Betsy Newmark, who lives near Durham, NC (Raleigh) and is the parent of a Duke graduate, reflects on the picture drawn of Duke President Brodhead and his administration's handling of the Lacrosse team in the wake of the rape charges. The New Yorker has lengthy article on the case on which Betsy draws.
It's clear now that Brodhead panicked and went overboard in his treatment of the team and coach. You get the feeling that he regrets that now but can't come out and say so. I wouldn't be a president of a university for love or money, but I can't help being disappointed in the weakness that Brodhead showed in the midst of the storm. If he didn't know the full story, why were so many of his actions that he took at that time predicated on the idea that the boys were guilty of something more than having a drunken party and inviting a stripper? He comes across as a nice guy who is in way over his head.
I think Betsy, a kind woman, is generous to Brodhead. Of course, academic administrators as a group tend to conspicuously lack backbone) with a very few notable exceptions such as former Boston University president John Silber). There is something about simultaneously worrying about fickle donors, volatile faculty, prestige rankings, and keeping parents happy while laying out forty grand a year that does not readily yield courage.
Duke has been probably the most effective university in the country in building its prestige and national standing over the last seventy years. Its handling of this case does not add to that luster, and may, in fact, trigger a closer examination of its record and standing.
Thomas Lifson 8 29 06