Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Our Collective Voice - Letter to Holloway

Last week Johnsville News and KC Johnson wrote about a recent article written by Duke Group of 88 professor Karla FC Holloway.
Liestoppers parodied the Group of 88 “listening” ad here.
Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson have offered more scholarly critiques:

A Duke alumnus and friend of Liestoppers sent us a copy of a letter he sent to Professor Holloway last week. We publish it here as part of the “Our Collective Voice” series.
Dear Professor Holloway:

My wife and I both graduated from Duke. I have been following the lacrosse investigation very closely and have corresponded with numerous individuals about the events and Duke's response. I was very sad to read your article "Coda: Bodies of Evidence." The lacrosse scandal has been painful for all of us in the Duke community. What is particularly painful is the degree to which members of the Duke faculty have labored to condemn the lacrosse team with what at times appears to be a cruel disregard for the likelihood that no rape occurred. You address this in your piece by saying, "The appropriate presumption of innocence that follows the players, however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts." This statement appears strange for a number of reasons. First, the presumption of innocence obviously doesn't follow a defendent "however the legal case is determined." A defendent found guilty is treated as guilty. Michael Peterson is not presumed innocent while he serves a life sentence for the murder of his wife. Your statement suggests that you are equating someone charged with someone convicted. Second, whatever else happened at the party, I struggle to see how anything other than whether or not a rape occurred can be the "critical social indicator of the event." If there was a rape, the players committed a heinous act. If there wasn't a rape, they have been the victims of a vicious lie. Third, the support for the lacrosse players from people like me is not based on a presumption of innocence. It is based on the facts of the case. We are arguing that the players are actually and demonstrably innocent. The timeline of events is wholly inconsistent with the accuser's story, the medical evidence doesn't support the claim, and no witnesses corroborate the accuser's version of events. One of the defendants, Reade Seligmann, has produced conclusive evidence that he wasn't even there during the only time any assault could have possibly occurred.

Yet, you dismiss the evidence no rape occurred out of hand and argue, "In nearly every social context that emerged following the team's crude conduct, innocence and guilt have been assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt. Men's innocence means women's guilt." This statement is wildly unfair. The evidence presented has been based on a metric of time, space, and science. None of these has anything to do with race and gender. It is unfair to assert that those who argue the three accused players are innocent are therefore advocating black guilt and women's guilt. We are simply arguing that no lacrosse player sexually assaulted either of the two dancers at the party. No one of consequence is arguing that women as a gender are guilty or that African Americans as a race are guilty. This case shouldn't be about identity politics; it should be about what did and did not happen.
Your article dwells on the fact that there is testimony that racial slurs were exchanged. For you, this appears to be the single most important fact. It is indeed a regrettable one, but you have no reason to believe it was any of the three accused players who uttered the slurs. You seek to indict the entire team and all white males, particularly athletes, because of the inappropriate language of one or two people. In other words, you seek to attribute the conduct of one person to an entire group and declare the group guilty. This type of justice is not tolerated in any other context. Why is it acceptable for the lacrosse team?

Two Duke students and one former student have been charged with extremely serious crimes they almost certainly did not commit. If they are indeed innocent, then they have been the victims of a horrible lie, a merciless media storm, and callous condemnation from the faculty at their own university. Yet they are not included in your list of those "injured by this affair." In fact, I have seen almost no expression of public concern for their wellbeing from anyone in the Duke administration or faculty. How can this be justified? If, and when, they are "proven innocent," which is the standard President Brodhead has set for his support, will there be any regret for the one-sided condemnation? Or will exculpatory facts continue to be disregarded because they are relevant only in the courtroom and are not as powerful as "cultural facts"?
You also assert that "sports reinforces exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those "othered" by their sports' history of membership." I don't understand this statement. It's true that sports have a history of exclusion. But the breaking down of those walls is also a great part of our history. Like many young boys, I first learned of the civil rights movement through the Jackie Robinson story. My idols were Walter Payton and Michael Jordon. The athletic fields we played on took us to different cities and different neighborhoods to play in environments that were far more integrated than our communities and schools. Basketball is an event on campus at Duke that unites students of different backgrounds like no other activity. I am always proud to see the diversity of students in the stands with backgrounds obscured by blue facepaint and remarkable unity. Why is this not something that should be celebrated rather than condemned?

I fully recognize that there are ills and divides in our society that need to be remedied. I also recognize that you have a unique and tragic personal history. I do not mean to offend by writing this letter. I am near certain that there was no rape at the lacrosse party and I believe the three accused players have been the victims of an incredible injustice and a profound abuse of power by the Durham police and District Attorney's office. Surely you must acknowledge that this is at least a possibility. If it is a possibility, then there has to be a way to advocate of behalf of the players without being merely an example of "masculine and white racial disrespect." Those of us advocating for the players through letters and on the internet are trying our best to do so without being examples of this disrespect. It has been my hope for some time that members of the Duke faculty would similarly speak to defend the players. It has been greatly disappointing to me that this hasn't occurred and instead the commentary from the faculty often appears stuck in the first week of April. I ask you to reconsider your views or at least commit to reconsider as still more evidence of this injustice is revealed. In any event, I thank you for considering mine. I wish you luck in your other affairs.

Sincerely,
Concerned Duke Alumnus

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent response! Very powerful. Hoping LieStoppers will publish Ms. Holloway's response...

Anonymous said...

Beautifully and clearly written response to Holloway's ramblings. If she has a shred of honesty she will consider your comments. Most likely she will respond with more babble. Duke Alum, I would suggest getting the letter published in The Chronicle. I believe the student body will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Anonymous said...

I must confess, I can't decipher half of what Holloway writes. I am a professional writer who was educated at an elite university, but damned if I can barely get through the article cited. I may not be as smart as Holloway, but I recognize BS when I see it and her article is just BS dressed up with ten dollar words.

She uses vocabulary to hide the truth from her readers. She writes, "The Lacrosse team's notion of who was in service of whom and the presumption of privilege that their elite sports' performance had earned seemed their entitlement as well to behaving badly and without concern for consequence." She states the women were "invited" to dance. It's not a notion or an invitation. The women were hired and accepted payment of $800 to strip.

There are so many run-on sentences that I get lost. For example, "So when asked to provide the labor, once again, for the aftermath of a conduct that visibly associates me, in terms of race and gender, with the imbalance of power, especially without an appreciable notice of this as the contestatory space that women and black folk are asked to inhabit, I find myself preoccupied with a decision on whether or not to demur from this association in an effort, however feeble, to protect the vulnerability that is inherent to this assigned and necessary meditative role." This sentence is 85 words long and I think it says she can't decide if she wants to serve on the committee. It infers that because she is a black woman she has been a victim her whole life. I could be wrong, but don't have the time to try to read the sentence again.

I could tear apart every single sentence in her poorly constructed article, but I have to write a paper that explains something complicated this morning. She wrote an article that made something very simple so complicated I can’t understand it and don’t even want to read it.

Her endnote thanks two professors for reading early drafts. You couldn't pay me to edit this piece. I wouldn't accept this draft from a junior writer. Also, it is not correct to number a list of only one item.

This really makes me wonder what they teach down at Duke. Excuse my poor grammar, but it sure ain't English!

Anonymous said...

I must confess, I can't decipher half of what Holloway writes. I am a professional writer who was educated at an elite university, but damned if I can barely get through the article cited. I may not be as smart as Holloway, but I recognize BS when I see it and her article is just BS dressed up with ten dollar words.

She uses vocabulary to hide the truth from her readers. She writes, "The Lacrosse team's notion of who was in service of whom and the presumption of privilege that their elite sports' performance had earned seemed their entitlement as well to behaving badly and without concern for consequence." She states the women were "invited" to dance. It's not a notion or an invitation. The women were hired and accepted payment of $800 to strip.

There are so many run-on sentences that I get lost. For example, "So when asked to provide the labor, once again, for the aftermath of a conduct that visibly associates me, in terms of race and gender, with the imbalance of power, especially without an appreciable notice of this as the contestatory space that women and black folk are asked to inhabit, I find myself preoccupied with a decision on whether or not to demur from this association in an effort, however feeble, to protect the vulnerability that is inherent to this assigned and necessary meditative role." This sentence is 85 words long and I think it says she can't decide if she wants to serve on the committee. It infers that because she is a black woman she has been a victim her whole life. I could be wrong, but don't have the time to try to read the sentence again.

I could tear apart every single sentence in her poorly constructed article, but I have to write a paper that explains something complicated this morning. She wrote an article that made something very simple so complicated I can’t understand it and don’t even want to read it.

Her endnote thanks two professors for reading early drafts. You couldn't pay me to edit this piece. I wouldn't accept this draft from a junior writer. Also, it is not correct to number a list of only one item.

This really makes me wonder what they teach down at Duke. Excuse my poor grammar, but it sure ain't English!

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, she is a law professor. My reaction when first exposed to her writing was, "Geez, is this the kind of stuff Brodhead has to read every day?" Wordy doesn't begin to describe it! In fact, it reminds me of middle school writing when a student first discovers the thesaurus!
Frankly, I think the Duke Alums were far too kind.

Anonymous said...

Karla Holloway is an English professor, and a dean, in Trinity. But she teaches a "legal writing" course over at the Law school too. Her ability to write should definitely be reviewed. I feel bad for those who are in her classes. Probably her students write much more legible English than she does. Throwing fancy words around as though you are making a salad has never been a virtue in my mind.

In terms of what she has to say, if you are able to navigate through to BS, it boils down only one thing: pure politics and racisms. It is clear and simple. How on earth did all these clowns gather at Duke? It appears this perfect storm has been gathering in Duke for some time now. It was going to break out one way or another.

Anonymous said...

I am constantly amazed at what passes for critical thinking skills in the current generation of professors. Karla Holloway is a prime example. If one cannot intellectually navigate an issue, obfuscate, lie and blame.

Anonymous said...

And to think she is being paid to force-feed that drivel in 18-22 year old minds?

Duke needs quite a clean up!

gc said...

Wonderful, thoughtful letter. Let's see if it gets a response.

Anonymous said...

This professor's writing is incomprehensible drivel. It is simply incapable of being understood because it is nonsense. That Duke would hire her as a professor of any kind, let alone an English professor, shows how incompetent the supposed "experts" in charge of faculty hiring at Duke really are.

The scary thing about this sort of writing style that she has adopted is that there are certain people who will look at it and say, "oh, my, look at all the big words, this writer must be really smart." Or, better yet, some will say, "you know, I can't understand a word of any of this -- boy, this writer must be really smart."

NO -- she just can't write worth a lick.

DukeGradNCResident said...

It's amazing that Holloway's tortured pap is considered scholarship. Maybe she should take leave of Duke, forthwith. Houston Baker can probably land Holloway a better paying gig at Vandy.

(Is there any dictionary containing the word "contestatory", or is this just another form of socio-babble?)

Anonymous said...

I am not a writer or educated at an elite university but I can recognize "mindless psycho-babble written by a blooming idiot" when I read it and Ms. Holloways' essay is a classic. Thankfully her influence did not effect the Duke alums that wrote the very thoughtful and eloquent response. Doubt that Ms. Holloway will be able to understand it though.

Anonymous said...

Her comments are similar to the perjorative and racist sentiments expressed in Professor Baker's letter from early on in this travesty. (although his letter was at least readable) The whole concept that you can't believe in the lacrosse player's innocence without assuming "black guilt" is just about the most ridiculous thing I have heard to date. Trying to convince somebody like that of anything is really a hopeless endeavor, although I applaud the attempt. Personally, I think the only answer here is to try to get her a job at Vanderbilt. Apparently they tolerate this sort of behavior there... they were happy to get Professor Baker.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be unkind, but was Ms. Holloway's High School Diploma kinda like an honorary one where we give people honorary doctorates at college graduations? She sure doesn't write like anyone above about 11th grade.

Anonymous said...

"Contestatory" isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is pretty much the Bible of the English language. Of course, in Holloway's mind, the OED is probably just another racist tool of oppression used by white males to linguistically "rape" downtrodden tenured English professors like herself.

Anonymous said...

Applause. Very well written and clear letter that I could (without a college degree) follow. A passionate letter without the ugliness that can take the focus away from the issue.

Anonymous said...

Duke should not wonder why they have dropped in the polls. Who would want to go to a school that everyone knows they would not be supported if they were in any trouble at all.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading Holloway's "work," redolent, as it is, of Marxist vocabularic creations meant to obscure rather than enlighten, I was thinking back to my undergraduate days and wishing that I had more often raised my hand and asked "What the h*ll is this cr*p?"

One of the crimes perpetrated by professors against students is embedded within the very "power structure" claimed by the "victims" (and can a tenured professor at Duke really be seen as a "victim"?), i.e., students, even now and to a large extent, assume that whatever a professor says is more or less true, and that any inability to comprehend is more a matter of student limitations rather than professorial idiocy.

I learned the deck was stacked when, after an introductory "Lit Crit" class with multiple instructors, I turned to one of the professors and asked, politely, "Um, honestly, was that a whole lot of bullsh*t?" To which said professor responded not with indignation, but with a sort of tender pity, the kind one might employ when dealing with the developmentally delayed. I forget exactly what he said, but it was along the lines of "But no, my confused wanderer, perhaps you ought to read the book again."

Holloway and her kind become academically cynical without even realizing it; the innocence of college students (both intellectually and, here, legally) is not even up for consideration.

"Youth is wasted on the young," my mother would often say. And while there is truth to the statement, also true is the idea that the youth are unprepared for the intellectual and emotional predators that have infiltrated college faculties. Colleges have moved from the model of patrician guider (functioning "in loco parentis") to an adversarial ("contestatory"?) stance in which college students either must be "enlightened" (usually young women) or "re-educated" (usually young men) or, failing that, punished (e.g., lacrosse players).