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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Duke Case — Oct. 25, 2007

Today's items of interest -- updated:

Elliott Wolf / Duke Chronicle:
The minister of truth -- Upon the announcement that his [John Burness] departure from the University will roughly coincide with my own, while The Chronicle and various news outlets are reflecting on his publicly documented accomplishments, I must thank him for putting up with me for the past three years. [...]

But now the conspiracy theories surround him. Comments on various blogs and The Chronicle's Web site suggest (without any evidence) he is being fired for his handling of lacrosse. For what it's worth, during an interview with me two years ago, prior to lacrosse, he indicated that he would likely retire by the end of this year.

And many more comments argue that this is a positive development for the University. Despite our various disagreements and the recent controversy over the handling of the lacrosse case, I cannot agree with that assessment.

What matters is what John has done for the University, and his exploits have been well documented since the announcement of his retirement. The unfortunate fact is that relatively few students have frequent contact with him, and those who do are largely concentrated in The Chronicle, Duke Student Government and the Community Service Center. Most don't understand exactly what he is responsible for and by extension how hard it will be to replace him.

But believe me, it will be.

comment: Minister of truth? In some alternate universe.

TJN: Corpulent Weasel Communicator, John Burness, Was No Chubby Choirboy
Zach Smith was a linebacker at Duke during 2004 and 2005 but sat out 2006 with an injury. He's now at Cal.

Ted Lee / Scout.com
Three degrees of Zach Smith -- The far bigger story at Duke was the issues surrounding the men's lacrosse team. In April 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped charges against three Duke lacrosse players who were accused of rape. In a story that inflamed Durham's town-and-gown relations, polarized the campus, and had commentators across the country weighing in, the case fell apart under conflicting testimony from the plaintiff, unimpeachable alibis by two of the defendants, and prosecutorial misconduct that resulted in a criminal contempt conviction for the Durham County District Attorney.

Although the case was dropped, it was not without a cost. While the incident took place in March 2006, there was a period of 13 months when the future of several people awaited resolution. Additionally the remainder of the Duke lacrosse season was suspended, the head coach resigned, and the gravity of the incident was felt by all Duke students, not just student-athletes.

"Everybody who had a connection with Duke was affected by what went on with the lacrosse team," said Smith. "I had friends on the men's and women's lacrosse teams, and as everything transpired, I'd get calls from them about the pressure they were feeling. Some people had their cars keyed if they had a lacrosse bumper sticker on it. All of the players were demonized. Those are my friends; those are people that I go to class with, and it had an effect on me. If I didn't realize it earlier, I came out of it realizing that we are college athletes, and everything we do is scrutinized, and you have to be careful about who you hang with, where you are, and not let yourself get painted into a rough situation." [...]

More than six months have elapsed since the case was ended, and in the eyes of many, the story is over. But for others, the process of rebuilding their lives will go on, quite possibly forever. "

I think a small part of the public understands (the seriousness of what happened) and those closest to the university know," said Smith. "But most people don't understand the impact. Those guys had to leave school. They had to postpone their educations and not play sports. Reade Seligmann's a good friend of mine. His girlfriend was at school, but he wasn't allowed to be around campus. Anytime somebody's accused of something there's always going to be some doubt, regardless of what the outcome is. They're always going to be known as the accused lacrosse players, and it's something they'll have to carry around a long time. [...]
Gang of 88 member and Cosby heckler, Karla "Mumbles" Holloway: Come on Bill, shut up and just be a funny Black man.

Karla Fc Holloway / Orlando Sentinel:
Come on, Cosby: Lay off talk about race -- Bill Cosby made his career earning our laughter, but his recent "call-out" to black communities --- in which he blames the multifaceted perils of black children (whom he has called "dirty laundry") on their parents'lack of interest in their success -- only serves to solidify our biases about privilege, potential and race.

Cosby is on a book tour with his co-author, Harvard psychologist Alvin Poussaint, to promote Come On People, which continues the focus of his 2004 series of town hall meetings during which he chastised his mostly black audiences for parenting failures and for being poor models for their children. [...]

Parenting is a considerable challenge under most circumstances. I remember writing letters to my own children during the '90s, one who was at Princeton, the other in prison. The circumstances of our pride and of our loss were deeply intimate and isolate. To consider the success and troubles of our children through the filter of race encourages us to dismiss the complex social realities that construct each child's potential in favor of the ease of racial judgment. This is true whether we measure their success, their potential, their failure or our heartbreak. [...]
News & Observer:
Duke critics speak on lacrosse case -- Stuart Taylor, co-author of "Until Proven Innocent," a book about the Duke lacrosse case, will speak at Duke University on Nov. 2.

He will speak at 7 p.m. at Love Auditorium, after a book-signing at 6 p.m.

Taylor and his co-author, K.C. Johnson, were critics of Duke faculty, the Duke administration and members of the media throughout the case, in which three former lacrosse players were accused of raping an escort service dancer last year.
KC Johnson:
Update: McClain--Duke's De Klerk? -- Last week, Group of 88 stalwart and current Academic Council chairperson Paula McClain spoke to the University Faculty meeting. After framing events at Duke in terms of the history of South Africa, she quoted Nelson Mandela: "'The time for healing of the wounds has come.... The time to rebuild is upon us.'" [...]

In this respect, McClain might have been better served had she chosen to quote not Mandela but F.W. De Klerk; indeed, her current situation resembles that of De Klerk in the early 1990s. The last president of apartheid South Africa, De Klerk presided over a movement that had been discredited by events and that had proven itself bereft of ideas. Such a description certainly could apply to the Group of 88. [...]
Nifong, Durham Get More Time to Respond to Lawsuit -- Former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong and the city of Durham will get more time to respond to a civil lawsuit.

The three former Duke lacrosse players are suing Nifong and several others in federal court. They claim their civil rights were violated.

On Wednesday, the players' attorneys agreed to give Nifong and the city of Durham an extension for their response to the suit. Originally, the response was due next week, but they now have until Dec. 10.
Lazy Bones Journalism

Craig Franklin / Christian Science Monitor:
Media myths about the Jena 6 -- A local journalist tells the story you haven't heard. -- By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they've all heard the story of the "Jena 6." White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

There's just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning. [...]
John in Carolina: Jena’s Myths & the Duke Hoax
Terir O'Brian blog: Here’s A Real Shocker: The Media is Politically Motivated and Lazy!
True North blog: The Sad State of Journalism Today

Jeff Angelo / God, Politics, & Rock & Roll blog:
The 'Jena 6' case--and the facts
-- I once attended a speech by Wall Street Journal writer John Fund where he told the conservatives present that their number one challenge with the national media was not bias but laziness.

That statement echoes in my head today as a local journalist is asserting in the Christian Science Monitor that the national media got the "Jena 6" story wrong.

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