Thursday, October 04, 2007

Too Little Too Late

by Jason Trumpbour, FODU spokesperson

In an address to a conference at the Law School on Saturday, President Brodhead apologized for several aspects of the administration’s handling of the lacrosse case. The text appears here.

Apologizing to the players was the right thing to do. However, I cannot help but feel that, once again, circumstances forced his hand. After all, the administration had been belligerently insisting that they had gotten things more or less right and have clung to that position up until this speech. Now, there is the prospect of imminent lawsuits by the unindicted players and a review of President Brodhead’s first three years in office is underway. Just as the revelation that Mike Nifong was hiding evidence forced him to speak out in December, we see President Brodhead reacting rather than leading.

His apology also is incomplete. It is inevitable that mistakes would be made in trying to deal with such a bizarre and unprecedented situation. No one would have expected different. That mistakes were made is not really the problem.

What President Brodhead really needs to take responsibly for and has yet to do so are the selfish motives that drove the administration’s policies. The administration wanted the case to go to trial. It believed that, if the case were dismissed before trial for whatever reason, people would say that Duke used its influence to have it dismissed. Robert Steel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees told me that a year ago. That is also why President Brodhead, despite being savagely maligned for doing so, clung to the concept of Reade, Collin and David “proving themselves innocent.” That was not just an isolated, unfortunate choice of words. President Brodhead repeated this formulation only a few days ago. Dismissal is the proper procedure in the case of weak or baseless charges. Indeed, prosecutors have an affirmative legal and ethical duty to dismiss such charges where they are not based on probable cause or where they do not themselves believe in the guilt of the accused. However, the administration pretended not to know anything about these concepts.*

If Reade, Collin and David had to be exposed to the risks associated with a trial by a corrupt, unethical prosecutor who had done everything he could to inflame the jury pool, that was just the way it had to be. Steel told me that it did not matter if they were convicted because all the problems with the case would be sorted out on appeal. That is not the way the appeal process works and I told him that, but that was still his plan.

The most disturbing outgrowth of this policy was that the administration not only did not want to speak up itself. It did not want anyone else doing so either. Administration officials would privately bad mouth the players to reporters and anyone else who expressed doubts about the charges or the fairness of the procedures used. I know. I heard this garbage myself. They were still doing it after the Attorney General’s report came out to justify their actions.

In the end, the administration’s policies were never about ignorance of the facts or credulity concerning the motives of public officials. The facts were irrelevant. It was all about keeping up appearances. Moreover, the views of some groups carried more weight than others. It is the same policy that lead to Ryan McFadyen being suspended, Mike Pressler being fired and Kim Curtis going unpunished.

President Brodhead, as he did in May, reckons that he has things figured out now. However, a recent series in the Chronicle detailed how the administration has been modifying the University’s judicial code to eliminate most of students’ procedural rights and how the administration punishes students on the mere accusation of Durham police officers without further proof despite well documented abuses by the Durham Police department. If the lacrosse case has taught us anything, it is that procedure matters. Unfortunately, it appears that the administration has learned absolutely nothing at all.

Duke needs and deserves strong leadership. In making his apology, we find President Brodhead doing precisely what he has been doing all along: embracing and conforming to whatever the prevailing understanding is regardless of its validity. It is gratifying that people finally understand what was actually going on. However, nothing has changed at Duke.

Throughout this entire ordeal, we have criticized the administration, but, unlike a number of other critics, we did not call for President Brodhead to be removed. Instead, we tried to support him and give him the courage he needed to be a leader and to do the right thing. We tried to engage the administration in a respectful dialogue about the issues. We have nothing to show for those efforts. I am glad that FODU could help the public understand the extent of Mike Nifong’s misconduct. However, that satisfaction is tempered by the fact that we spent a year doing someone else’s job for them.

It has long been our position that the administration’s words must be matched with deeds. Unfortunately, the time for action has come and gone. Last May, I wrote President Brodhead asking him to appoint a commission to look at the administration’s response to the lacrosse case. He appointed one to look at the first couple of weeks. Why not the other eleven months or so? We could not have changed the past. However, could have made sure that the same mistakes and moral failings are not repeated in the future. That is what we wanted and that is what most of the families, despite the wrongs done to them, really wanted. President Brodhead gave us the brush off. That was his last possible opportunity to actually do some tangible good. He has made his choice. It is time to look somewhere else for leadership.

President Brodhead is now undergoing a performance review to determine whether his contract should be renewed. Information on how to participate is here. I know what we will be recommending.

In criticizing President Brodhead, it should be kept in mind that he alone is not responsible for the University’s official policies and conduct. Indeed, those above him and below him bear greater culpability and their status needs to be addressed as well. Robert Steel, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees bears the greater responsibility for Duke’s official policies regarding the lacrosse case. Getting rid of him is a bigger priority for me than getting rid of Brodhead. Many of those below President Brodhead carried out these policies in the manner described above and with far too much enthusiasm. President Brodhead often simply appeared to be there in the middle. However, that in and of itself is a huge problem.

*[Edited for clarity]


At 2:54 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terrific post!

Many of us agree wholeheartedly: Brodhead and Steel must go! It is time for new and more competent leadership at Duke, one that does not revolve around self-interest. Thank you FODU, for clarifying where things stand now and where they stood all along.

At 3:12 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, it is pretty clear Brodhead's time at Duke is up. He should start packing his bag.

At 3:41 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, FODU. I can only wish you good luck and Godspeed. I hope that there are ears that will hear you.

At 4:00 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, the truth is coming out. Brodhead and Steel better a find a stone to hide under. They will need it before too long.

These two have disgraced a great university and their misdeeds should not, will not go unpunished.

At 4:04 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellent post and your leadership throughout this Hoax.

At 4:55 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yours has been a voice of reason and restraint. I have read 4 blogs about this simultaneously. Each has a point of view and a particular voice. But yours has been especially temperate and respectful.

Even the tone of this blog is sober and somewhat sad... that men who were handed numerous opportunities to redeem themselves and the reputation of Duke for fairness and due process could not find the courage to do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right time.

Thank you for continuing to speak for those of us whose voices are mostly anonymous, but who care deeply about what happens to Duke.

It will be nothing short of a miracle to accomplish, but Steel and his mouthpiece Brodhead must go.

At 7:52 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am struggling to understand this. These so-called leaders were willing to send three of their students (who some might argue are their most valuable charges) to jail for 30 years, knowing full well that they were not guilty because of a short-term image problem to Duke, or because of what some might say about Duke?

This is truly extraordinary to say the least. This is criminal. And, they were hoping that an appeal would straighten things out? This logic defies every value that we hold dear to our hearts. Yes, Brodhead and Steel must go! Duke deserves much better leadership than this.

At 9:28 PM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason is a gentleman.

Brodhead & Burness have to go. I too have heard some stories of the bad mouthing of the Lacrosse Players.

Talk about two faced weasels. I don't believe in any apology but a good swift kick as they leave Campus!

At 1:16 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that 24 of the Trustees are elected by the United Methodist ecclesial community (12 by the North Carolina Conference and 12 by the Western North Carolina Conference), and 12 by the graduates. Perhaps the UM's could be moved to pressure the Trustees on this matter?

At 7:20 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly how much property does Steel own in Durham?

At 7:52 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason, I know this is a serious matter, but I cannot help thinking it may be easier to go after that "Golden Fleece" than to go after these spineless cowards who call themselves leaders.

Sad but true. Nevertheless, I admire your courage and persistence. Best of luck, there are many behind you in trying to rid Duke of these clowns.

At 8:24 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason--Excellent. Thanks--Professor of Ethics

At 10:25 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having just finished reading "Until Proven Innocent" I am shocked that Broadhead, Steel and Alleva are still holding administrative positions at Duke. I would love to see an update on what has happened the the "Group of 88" especially those professors that so aggressively harassed the lacross players. This book makes state universities look like a much better place for an education for our children.

At 10:54 AM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

Thank you for your thoughtful writing that is well done and true.

I am clinging to the hope that the ivory tower is crumbling and there will be a change in leadership at Duke SOON.

At 12:33 PM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do on this horrid case. Please know that a lot of us are fully behind you.

Duke alum

At 2:42 PM, October 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great post, thank you. I will send the link to all my friends and urge them to read it as ell. We are all grateful to you. You have been the voice of reason from the beginning.

I wish there were many, many more Jasons. We could use them all.

At 9:47 AM, October 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great post. If I were Brodhead I would be a little worried. It does sound like his time at Duke should end fairly soon -- the sooner the better. We will all need to take bath after he is gone, to clean ourselves from the incompetence that has been going there since his arrival. I am not as certain that anything will happen to Steel. He is a big boy, he will take care of himself.

At 11:54 AM, October 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The evils of "affirmative action" were front and center throughout the hoax. The so-called Group of 88 could more appropriately been dubbed "Friends of Affirmative Action."

What is "affirmative action"?

Quite simply, it's parasitism. Does anyone really think the race-normed blacks involved in railroading your children--Lubiano, Holloway et al.-- are anything but middle class? Why does Duke dole out academic welfare to the black middle class?

If you start to think of affirmative action for what it really is--parasitism--you will end it pronto. Do you think a G88 would exist in a parasite-free university environment?

Time to begin exterminating. Cockroaches are infesting every department at Duke, and the diversity pimps now have their sights on the hard sciences.

It's time to act. Start telling the truth about the academic infestation.

At 5:45 PM, October 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I wish we had known where Steel stood a little sooner. Duke’s many curious past actions are beginning to make sense now, under the new light. How very disgusting!

At 10:11 PM, October 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ultimately, it is the character of those in charge that matters. Those in charge at Duke, its administration and its teachers, have failed a very powerful litmus test . . . .

At 12:55 AM, October 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The administration wanted the case to go to trial."

"Administration officials would privately bad mouth the players to reporters and anyone else who expressed doubts about the charges or the fairness of the procedures used."

The administration's actions (and lack thereof) related to the case were at least as bad, if not worse, as Nifong's. Brodhead, Steel, Burness, etc. should all be charged with ethics violations; disgraced professionally; suspended and forced to resign their positions; spend a day (or two) in jail; and, charged with civil rights violations.

What they did, and continue to do, was horrible...

At 8:38 AM, October 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Mr. Steel was at Duke (69-73), he was a member of the Beta Fraternity which was notorious for bad behavior.

At 2:09 PM, October 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason of FODU,

Great sense and sensibility !

Brodhead had put his LAX
letters to the email boxes
of all Duke faculty in the past.
Not a single word before and
after about his apology.

At 6:06 PM, October 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:09 pm above:

That's a good point. Should we do the emaling for Brodhead and send his apology letter to every Duke faculy? Any ideas on this?

At 9:57 PM, October 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

follow 6:09 pm, 10/09/2007

Educators shall be informed and educated first.

At 12:16 PM, October 11, 2007, Blogger Ethical Duke said...

Duke Students for an Ethical Duke has posted a fantastic WSJ editorial by Peter Berkowitz (with his permission). We hope all of you will read it.

The front page has a link.

At 10:42 AM, October 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He Just Might Be Evil After All
(by former Duke professor Stuart Rojstaczer)
Oct 11, Forty Questions

If Jason Trumpbour is correct - and I have no reason to doubt his word - the length that public relations drove decision making was absolutely frightening. It means that Steel and Brodhead are people truly worthy of contempt. It means that they have no business leading a university.

At 2:52 PM, October 14, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

fellow duke alums/students - prior to reading "UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT", i was more than just a little upset over the media handling of the lacrosse situation-- as i read the book, i became outraged over the treatment of the three young men involved, not only by the so-called justice system, but also by the national media - what hurt me most was the GROUP OF 88 and the 'OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT" and their respone to the whole affair -- there is not much we as alumni can do re the first two groups, but there sure as hell is something that should be done re the last two groups-- it makes me wish that i had pledged a significant amount of money to duke so that i could cancel my pledge - that is probably the only way a single voice could make any difference-- if amyone knows of a fund that has been established to help pay the attorney fees to help out the families of the young men, i would appreciate knowing about it -being an iowa native and now a 70 year old resident, i used to be proud that i had attended duke. - now people associate me with "that school where they tried to railroad those kids in a rape case"-- makes it kind of sad!!!! thank GOD none of my offspring are attending that once-famous university...respectfully, john amsler. class of

At 8:32 AM, October 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Amsler, thak you for your heartfelt comment above. Here is the address where you may contribute to the lacrosse defense fund.

Association for Truth and Fairness

At 8:37 AM, October 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To John Amsler (2:52pm above above) and other Duke alumni who share John's sentiments, please participate in the evaluation process that has been set up for President Brodhead. Here is more on that from FABDU.

Evaluate President Brodhead by October 29">

At 3:55 PM, October 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brodhead needs to go. His half hearted apology marks the latest in a series of begrudging steps primarily taken to cover the asses of the administration. The next to go should be John Burness. Minister of off the record defamation and the sower of the seeds of discord about the players and the coach. The next should be the seldom mentioned but highly culpable Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek. As an attorney and student advocate, she advised the players to meet with the Durham Police without counsel. How could such bad legal advice come from a lawyer. Steele picked the Captain, ratified or directed bad decisions, and should also go down with the ship of fools currently managing our beloved and cherished institution. I have never been so torn between my love for an institution, and my shame for the decisions of the inept and selfish individuals running it. If they cared about Duke...they would leave.

At 6:13 PM, October 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:55pm Amen to that!

At 12:50 PM, October 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Steel was a Beta, 8:38? That's all I needed to know about his ethics or lack thereof. Thanks for letting us know. Figures.

Steel, Nan K. and Brodhead have undone what it took many years to build.

Thank you, Jason. Many boards wish to tear Duke to shreds for sport, and seem to have little to no idea what they are talking about wrt our University. You have been keeping Duke respectfully close to your heart all along. When you say it is time for Brodhead to go, perhaps your voice will resonate? I hope so.

At 4:30 PM, October 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a must read from Carbolic Smoke Ball:

Mass suicide at Duke

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