Many readers will recall our reporting on the “Duke rape case” in May 2007. In that specimen of academic political correctness, three Duke lacrosse players were indicted on (as it turned out) false charges of kidnapping and raping a black stripper. The case demonstrated not only the extent to which a public servant was willing to barter the lives of others to advance his career— the name of then–District Attorney Michael Nifong definitively entered the rolls of infamy—but also the herd-like and accusatorial mentality of the so-called “mainstream” media and professoriate.
What a rush there was to find those students guilty! The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and many other organs of enlightenment thundered their condemnation. As for the academy itself, the rot started at the top. Richard Brodhead, Duke’s president, followed the herd in embracing the principle that one is presumed guilty until proven innocent. Accusations that white male students assaulted a black female: that was enough. Mr. Brodhead instantly suspended the students, fired the lacrosse coach, cancelled the rest of the team’s season, and did everything he could to curry favor among those baying for the heads of the accused.
The faculty followed suit—or, rather, they led the way. Vincent Carroll, writing in the Rocky Mountain News, noted that “the most astonishing fact, hands down, was and remains the squalid behavior of the community of scholars at Duke itself. For months nearly the entire faculty fell into one of two camps: those who demanded the verdict first and the trial later, and those whose silence enabled their vigilante colleagues to set the tone.” As we noted at the time,
Particularly egregious was the behavior of the “Group of 88,” a congeries of faculty activists and fellow-travelers who signed “What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?,” a full-page manifesto published in April 2006 in the Duke student newspaper. The statement, which purported to be “listening” to students on campus, mingled anonymous student comments with racialist agitprop. “Regardless of the results of the police investigation,” ran part of the introductory comment, “what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism.” There followed a mosaic of histrionic proclamations: “We want the absence of terror,” one student is supposed to have said. “But we don’t really know what that means.” “This is not a different experience for us here at Duke University. We go to class with racist classmates, we go to gym with people who are racists.”
Et, we need hardly add, cetera.
You might have thought that the folks at Duke would have learned their lesson. Think again. Stuart Taylor—who collaborated with the historian K. C. Johnson in exposing the tissue of mendacity and corruption that surrounded the entire case against the lacrosse students—shows in a recent essay in National Journal that racially motivated political correctness is alive and well at Duke—indeed, it is alive and well in much of contemporary academia. This fall, Duke revised its “sexual misconduct” rules in a way that “makes a mockery of due process and may well foster more false rape charges by rigging the disciplinary rules against the accused.”
Meanwhile, none of the 88 guilt-presuming professors has publicly apologized… . Many of the faculty signers—a majority of whom are white—have expressed pride in their rush to judgment. None was dismissed, demoted, or publicly rebuked. Two were glorified this month in Duke’s in-house organ as pioneers of “diversity,” with no reference to their roles in signing the ad. Three others have won prestigious positions at Cornell, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago.
Among other things, the new disciplinary rules “deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her—but not him—the right to be treated with ‘sensitivity’; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.”
Such a cavalier attitude towards due process and the rule of law is not confined to academia. It is characteristic of the self-infatuated culture of political correctness in which the presumption of virtue is held to trump the requirements of “merely formal” law. It makes a mockery not only of intellectual probity—supposedly an academic desideratum—but also of justice.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 5, on page 3
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