Forum: July-August 2007

August 1, 2007

 

A lacrosse goal net

Jon Gardiner

Enduring Lacrosse

I have been reluctant to write about the lacrosse case in any way; but now I feel compelled to reply to some of the criticism written here and voiced at various functions on campus.

The major factor is people's lack of recognition that no judgment should be made before a legal judgment is announced. Our president took the high road and waited for the attorney general's verdict.

The president's comments were about behavior which needed to be addressed. If he had not stated that the behavior was not appropriate for Duke students, many more alumni would have been shocked. I have heard them say so.

No one who did not experience that time in Durham could possibly know what the whole community went through. There was hatred in the air, racial tension, and news media everywhere. Durham suffered, but our mayor with his peacemaking approach kept a balance.

Duke is my alma mater, and I continue to feel proud of the ethics of its administration.


 

The most important responsibility of every college and university president is the safety of their students, faculty, and staff. When threats are made against students, as they were during the lacrosse case, those threats must be taken seriously. Had the lacrosse season continued… and had there been violence against the students, the university would have been in an indefensible position of having placed greater value on athletics than on safety.

During the early stages of the case, President Brodhead was the one individual among those who were quoted often in the media who consistently reminded reporters and the public that under the law the accused students were presumed innocent. Suspension of students against whom felony charges have been filed is a policy followed by most colleges and universities. The wisdom of this is self-evident. A university could put the safety of its entire community at risk by allowing students who have been charged with crimes of violence to remain in school.

As an alumna in the Triangle, I live in close proximity to the combustible atmosphere of the first months of the case, and safety was clearly an issue. As a Duke parent, I must believe that the administration will keep campus safety as its top priority. As president of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the organization of the thirty-six private colleges and universities in the state, I have viewed President Brodhead's actions in the broader context of all higher education. Based on each of these perspectives, I strongly believe that President Brodhead made the right decisions in accordance with the policies of the university and based on the evolving legal situation. In this instance it is the local justice system through District Attorney Nifong that failed the students, the accuser, the Duke community, and the state.


 

Recently, President Brodhead has endured some strong criticism in the pages of this publication for his reaction to the charges involving Duke lacrosse players last spring. By contrast, we have been quite supportive of the administration's response. On purely legalistic grounds, administrators are not bound by the same strict interpretation of the presumption of innocence that is supposed to guide judicial officers. It is quite common, for instance, for teachers or police officers to be suspended pending results of an investigation into criminal charges.

It is also worth recognizing some strong evidence of outstanding character development being instilled through Duke's athletic programs. We were inspired to learn that three of the top four candidates for the National Basketball Association's sportsmanship award, the Joe Dumars Trophy, this year were former Duke players. In addition to winner Luol Deng ['07], we should celebrate the achievements of Shane Battier ['01], the second-place vote-getter, and Elton Brand ['99], who placed fourth. Brand, by the way, was triumphant in the voting last year.

Students and alumni who have been subjected to critical media attention should now be able to glory in the opportunity to recognize the other side of the Duke sports programs.

We salute them.


 

Having just read letters to the editor from fellow alumni George St. George Biddle Duke and John F. Reiger, I am compelled to add my voice to theirs regarding the profound disappointment I have felt over the administration's handling of the lacrosse players. I have always been proud to be an alumnus. Duke boasts that it is educating the future leaders of America. One of the characteristics of a great leader is to uphold principles that are just and right (e.g., innocent until proven guilty), even if to do so flies in the face of public opinion.

I cannot make President Brodhead apologize (another characteristic of great leaders: admitting when you were wrong), however I can stop my financial support for this shameful administration. Ironically, the same day I received my Duke Magazine, I also received a request from the Duke Alumni Association to renew my financial pledge; it promptly went in the trash.


 

The two letters in the March-April 2007 Duke Magazine wondered about President Brodhead's expelling the falsely accused lacrosse players. As a Duke grad and UCLA faculty member, I am more troubled by the large number of Duke faculty who immediately tried and convicted the three players on the basis of flawed evidence. As a scientist, I would not accept a hypothesis serious enough to damage the lives of three students without a number of unsuccessful attempts to falsify it. (I'm sorry for the double negative, but that's how science works.)

For me, it is not enough that President Brodhead readmit the students and Durham D.A. Nifong apologize. The Duke faculty members who precipitously and summarily condemned the players need to apologize to the players, too, and admit not only that they violated society's presumption of innocence but that they were intellectually sloppy in making a bad judgment on the basis of bad evidence. As a scholar myself, I hope that they hold their scholarship to a higher standard.


 

In the sanctimonious drivel emanating from the lacrosse players and their families, I've not heard a word about the root of their problem, i.e., the players' stupidly immature choice of entertainment.

They weren't looking for costumed ballerinas dancing Swan Lake. They were looking for trouble, and found it, albeit in unanticipated form and severity. Now it is everyone's fault but theirs.

I suspect the only ones who will take a hard lesson from this dismal affair are the Long Island daddies saddled with sizable legal fees by their voyeuristic sons.

The reactions of Duke's wimpy leadership and left-wing faculty-good riddance, Stanley Fish!-have earned it undisputed possession of the title Berkeley East.


Athletic Equity in Context

"Title IX at XXXV" [March-April 2007] reminded me of the great advances women's sports have had in this country and at Duke. The article emphasized the advances for elite athletes; I suggest Title IX helped with advances for all women students at Duke.

When I was a freshman at Duke in 1966, I [needed] a year of physical-education credits [to meet] my academic requirements. That was fine with me, as I had been involved in sports all my life.

So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I got a phone call from the registrar at Duke telling me my registration for scuba class was rejected because the class was "only offered for men." I believe the options that were open to me were golf, bowling, or archery. I enjoyed more active sports than that, so instead, I went to N.C. State in Raleigh for scuba class once a week, and I transferred those physical-education credits back to Duke.

When I visited Duke recently, I was most impressed by the expansive offerings for women in physical-education classes as well as the opportunities in competitive sports. Today, there is no need for women students to seek athletic classes elsewhere. It's not just the elite athletes who gained by Title IX and Duke's expansion of women's sports, but all the Duke University women.


After retiring to Durham in 1991, I was hired by the Black Coaches Association to write some articles on information gleaned from the NCAA's Graduation Rate Report, which, in books published between 1991-99, offered interesting perspectives into Division I athletics. As a result of this research, I wrote several columns for NCAA News, including one about Title IX, which drew a substantial number of letters of complaint from Title IX backers.

I am a great fan of women's sports at Duke, and have no problems with Title IX, although I agree with the premise that by counting football, it made things very difficult for other men's sports because of the size of the squads, and the fact there was no comparable woman's sport.

In the early '90s, I wrote that Title IX and diversity were on a direct collision course. I am convinced that has been, and will continue to be, the absolute truth.

Rarely in any discussion of Title IX in particular or Division I sports in general is it pointed out that women have more scholarships available in every sport in which men have a comparable sport. But the real problem came with the reduction in football from ninety-five to eighty-five grants and in men's basketball from fifteen to thirteen. Women's basketball retains fifteen scholarships.

The reductions cut heavily into the number of male minority athletes because football and basketball were where they had the highest percentage of blacks. What's more, when "eight emerging sports for women'' were added in the early '90s, I wrote in NCAA News that the vast majority of those scholarships would go to white women.

Three years later, some 2,300-plus grants had been added, with 92 percent going to whites and two percent to blacks. Most of the others went to white Europeans. There was nothing sinister about this. Simply put, almost all schools already had women's basketball and track and field, where there were the largest percentage of minorities. In the new sports, plus others such as field hockey, golf, tennis, lacrosse, and softball, there are relatively few black athletes.

Thus when NCAA executive director Cedrick Dempsey bemoaned the decrease in the overall percentage of black scholarship athletes, I wrote that he was being disingenuous, that it was a reflection of the changes brought about by Title IX.


I am pleased to see that Title IX at Duke is the cover story of the March-April 2007 issue. As a founding member of the Association of Duke Women and cosigner with Mary Brew of the 1980 Title IX complaint filed with the Department of Education, I am obligated to point out that housing issues were only one part of the complaint. The other two areas of the complaint were athletics and under-representation of female faculty members in traditionally male-dominated fields, especially the sciences and engineering.

Our group, the Association for Duke Women, was very passionate about taking steps to correct all the gender inequalities that we observed and that were brought to our attention. We were equally concerned with housing, athletics, and increasing the numbers of female faculty members. Our efforts were more successful in the area of student-housing reform than other areas, but it was a first and necessary step toward greater gender equality and fairness at Duke. To imply that our group did not care about female athletes at Duke when we filed the Title IX complaint is not fair. We did care, and we did request the Department of Education to review the athletics area in the Title IX complaint when they investigated our claims of gender inequality at Duke.

Both men and women pay the same tuition to attend Duke. It is only fair that both men and women have the same educational, athletic, and mentoring opportunities while attending this great institution.

The wheels of progress may turn slowly, but they do turn, and the course of history in moving toward the goal of equality of opportunity for both men and women cannot be turned back at Duke or in American society at large. I look forward to reading about more successes for Duke women athletes and continued efforts to hire more female faculty members in future issues of Duke Magazine.


Out of the Ivory Tower

Congratulations to the members of the Duke School of Nursing who sent books to fellow health practitioners in Iraq ["Send in the Books," Gazette, March-April 2007]. I returned recently from Erbil, Iraq, and can testify that your gift will be well used.

While working to integrate our SIGN IM Nail System into the Iraqi health-care system, I witnessed injured Iraqi civilians wandering around the country looking for help. The civilian hospitals which they have access to do not have the necessary supplies or equipment to treat their injuries. In response to this crisis, I have circulated a plan to set up a problem fracture treatment clinic in Iraq. Two world-renowned surgeons, Scott Levin [B.S. '77] and John Herzenberg [H.S. '85], have volunteered to help in any way they can. Both men are Duke trained, and Dr. Levin is on the staff at Duke. Thanks to both students and alumni, Duke is reaching out to our hurting world.

More information about SIGN's work in Iraq is available at www.sign-post.org.


I thank Peter Agre for his article "Getting Out of the Ivory Tower" [Under the Gargoyle, March-April 2007]. He urges physicians and scientists to engage society and thereby contribute to informed public policy, which is imperative.

However, I respectfully suggest that regarding embryonic stem cells, the designation of human life is an eminently scientific matter. Standard embryology and developmental biology textbooks are unanimous in this regard. "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.… The embryo now exists as a genetic unity…" (O'Rahilly and Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd ed.).

At stake is not whether an embryo is human life, but whether an embryo is a human person. The matter of when personhood begins can be (and must be) addressed using scientific evidence, carefully reviewed and scrutinized with reason. For example, Robert P. George has written extensively using such an approach, significantly contributing to the President's Council on Bioethics.

I implore all persons to not relegate the embryonic stem-cell debate merely to religious conviction. Rather, in this secular society we must appeal to scientific evidence so that, with our reason informed, we might form thoughtful arguments for the moment personhood begins.


 

Kudos to all persons involved in the development of DukeEngage ["Engaging Students," March-April 2007]. Its concept brings to mind a line that has stayed with me from President Brodhead's 2006 baccalaureate address, in which he stated, "But when I speak of assets you bring to the table, I'm also thinking of qualities of heart, not of intellect alone." DukeEngage is that powerful combination of intellect and heart, and symbolizes the Duke I have known and loved for over thirty years. A fitting logo might be a heart within the profile of a person's head.

I look forward to reading about the many successes of the program in the years ahead.

 


Sustaining the Spirit

I saw Hair in L.A. in 1968 with my then-husband, also Duke '67, who was in his Marine Corps uniform and on his way to Vietnam [Observer, March-April 2007]. The performers did not pass joints to the audience. Flower-power ruled, and the actors gave Skip a daisy, not a doobie.

Those of us who survived the '60s era are now living our sixties age-with another terrible futile war stealing the lives of young Americans and innocent indigenous personnel.

Peace, freedom, happiness!


 

Thanks to Bonnie Stone for the illuminating article on Anne Scott ["Great Scott," March-April 2007]. She was the highlight of my Duke experience, the one teacher my friends and I still marvel at over fifteen years later.


 

I am offended by the title of the mini-profile in the March-April issue, "Jimmy Creech M.Div. '70, working to eliminate bigotry." A few lines into the story, it becomes clear that the alleged bigotry in question is opposition within the Methodist church to so-called unions between men. From what is written in the rest of the story, it seems clear that he and the author would apply the opprobrium of bigotry to anyone who shares this opposition.

Opposition to homosexual behavior is neither bigotry nor hatred, but rather, is entirely consistent with our Judeo-Christian obligations to care for others. To understand the difference, you might consult the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church of 1 October 1986 from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Alberto Bovone, Prefect and Secretary, respectively, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "Special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not." If you have some question about the authority of the position, you might observe that the primary author of the letter recently received a significant promotion.

I mean Mr. Creech and Mr. Schaefer no ill will, but their name-calling is unacceptable. As a Catholic alumnus of a Methodist university, I don't expect the alumni magazine to toe the same line that I do, but I do expect better treatment than this. I don't much care for being called a bigot, and I expect an apology.


I read with great interest in the March-April Duke Magazine ["Organ Rehab"] that the beautiful Aeolian Organ in Duke Chapel will be repaired and restored over the next year and a half. Also mentioned was the fact that there are four organs in the chapel. Why would bringing in a small electronic organ even be considered? Why not use the existing instruments?

If I were a first-time visitor to the chapel, I would be highly disappointed to hear only a small electronic in so grand a setting!

 

John Santoianni, the Ethel Sieck Carrabina Curator of organs and harpsichords at Duke Chapel, responds: On any given Sunday, you will hear at least two organs in Duke Chapel and sometimes three or four.

The electronic organ gets its greatest use as a rehearsal instrument during the week when school is in session and is used to accompany choirs and solo singers during Sunday services.

Because of their size or their distance from the front, none of the three remaining pipe organs would adequately meet the needs of the many choirs that sing in the chancel.