Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Follow up on Chronicle Editorial

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 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 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.


Baldo said...

I appreciate the work you are doing. I doubt the Chronicle's editorial staff does!

Your articles are impressive.

JWM said...

I commend DSED for a well-reasoned post exposing the confused, intellectually bankrupt Chronicle editorial.

It's sad to know there is even one college newspaper editorial board that would write such an editorial on any day other than April 1.

On the plus side, Duke studnets and others looking for intelligent opinions and affirmation of the values Duke was founded to nurture have DSED.

John in Carolina

Jim in San Diego said...

Just discovered your blog.

I have been following the Duke Rape Hoax from afar for many months, via KC Johnson's and John in Carolina's blogs.

My reason for interest, initially, is I am the parent of three white, male children, more-or-less privileged. (Although I was very poor as a youth, and grew up in an orphanage).

The interest morphed into a fascination with the broader educational and cultural issues revealed by the reaction of Duke faculty and administration, and Durham officialdom.

Your blog is one of the few positive results of the "social disaster".

It is so hopeful, however, that it was and is Duke's student body who separated themselves from the astounding bigotry, racism, and prejudices of your lightly credentialed AAS faculty, and the craven cowardice of your administrators. The injustice to the Duke victims is not over, and cannot be over, until the conditions which created that injustice have been addressed.

Good luck.

Ken said...

Duke Students:

I believe the Chronicle is pulling your leg. Its a parody.


Jim in San Diego said...

I have just read the notes you posted on your website, so finally understand your blog policy.

What you are trying to do is one of the few positive results from this past years true "social disaster". Let me offer a broad suggestion.

It is essential you maintain your credibility among those who are able to read and follow verifiable facts to rational conclusions based on those facts. That is, fair minded people without an ax to grind. These can be anywhere on the ideological spectrum.

It would seem to be equally important you do not pander to those who do not have this ability. This means anyone.

In short, let facts be the currency of your blog, not unsupported opinions, not dogma, not revealed truth, not articles of faith, not identity politics, not prejudice. This is what has made KC Johnson so effective, in my opinion, among a wide spectrum of his readers.

This will be extraordinarily difficult to do. The amazing reportorial (word?) work of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Taylor, and the responses from some of their critics suggest that there is a lot of work to do in this regard.

As you know, there are many, at Duke and elsewhere, who have demonstrated they do not have these abilities. Some of them are in responsible academic positions at Duke right now.

I have only been aware of the blogosphere for a few months, and have contributed only a few weeks. From this limited experience, we know the net is a noisy place. The dialogue on blogs ranges from excellent to dreadful ("you are an idiot" -"No, I'm not an idiot, you are", and worse).

Bloggers, especially anonymous ones, are not especially articulate. Many are nasty, illiterate, and offensive.

Unless you have a way to carry on moderated blog discussions at an unusually high level, starting blogging may well alienate some of the very people you want to attract. Your blog's reputation will be affected by the quality of the blogging done there. Therefore, my vote would be to hold off on opening your website to outside bloggers.

More later. Please keep up the good work

Jim Peterson

(Father of three white, male, "privileged" children; grandfather of four daughters)