Thursday, December 6, 2007

Kim Curtis' Return to Duke

A number of people have asked what we intend to do about Kim Curtis, who it seems is returning to the classroom next semester. She will be teaching PolSci 183 - Ecological Crisis and Pol Theory in addition to being listed under various independent study and research courses.

Kim Curtis failed two lacrosse players in her class on their final assignment during the Spring of 2006, the same Spring in which the lacrosse episode began. One student, Kyle Dowd, filed suit against both Curtis and the university on the grounds that Curtis had given him failing grades for participation and for his final paper and a mathematically impossible failing grade for the semester simply because Dowd was a lacrosse player. Dowd and his family tried repeatedly to work with the university to correct the situation, one that would have prevented him from graduating and forced his employer to withdraw its job offer, but they were forced to file suit in spite of their good intentions. Their lawyers put together an almost impenetrable case, which you may review here, and the university was forced to settle on behalf of itself as well as Curtis and changed his grade to a P for passing. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. For a more complete account of the appalling story of Professor Curtis, see KC Johnson's post entitled Dowd and Duke.

We are seeking comment from Duke administrators regarding Curtis' return to campus, and will post once we have learned more. Neither the university nor Curtis has publicly acknowledged any wrongdoing, nor has there been any indication of action taken by the university against Curtis.

If the Dowd side of the argument is correct - and as the settlement by Duke would seem to confirm - Kim Curtis has engaged in one of the worst possible violations of an educator's responsibility. The university's unwillingness to address the misconduct of its own professors is an extraordinary problem that is at the heart of Duke Students for an Ethical Duke's mission. It is simply impossible to maintain an ethical institution in which those with the most responsibility and power, the professors (especially tenured), are held to seemingly non-existent standards.

In what is an unacceptable double standard, the university has made clear throughout the lacrosse affair that it will hold its students to exceptionally high standards and will even approve of the violation of students' constitutional rights to do so (see Good Neighbor Policy).

As KC Johnson says, "as to grade retaliation—even one instance is one instance too many for any university, much less one with the academic prestige of Duke."

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