The excellent Durham-in-Wonderland blog came to a close Friday. Some readers may remember that is the blog that closely followed the Duke Lacrosse case. I read and linked to it frequently. I commend to you Dr. Johnson’s closing and reflective post.
This case is one reason my enthusiasm as a Duke alum has greatly diminished through the years. The university conducted itself horribly in spite of numerous rebukes from alumni. And the administration has learned little from the episode judging from their once again showing little concern for the rights of the accused.
With Dr. Johnson, I particularly find egregious the conduct of the Group of 88 and their lack of consequences for the same.
And yet for dozens of Duke faculty, this evidence appeared irrelevant. Eighty-eight of them rushed to judgment, signing a statement (whose production violated Duke regulations in multiple ways) affirming that something had “happened” to false accuser Crystal Mangum, and thanking protesters (“for not waiting”) who had, among other things, urged the castration of the lacrosse captains and blanketed the campus with “wanted” posters. As the case to which they attached their public reputations imploded, Group members doubled down, with most issuing a second statement promising they would never apologize for their actions. (Only three Group members ever said they were sorry for signing the statement, and two of that number subsequently retracted those apologies.) For months, the Duke administration was either in agreement with the faculty extremists or cowed by them—or some combination of both.
The lacrosse case provided a rare opportunity to glimpse inside the mindset of an elite university—and the look was a troubling one. There is no evidence of any accountability at Duke: the university has the same leadership and the same hiring patterns it had in 2006. Several members of the Group of 88 have gone on to more prestigious positions, their efforts to exploit their students’ distress causing them no problem in the contemporary academy.
In fact, a leader of the Group of 88, Cathy Davidson, has since been appointed to the National Council of the Humanities by Obama.
By the way, I was among those alumni who urged consequences for the Group of 88.
But Dr. Johnson is one person who shone during this sorry episode. He did yeoman work in reporting on this case (for which he eventually was greatly hassled by Duke). I salute him and his blog as he brings it to a close.