In Response to Pressure, Duke President Richard Brodhead Folds Like a Lawn Chair
October 29, 2007
by Luke Sheahan
After word of the alleged rape hit the media, physical attacks on Duke students by members of the Durham community increased. The increased attacks prompted critics of the lacrosse team to condemn reports of the attacks rather than the attacks themselves as inciting racial tensions. Critics continued to publicly attack the lacrosse team. On April 3, Provost Peter Lange responded, “We will not rush to judgment nor will we take precipitous actions…playing to the crowd.” If you thought that this was an indication that Brodhead’s administration would show some backbone and hold firm, you would be mistaken. Two days later, Brodhead suspended without due process a lacrosse team member responsible for an admittedly perverse e-mail parodying a portion of American Psycho, an intensely graphic novel that was made into a movie in 2000. If Brodhead had a problem with the e-mail, he never indicated that he had a problem with American Psycho being assigned in at least three Duke classes.
Brodhead then cancelled the Duke lacrosse season and appointed four committees to examine the following matters: the “persistent problems” of “racist language” and other issues with the Duke lacrosse team; the failure of Brodhead’s own administration to take quicker, harsher measures to punish the team; Duke’s disciplinary process; and the Duke campus culture (appropriately dubbed the “Campus Culture Initiative”). A fifth committee would advise Brodhead and his cronies on future action. Brodhead appointed students and faculty members who were fiercely critical of the lacrosse team to occupy and head the committees.
On March 27, Duke student Chauncey Nartey sent an e-mail to lacrosse coach Mike Pressler with the subject line: “WHAT IF JANET LYNN WERE NEXT???” Janet Lynn is Pressler’s daughter, and the “next” referred to the “next girl who got raped.” Nartey hoped that the shocking and potentially threatening subject line would lead Pressler to read Nartey’s earlier e-mail demanding that Pressler end the lacrosse season until the “alleged rapists are found.” Apparently, there was no possibility of innocence. Brodhead, having suspended a lacrosse player for a perverse e-mail, refused to punish Nartey for an e-mail that, to some, seemed to threaten rape. Instead, Nartey was only asked to apologize. Brodhead would later describe him as a “star” student and appoint him as one of only five students to the Campus Culture Initiative, a Brodhead-commissioned committee assigned to “evaluate and suggest improvements in the ways Duke educates students in the values of personal responsibility, consideration for others, and mutual respect in the face of difference and disagreement.” These are the types of people Brodhead considered worthy to lead the reform of the Duke campus.
A short time later, Brodhead forced the resignation of Coach Pressler. Brodhead would later say that Pressler resigned because “[Pressler] felt that he could no longer lead the team effectively.” However, Brodhead admitted to Sports Illustrated that the committee given the task of investigating the lacrosse team had demonstrated that Pressler was innocent of any wrongful conduct.
During this time, Brodhead released a “letter to the Duke Community” in which he all but explicitly stated that the lacrosse players had, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed rape. He associated them with “dehumanization” and “memories of…racial oppression.” He didn’t bother to suggest the possibility of innocence. The committee appointed by Brodhead to investigate the lacrosse team’s alleged racism could not turn up one single incident of racist activity or language prior to the stripper party in question. At the party, two lacrosse players—neither of whom was among the three indicted—exchanged racial slurs with one of the strippers at the party (the one who didn’t falsely accuse Duke students of rape). The stripper later admitted to provoking the exchange.
President Brodhead demonstrated throughout the Duke lacrosse case that his moral backbone is nonexistent. He’s willing to take whatever actions are necessary to secure favor with the politically correct faction on campus, no matter the amount of damage to Duke students’ well-being.