Monday, November 27, 2006
Well, Mr. R., I’m a Duke mom and the ad certainly had an impact on me.
I suspect this will sound kind of “right wing,” to you, but, truth be told, Duke at the end of the day is marketing an educational product, an educational experience, if you will, that is quite costly, and actually requires a lifetime of saving and sacrifice by those who end up paying those tuition bills.
And we care deeply about the intellect and character of the people, the faculty, who will be teaching and influencing our sons and daughters.
And I want to believe that those same faculty care deeply about the sons and daughters whose education has been entrusted to them.
When I see how agenda-driven is a core group of the humanities faculty at Duke inflaming an already inflamed situation at Duke, before the facts have become known, a group who would put their own personal passions above the welfare of, at least, portions of their student body, then, Mr. R., I am very taken aback.
Now, I have some very strong feelings about Mr. Nifong, but he doesn’t impact or change my feelings about Duke. He makes me fear for my child’s safety in Durham, but he doesn’t affect my feelings about Duke.
No, my feelings about Duke have not changed because of the Duke Rape Hoax and Nifong’s role in bringing it about. My feelings about Duke have changed, and I believe, sadly, it will probably be a permanent change, because of actions and words of the Group of 88 and the actions and words of President Brodhead and the Duke administration.
Now, as I said, I’m just a Duke mom, but, believe me, I know moms. And I know that moms are paying attention to this case. Maybe as moms, we’re a little bit idealistic about teachers. While the roles of teachers and moms in our kids’ lives are certainly different, we still want to assume that they share with us a little bit of the awesome responsibility of having young lives, even lives of eighteen to twenty somethings, entrusted to them. And, here, I guess I’m getting really idealistic, we even assume they would consider it a sacred duty to, well, at least do no harm.
For many, the biggest shock of this case has been to see, in the most blatant terms, that police and prosecutors would pursue a prosecution of three young men based on no evidence and refuse to accord them any of the hard-won protections of legal due process that this country has achieved.
For me, and probably for other moms, the bigger shock has been to see teachers, Duke faculty, whom we would hope would be shining beacons of learning and integrity to our kids their life long, because of the wonderful educational experience they brought to our sons and daughters in their classrooms or lecture halls, when we see them taking time out in a very public statement to suggest there is something rotten about these very students, the young men and women with whom they share a campus and a university and whose education and growth as individuals is one of the primary missions of that university, in some cases, students that they themselves teach, to read in their statement, in effect, that if the something rotten they find in those students isn’t outright criminal, it is bad enough, well then, I must tell you, we are shocked and dismayed and saddened and changed.
Now when you say that the statement of the Group of 88 was just a piece of free speech, and after all, really has no impact on the case, I have to tell you, Mr. R., you are really missing the point.
There are mom and dads and kids all across America who will be making educational decisions in the future. And yes, we are attracted by the wonderful educational opportunities that Duke will continue to offer, and yes, even by the prestige the university has and no doubt will retain. We also care about family ties to a university that has meant a lot in our lives.
But we are not deaf, dumb and blind. We can’t just ignore something so deeply shocking from such a large group of faculty, representing many departments.
There will be an impact from that statement, not because anyone is opposed to free speech, but because the thoughts and sentiments expressed are so troubling, so anathema to the role of teacher, of educator. It burns into my mind because I hear the Group of 88 saying, in effect, “there are no teachers here,” at least for certain kinds of students.