Monday, May 04, 2009

Duke’s Brodhead Doesn’t Get Institutional Fairness

Erin O’Connor in Critical Mass (Feb. ’08) -

There's something embarrassing--and vaguely pornographic--in the spectacle of a leader who is not at all up to leadership.

This is particularly true in higher ed, where the idealism of the enterprise tends to get a bit tarnished when those charged with ensuring it just can't manage to do so.

Duke president Richard Brodhead has been living in a hell of his own making ever since the lacrosse scandal revealed his total incapacity to uphold--or even really grasp--foundational principles such as fairness, due process, and Doing the Right Thing.

Brodhead pandered and cowered and skulked his way through the extended tag-team beating administered to the falsely accused lacrosse team by the Durham D.A.'s office, the national media, and the Duke faculty, and wound up shaming himself and his university in ways that can never be undone. (This is all shorthand, I know, and if you are unclear where my statements come from, do read KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor's Until Proven Innocent).

The never-to-be-undoneness of the policy of procedural and political expediency Brodhead adopted during the long, damaging months of the lacrosse scandal were most recently on display during Duke's Sex Workers Art Show. Jay Schalin has the details:

You would think Duke University might be a little cautious about paying strippers to perform on campus. After all, there was that little incident that happened about two years ago -- something to do with a couple of strippers and some lacrosse players.

But inviting strippers to perform does not appear to be a problem as long as the intent is not to titillate men, but to shock a mixed audience with vulgarity and disparage mainstream American values.

In the latter case, the university is quite willing to pay, despite a regulation reintroduced into [Duke’s] Bulletin of Information and Regulations after the lacrosse case that explicitly states "strippers may not be invited or paid to perform at events sponsored by individual students, residential living groups, or cohesive units."

At least, it was willing on Sunday night, when a variety of university organizations paid for a performance of the Sex Workers Art Show at the campus' Reynolds Theater.

The show was sponsored by the following official university departments, centers and student organizations: the Duke Women's Center, …
After listing Duke organizations generously supported by alumni and benefiting from nonprofit tax breaks, O'Connor provides descriptions of the Brodhead administration’s approved sexcapade show for students.

Here are some of them::
A transvestite, naked except for some strategically placed tape, with the words "F___ Bush" painted on his chest, kneeled on all fours and lit a sparkler protruding out of his rectum with "America the Beautiful" playing.

--A bare-breasted stripper sang a lewd song about Saint Bridget of Ireland, with lyrics mocking the act of ascension as she climbed to the top of a stripper's pole.

--A stripper, in the guise of a U.S. flag-draped Lady Justice, emptied coins out of her scales, pulled dollar bills out of her clothes as she removed them, and yanked a string of dollar bills out of her posterior as the sound system played Dolly Parton's version of "God Bless the U.S.A."

She ended her act by saluting and holding up her middle finger to the crowd. The announcer referred to it as her "Infamous Patriot Act." Her most private area was kept covered by a small American flag.
Folks, if you know what Duke's now like under Brodhead-Steel, you’re not surprised.

And if you’re contributing to Duke because you’re “ooh la la” for that kind of "entertainment" and/or you just like Brodhead, Steel, Nifong, the trustees, "Dick's senior team," and their many faculty enablers, that’s your right.

And don’t feel embarrassed about why you're contributing to Duke under Brodhead-Steel; most Duke trustees are OK with it, too. So is The Chronicle's editorial board and the trustees-in-waiting who've been approved by the Allen Building to "lead" the Duke Alumni Association.

O’Connor closes with:
[I] wouldn't have wanted to spend my own Sunday night attending a show like this. But I don't care if others do.

The issue has to do with the double standards at work at Duke, both in allocation of funds and in application of policy.
The "no strippers" rule was bound to run into a wrinkle like this one--and that shows the stupidity of the rule. But even dumber is the Duke administration's clear expectation that it can enforce this rule selectively ... which is rather the sort of logic that got the university so embroiled in the lacrosse scandal in the first place.

Clarity of policy and consistency of application are the first rules in institutional fairness. Duke didn't get that when the non-rape case first unfolded--and it still doesn't.
O'Connor's entire post's here.

A big hat tip goes to Hershal Parker commenting on 5/04/09 @ 6:18 PM EST at this Chronicle thread for linking to O'Conner's post.


Danvers said...

Great article, but it is a pity that Ms O'Connor did not do a little more research on Brodhead. As it turns out he has the makings of a serial "throw your white male staff/students under a bus at every possible opportunity" -er.

Brodhead along with Yale University, where he was Dean at the time, is currently also being sued by James van de Velde, a former lecturer at Yale, over the former's conduct when the latter was publically named as a suspect (only?) in the murder of Suzanne Jovin in New Haven CT in December 1998.

vd Velde, a cum laude Yale graduate was a rising star in the first Bush administration during his 20s, Van de Velde reached stratospheric heights as both a Naval intelligence officer (lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve) and State Department operative and arms negotiator. In addition to his doctorate in international security studies from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Van de Velde held (and still has) a security clearance five levels above top secret.

Brodhead summarily cancelled vd Velde's spring classes [this heavy handed cancellation approach seems familiar does it not?] and vd Velde was later dismissed from his post at Yale - with devastating professional consequences for him.

vd Velde's primary employer the US Navy (where he served as an Intelligence Officer) also investigated him, [fairly it seems, as he retained his post and his security clearance] whereas Brodhead and Yale summarily dismissed him.

vd Velde's 2001 federal suit against the Newhaven PD [Yale and Brodhead were joined to this suit in 2003] was dismissed with prejudice in 2001. The suit was reinstated in 2007.

So is there a pattern here? Dickie seems to cave whenever there is a serious "crime" that seemingly involves his students or staff, and bows to the Gods of Political Correctness.

OR is it something more sinister.

vd Velde and the Lacrosse 3 [or 47 for that matter] are white male athletes, presumably from wealthy families; the former having the added stigma of (gasp!) being a member of the US military and a Republican, who got targetted by Brodhead? This pusillanimous college administrator lacks the cojones to apply any sort of fairness doctrine to any high profile crisis involving white male athletes. One wonders what his approach would have been had they been members of a protected minority?

It is a wonder that Duke employed him, knowing he was being sued under such high profile circumstances. They must surely be regretting the many millions of dollars that Brodhead is costing them - but then the money is really being paid for by the endowment, and gullible alumni donors, so why should they care?

I wonder who he will railroad next?

Etc etc.

Danvers said...

Further enlightening articles regarding Brodhead's conduct at Yale and the effect his lack of courage has had on those he has harmed:

Forget the FactsDuke's president has a history of allowing public relations to trump principle.

By Michael Rubin, NRO, 6/6/2006

District judge reopens Van de Velde suit
State law claims resurrected in former Saybrook dean’s lawsuit against Yale, NHPD

Rachel Boyd
Staff Reporter
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2007

His Life as a Murder SuspectBy James Bennet
Published: Sunday, September 12, 1999

Anonymous said...

Brodhead is now trying to reverse his roll of degrading white male helmeted sports students by now saying how much sports contribute to the overall life of those who play them. Ever notice now how active brodhead is at the Duke basketball games? I overheard brodhead one time when he was walking to the Coach K court ti introduce some players and asking his handler how to pronounce some of the basketball players names. He also admitted while walking with his handler that he did not know any of the players. Amazing, he was cheering the team on without knowing any of the players or the names of his students playing the game. And of course all this after he knew all the"guilty" players from the LAX hoax/frame....even though those well know names told the truth.

Anonymous said...

O'Connor's article illuminates what it is about so many institutions of higher learning that a great many people find disturbing. The "in your face", "damn your political beliefs", disrespect of God and country that the Sex Workers's Art Show displayed indicates that the university is more interested in making a political and cultural statement than it is anything else. The fact that Brodhead would kow-tow to the pc elements in his faculty to approve spending monies on something that university policy outlawed says much about his principles (that he has none) and his ability to lead (he is like a bull being led around by the ring in his nose).
Duke is not the institution that it was prior to the tenures of Richard Brodhead and Nan Keohane. The two together have taken a university which once had a stellar reputation, and have managed to make it a by-word for the worst practices of pc.