Most of what needed to be said about the Chronicle's overt agenda, at least for this week, was said in our previous post, so now we will focus more on the argument of the Chronicle Editorial itself, which should seem untenable to even the most modestly knowledgeable reader.
One point before we do: we notified the Chronicle of Stuart Taylor's speech 9 days before the event at the same time we sent press releases to other local media. Not only did both major local newspapers attend, but so did others that were not even sent the press release, including Metro Magazine and a gent from UNCW as well. Noting that there were no Chronicle reporters present, we then offered to bring them the video of the speech the next day. The offer was ignored.
A peculiarity of the editorial is that while it strongly and repeatedly asserts that "Brodhead should and must stay," the arguments made almost seem to argue the opposite. As one of our members joked, it seems the Chronicle decided to let each editor write a line in an editorial Mad Lib.
First of all the Chronicle describes Brodhead as "a president who is academic not managerial." Is there really such a thing as a presidential position that is not managerial in nature? Or do there exist presidential positions that might prefer or even tolerate someone who is "passive not active?" The title implies that Brodhead has "a chance [...] to do the defining," but the editorial then implies that yet another of his character attributes is "his inability to impose his own trajectory on the University." Somehow that also seems to be not merely a "weakness" but another attribute directly antithetical to presidency as well.
His strengths? The case revealed his "academic prudence, appreciation for complexity, willingness to explore deeper issues involved in the case, and capacity for self-criticism." We aren't sure what is meant by "academic prudence," how the case revealed it, or how it was an attribute in the affair, and a "capacity for self-criticism" or self-reflection is something that has been conspicuously absent throughout. Our sources indicate that Brodhead continues to believe he has done nothing wrong, and up to his apology, has asserted that he would have done almost everything the same if he were to start from the beginning again. As we have noted, Brodhead's apology was far more decorative than substantive. As for the other two strengths, it is probably no accident that the Chronicle avoids explaining how those attributes played out in a positive way.
In short, the Chronicle asserted that among Brodhead's weaknesses as a leader and a president are an inability to lead and an inability to manage. On the plus side though, he is an academic. If that doesn't put the writing on the wall...
Also among the peculiar assertions in this Brodhead apologia:
"Brodhead is no longer on the defensive"
The truth is Brodhead came back into the school year believing the lessons of the lacrosse affair needed to be learned by those meddling kids and their booze only to be rudely confronted with a number of lessons that were apparently lost on him. The Blue Committee presidential review just began a review of his presidency after what was likely among the worst demonstrations of administrative responsibility in university history. Even before that he has had to continuously face outraged students and alumni and defend himself in front of the Board of Trustees. Yet he's "no longer on the defensive?" Really?
"the lacrosse case over"
The second time around, Chronicle made a technically accurate statement, if "the lacrosse case" refers only to the rape charges, but it still misses the point completely. The lacrosse case, though over, is a bigger problem for Dick Brodhead than it ever was while heading towards the rocks.
"with all the forces of the world bearing impossibly down on a presidency barely begun"
First, Brodhead had been president for nearly two full years, so it seems a bit of a stretch to use this as an excuse or a significantly mitigating factor.
Second, if this really was an impossible, lose-lose situation for Brodhead, then it should have been that much easier for him to do the right thing, to speak and stick to the truth, NOT to spend over a year overseeing a massive sliming operation of his own students by his own administration and in several cases, by himself, and NOT to oversee efforts by the Duke administration to push this case to trial thereby denying his own students a fair legal process. If he was really destined to lose no matter what he did, isn't that a liberating predicament?
Third, the "uncertain" nature of this "impossible" situation has been DRAMATICALLY exaggerated, indeed invented, by administrators and Brodhead supporters, and this point is worthy of its own post. For now...read the book (Until Proven Innocent) and watch Stuart Taylor's speech.
"Yet because the Presidential Review Committee formed to evaluate the president's performance closed comments last week, we are compelled to offer the students' perspective-incomplete but important-on his performance thus far. We believe that Brodhead should and must stay."
We have already noted our amazement that a couple of Chronicle editors presumed to speak the collective voice of the student body. What is also peculiar is the explanation that the Chronicle feels "compelled to offer the students' perspective" now that the committee just closed comments...as though the Blue Committee was going to delete all of the comments they received from students, and our voice needed to be heard via the Chronicle staff.
The editorial as a whole was remarkably unprofessional and seemed to reveal a fairly overt bias and would suggest an attempt by the Chronicle to influence the Blue Committee whether there was a conscious attempt or not. We have come to expect much better from the Chronicle.
On the Brodhead front, we agree that "appreciation for complexity" is a positive attribute for people in just about any position. However, "appreciation for complexity" is one of the most notorious backhanded compliments to bestow upon a leader. Good leaders are able to grasp complex issues and from that comprehensive understanding, arrive at correct conclusions and make good decisions. Good leaders are complimented for their decision making. Implicit in the compliment of an "appreciation for complexity" is the acknowledgment that though an individual might contemplate and analyze matters at length, his analytical process falls short of yielding good decisions.