I just got back from the Philadelphia version of A Duke Conversation. I thought the crowd was on the smallish side for a major city, but there were a plethora of Duke personnel--Dr. & Mrs. Brodhead, Burness, Moneta, Dean Sue, Sterly Wilder and at least two other Alumni reps, a couple of people from the Library, Bob Bliwise from Duke Magazine, and various others that I did not know. I would guess 15 in all.
The Q&A started with Brodhead talking about the past fifteen months. He said we should all learn about prejudgment (do you think!), but we had a DA making strong statements, he had the reputation of being a decent guy, blah, blah, blah. The Q&A had only four questions about the entire situation.
1. Someone pointed out the new article in the Duke Magazine which he said pointed out things he did not know before. Brodhead referred to the Group of 88 statement and said people should read it, because it doesn't say what people have been told it says.
2. I asked the following: "Last spring Visiting Assistant Professor Kim Curtis failed a
lacrosse player due to her ideology and not his scholarship. Why is she still teaching at Duke." The question was met with applause. His answer was that the matter had been litigated and he could not comment. Another non-answer.
3. A little later Steve Henkleman, the father or godfather of 2006 graduate Erik Henkelman (those of you who read Pressler's book will know of Erik as the "Keeper of the Grail"--but you have to read the book to find out what that means.) Steve relived the weekend of the cancellation of the Georgetown game, mentioned that they made themselves available all weekend, and asked Brodhead why he wouldn't meet with them. Brodhead's response was events were moving fast. In short, still another non-answer. Henkleman also got significant applause.
4. A 1970s era lacrosse alum noted that every e-mail from Steel says Duke has handled this well and its time to move on. (The Duke theme is time to move on-nothing to see here folks.) These gentlemen basically said progress can't be made until the issues of last year are dealt with. He also received applause as well.
It's safe to say that most of the alums in attendance had only a passing acquaintance with the facts of the case. Several individuals I talked with had no idea of Kim Curtis' actions, although all admitted it was wrong. The Nartey e-mail came up in private conversations, but not otherwise. Several individuals came over to talk with those of us who rained on Brodhead's parade. The common theme was that Brodhead did not answer the questions. So we maybe made some progress.
I frankly was surprised at the turnout. Invitations were sent to alums from Philadelphia and Delaware. We had 60 people to hear Coleman for lunch in Wilmington two weeks ago. I would guess there were 150-200 people (including staff) present. Fairly heavy concentration of recent grads, say at least 20.
One trustee, Susan Stalnecker was there. I did not get to speak with her, but she certainly heard the applause and Brodhead's non-answers.
Nice to see people we knew, and to meet new people. I think many in the crowd just wish the lacrosse matter would go away, because its presence causes them to think, and they don't want to offend anyone. Some are concerned that the controversy will cheapen their or their children's degrees. It was clear that Brodhead is going to stonewall meaningful questions--therefore those of us that asked made statements to set up the issue. He will not respond, but it is obvious that he has not responded.
There was another question, a follow-up to my Kim Curtis question, about stories of professors harassing students in class and what actions did the administration about this. Brodhead's answer was about the constantly changing information available.
When asked if the faculty response should be studied he said the university should study everything.
The University smoozers generally avoided those of us who expressed support for the team after the Q&A.
Brodhead is very engaging when talking about what he wants to talk about, but it was clear his message was "nothing to see here folks, just move along." When challenged with lacrosse specific questions he became defensive and defiant. When asked the question about why he wouldn't meet with the parents he went rambling on some tangent. Henkleman called him back as being non-responsive, and Brodhead made some smarmy comment about he would have to give a long answer to the long question, but in the end never did say why he didn't have the decency to at least speak to the parents.
In the interest of fairness, one recent grad a rambling question something to the effect that the East Campus wall represented a "barrier" between Duke and Durham, and wouldn't it symbolically be better to tear it down. ... To his credit, Brodhead first quoted Robert Frost ("good fences make good neighbors"), pointed out that there is a running track all around the campus side of the wall that many people, both from Duke and the community use, and then pointed out that "it's only three feet high." (Just a little comic relief from an otherwise depressing event.)
It is very hard to understand the lack of compassion that Brodhead showed to these parents. While there may have been nothing he could do for them in a legal sense, trying to allay their fears would have been appropriate. But as we have seen, the Duke administration did not care one whit what happened to these boys. No extra counseling, no safe place to sleep at night, no protection from rogue instructors who regularly slandered and harassed them. I don't know quite why I get so passionate, as I have zero connection to the team, except that I am royally offended by the insensitive actions of people who are always preaching about understanding differences. The look on Brodhead's face when he answered that question was sufficient. It was utter contempt.
There were no expressions of support for his handling of the matter. I was surprised, because there was at least one person there who told Sandy Coveleski (Josh's mother, #19, plays on the extra man offense) and I that we didn't know what we were talking about after the Coleman luncheon in Wilmington last month. (By the way, he said that to the wrong person, and I don't mean me.)
What appalled me most about Tuesday night was Brodhead's insulting and condescending treatment of Steve Henkleman. Brodhead could have said, "In retrospect, I made an error of judgment by not meeting with you, and I apologize for adding to your pain."
Brodhead said the words "move forward" at least 15 times by my count. ...
The Q&A session was a joke in my opinion. Brodhead was obviously stalling and did his best to waste our time with lengthy prevarications that hammered home the "move forward" theme over and over again. Only a few questions were asked, and once the lacrosse-related questions started flying in rapid succession, he shut down the Q&A using time constraints as an excuse. ...
On the bright side, I got to meet some of the lacrosse parents in person. Their pain and feeling of betrayal was evident, and Brodhead's insensistivity to their suffering was agonizing. ...
After the Q&A was over, I was able to stop Brodhead in the hallway for a few quick questions.
Q: He personally wrote to the president of Armenia in support of jailed graduate student Yekatan Turkyilmaz. Why show that level of support to him while doing absolutely nothing for the lacrosse players.
A: An obviously exasperated Brodhead condescendingly answered that the lacrosse [supporters?] just don't understand how difficult the situation was for him. He emphasized to me that if Duke had done anything to support the students, everyone would have believed that Duke University was buying the freedom of its students. He also mentioned NC law that only allows the DA to remove himself from the case. He seemed to think that his absolute non-intervention was somehow critical to Nifong removing himself from the case.
Q: It was clear from early on that due process and the rights of the students were violated. Could you not have spoken out in support of their civil rights without involving innocence or guilt?
A: He reiterated (as he has many times before) that it is easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight. He seemed to believe that he DID speak out as soon as the procedural injustices were brought to light. ...
Q: The Chauncey Nartey situation. Why was the Ryan MacFayden e-mail, essentially a crude, if stupid and untimely, joke sent to a private group of friends deserving of suspension while the far more serious Nartey e-mail, a communication to a stranger about his daughter that could likely be seen as a threat and at the very least constituted harassment, received no official reprimand. I wished to follow-up and ask him to justify Nartey's position on the CCI as the representative of university fraternities when his fraternity was essentially dissolved (in addition to Nartey's involvement in ADC Charlotte), but he cut me off.
A: Brodhead seemed somewhat flustered, and again reiterated that people just don't understand what the situation was like. He added that he could not stand in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and answer every single question about the lacrosse case. I asked him if he was involved in the decision or if this was entirely Larry Moneta's domain. Instead of answering directly, he said that Larry Moneta was in the building if I wanted to question him....
After having met with Brodhead in person, I must say that he was far more ardent in private than we was in public. While he repeated the same bull he said in public, he was far less defensive (in attitude, though not in content). ...
We are never ever going to convince Brodhead of anything. He seems to actually believe that his actions were correct and has an air of woe-is-me-why-won't-these-fools-understand about him.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Blog Hooligans buddy and Lazierthanmost attended Tuesday's "A Duke Conversation: Making a Difference" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Selected observations from our citizen journalists appear below. To read their reports in full, please visit the LS Forum.