the coverup going?" to anyone you meet from Duke.

JWM said...


Thanks for your comment.

I plan to respond to it on the main page.


I think the following is fair:

Duke as an institution and its senior leadership have embraced the NC AG's finding the indicted students were innocent.

There are some individuals at Duke who work the "something happened" theme. A variation on the theme is "if you weren't there, how do you know what really happened?"

For such people, "something happened" is a way to "Keep hope alive." They really wanted the false accusations to be true.

When the NC AG, after reviewing the case, found the players innocent and declared Nifong a rogue prosecutor, the Duke "somethng happened" crowd did no joyful pot-banging, never waved a CELEBRATE banner and never ran a Chronicle ad thanking the defense attorneys and the AG.


You're right that you can ask that question but if your on campus much or talk to alums in groups you know its not often asked.

But it sure is quietly talked about one-on-one and other small groups of people who trust one another.

Thank you all three.