Thursday, September 06, 2007

The other villains 

As the Duke lacrosse case spun further and further out of control until crashing into reality, most of the press focus was on the wrongdoing of Mike Nifong, the district attorney in the case. Most people didn't even give a second look at the behavior of Duke's faculty and fledgling leftists in their own student body. Standing out from that was KC Johnson, who has devoted great time and effort in uncovering the actions of Duke's academic community towards the wrongly accused.

Johnson and Stuart Taylor have now published Until Proven Innocent which is reviewed this morning by Abigail Thernstrom in the Wall Street Journal. Thernstrom summarizes the Duke academic response to the false accusations:
Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke, condemned the lacrosse players as if they had already been found guilty, demanded the resignation of their coach and studiously ignored the mounting evidence that Ms. Mangum's charge was false. He was clearly terrified of the racial and gender activists on his own faculty. Houston Baker, a noted professor of English, called the lacrosse players "white, violent, drunken men veritably given license to rape," men who could "claim innocence . . . safe under the cover of silent whiteness." Protesters on campus and in the city itself waved "castrate" banners, put up "wanted" posters and threatened the physical safety of the lacrosse players.
Johnson reports that Brodhead's review by Duke's Board of Trustees is forthcoming and that hard questions need to be asked. His first one:
On April 20, 2006, President Brodhead made his first off-campus appearance after the arrests of Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. He told members of the Durham Chamber of Commerce, �If our students did what is alleged, it is appalling to the worst degree. If they didn�t do it, whatever they did is bad enough.�

In retrospect, does the president consider those remarks to be appropriate? And what did Seligmann and Finnerty�who attended a party they played no role in organizing and drank some beer�do that was �bad enough�?
Brodhead was still in high dudgeon in January 2007. The accused were exonerate in April 2007, and no review of the university's rush to pass judgment has been made yet. Perhaps President Brodhead's review can provide a time for reflection of the groupthink on Duke's campus that came perilously close to a grave injustice.