An Open Letter to the Duke Community"In the spring of 2006, the Duke community was rocked by terrible news. We heard that a woman hired to perform at a party thrown by our lacrosse team had accused members of the team of raping her. Neighbors, we were told, heard racial epithets called out at the woman as she departed the party. The criminal proceedings and the media frenzy which followed are perhaps beginning to wind down. For us at Duke, the issues raised by the incident, and by our community's responses to it, are not.."In April, a group of Duke faculty members published an advertisement in The Chronicle. The ad, titled "What does a Social Disaster Sound Like?" was mostly a compilation of statements made by Duke students in response to the incident and its immediate aftermath. This ad has figured in many discussions of the event and of the University's response. It has been broadly, and often intentionally, misread. We urge everyone to read the original ad, at http://listening.nfshost.com/listening.htm. We have. Some of us were among the ad's signers.."The ad has been read as a comment on the alleged rape, the team party, or the specific students accused. Worse, it has been read as rendering a judgment in the case. We understand the ad instead as a call to action on important, longstanding issues on and around our campus, an attempt to channel the attention generated by the incident to addressing these. We reject all attempts to try the case outside the courts, and stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence.."As a statement about campus culture, the ad deplores a "Social Disaster," as described in the student statements, which feature racism, segregation, isolation, and sexism as ongoing problems before the scandal broke, exacerbated by the heightened tensions in its immediate aftermath. The disaster is the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus. The ad's statement that the problem "won't end with what the police say or the court decides" is as clearly true now as it was then. Whatever its conclusions, the legal process will not resolve these problems.."The ad thanked "the students speaking individually and...the protesters making collective noise." We do not endorse every demonstration that took place at the time. We appreciate the efforts of those who used the attention the incident generated to raise issues of discrimination and violence.."There have been public calls to the authors to retract the ad or apologize for it, as well as calls for action against them and attacks on their character. We reject all of these. We think the ad's authors were right to give voice to the students quoted, whose suffering is real. We also acknowledge the pain that has been generated by what we believe is a misperception that the authors of the ad prejudged the rape case.."We stand by the claim that issues of race and sexual violence on campus are real, and we join the ad's call to all of us at Duke to do something about this. We hope that the Duke community will emerge from this tragedy as a better place for all of us to live, study, and work."
Not surprisingly, the attempt to revise perceptions following the first of what may be many lawsuits filed by students against the members of the Group of 88 and the university, was woefully unsuccessful.
LieStoppers Forum Members respond to the new statement:
"Part of this is just really sloppy writing. The 'disaster' they talk about is not the alleged rape (which is just a hook for their agenda to hang from) but that's not at all clear. There is also nothing in their statement that addresses the right to a fair trial, and adding in language like 'won’t end with what the police say or the court decides' compounds the problem. Now it could be that these people, who make their living from using language, simply got it wrong. More likely these people, who make their living from using language, were using dog whistle politics.
"The real kicker, that is decisive for the dog whistle theory, is the G88's endorsement of the protests. The protesters were not seeking a solution to the G88's disaster. The protesters were seeking a railroading. Some of the protesters were advocating castration. By endorsing the protesters without endorsing the right to a fair trial, the G88 made themselves a gang of high-sounding pious hypocrites.
"The minimum way for these people to establish their intellectual honesty is a statement that they regret not having affirmed the right to a fair trial when they claimed to be speaking about the alleged rape but were actually speaking about their own agenda. Their new website offers no way to communicate with them or question their actions and motives. I wonder why that is?" Alan, Blooligan
"Lord love a duck.
"If Bill Chafe hadn't been quoted on the subject of this new letter, I'd agree with a number of the early posters in this thread that it would have to be a fake. After all, just like Don Imus told John Kerry, the best advice for the 88 right now as long as they refuse to apologize is just to "stop talking. Please stop talking."
"Stuck on stupid" is right.
"This is now officially a liability nightmare for Duke. The professors that opened them up to substantial legal jeopardy are on record unrepentantly clarifying their hostile position. Kim Curtis's signature on the letter doesn't help things in view of the pending civil action against her. If the signatories had any sense at all, well, they wouldn't have written this letter, which seems to have evaporated again into thin air, but they surely wouldn't have hitched their wagons to Curtis's falling star. As an educator myself, I wouldn't affix my name to a letter with Kim Curtis's signature on it right now if all it did was state that the sun rises in the east each morning. Open myself up to civil suits for fraud and breach of contract, plus an assault on my (lack of) professional integrity? Uh, no thanks. I'll pass.
"(And God help Duke if the civil lawyers can ever establish that the flyers Sam Hummell printed were run off on University copiers. Do you think he really went all the way down to Kinko's and PAID for them himself? After all, you can't put a price on social justice.)" Jack Webb
"First post here.
"Alan's post quoted by others as well is a gem and has inspired me to contribute. As an "inside" outsider I have followed this case from Day 1, felt the affects within my own family and seen first hand a version of the pain this whole thing has caused.
"In addition, as a professional who completed the PhD route and decided not to enter into academia, the G88's foolishness, small-mindedness and agenda-pushing makes me feel sick and confirms why I have avoided university life for so long (15 years post PhD) and counting.
"Alan's comments are right to the heart of the G88 matter and I am thankful for his words. I could not agree more and think the G88 ought to be ashamed of themselves. The original "listening" document was a knee-jerk reaction and an obvious way to push their agenda. They acted like reporters for a trash newspaper and tried to capitalize on an emerging "story." Shame on them.
"Instead of going for the "story" they should have invested their energy working with the University to address what they supposedly "listened" to. I recall the task force that went to study the issue right after the alleged incident. Has that yielded anything? Have any of the G88 participated constructively in this?
"The G88 wanted points for style and decided to publicly let everyone know how enraged they were. They used the protesters, their position and the power of the pen to their own gain. It is indicative of the political cesspools that Universites are these days. I work with senior executives in Fortune 500 companies, and I can tell you that even the worst performing public companies don't hold a candle to the dysfunctional politics that exists in faculties across the country.
"Back to Alan's thoughtful point: I agree that the faculty should state that they regret not having affirmed the players' right to a fair trial. But they should not spend too much time on this. They should quickly turn their minds, mouths and pens to addressing the issues they seem to think are so important. Step 1: Diagnosis. before making any furthers claims about tragedies, they should do as others on this post have suggested. They should test their hypotheses about the scope, size and depth of the issues they are so quick to attach their signatures to. That would be more like real scientific inquiry and responsible University behavior.
"Given their past behavior, I doubt highly that they are capable of this. But it doesn't hurt to ask them to do it. Again, shame on them.
"Thanks everyone for your posts." Concerned Human