My Usual Charming Self

MetroBravo Winners 2007
July 2007

Shame on Duke

By Bernie Reeves


The settlement paid by Duke University to the three families of the falsely accused lacrosse team members — estimated to be around $18 million — follows on the heels of similar deals, one with the student whose teacher gave him a failing grade because he simply played the game, and the other with the former lacrosse coach who was summarily fired without so much as a how-do-you-do. The Washington, DC-based Williams & Connelly law firm took on the civil matter for the families pro bono, demonstrating the outrage felt worldwide about the case. Duke paid up because the school could be vulnerable to civil suits by the players for harming their reputations by dismissing them summarily before the facts were known.

Yet, Duke did not do its duty. The settlement also holds harmless from future litigation the so-called Group of 88, the professors and fellow travelers who represent the root cause of the lacrosse players’ drama. These professors and their cohorts created the environment at Duke — and the extended Durham community — that allowed Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong to consider breaking every rule of procedure and decency to try to ruin these boys. Had Raleigh attorney Joe Cheshire not been called into the action on behalf of one of the accused lacrosse players, Nifong and his band of Duke activists would have more than likely won their case, at least in the court of public opinion where Nifong chose to stage the attack. Even if the cases had been settled early on, without Cheshire leading the charge, the boys would be ruined — the whole point to Nifong and his supporters. After all, that is the usual strategy by campus radicals: to smear their enemies with innuendo on the permanent record created by a compliant media. It was a close thing.

Cheshire knew he had to fight Nifong in the same arena to win the case and save the reputations of his client David Evans and the two other players. He hammered Nifong on the news, where typically gullible and badly trained journalists joined the mob screaming for the heads of the accused. Let me immodestly add that this publication did not fall for any of the early stage dementia that afflicted the media. I have been in hand-to-hand combat with the Duke politically correct activists — revered as national leaders in radical circles — since the early days of the Spectator weekly in the ’80s when the radical scholars took over liberal arts curricula across the country.

I can detect their fingerprints earlier than most, and they were all over this case from the beginning. I wrote in this space in May 2006 that “trial by candlelight vigil,” referring to the Buchanan Street protests at the time of the accusations by Nifong, meant the same nasty “tenured radicals” and their groupies were declaring class warfare against the lacrosse players without regard to evidence or fairness.

This campus cadre cut its teeth destroying reputations on campus by organizing anonymous whisper campaigns to prevent the hiring of new teachers and preventing the ascent to tenure of qualified professors who did not goose step to their party line. A potential hire or a member of the professorial ranks had to agree that the culture of America and the West was invalid due to racism, chauvinism and homophobia — and that this noble edifice of learning and achievement needed to be torn down and replaced. For those teachers who dared take an objective and scholarly view, no job or no tenure. In the battle between “traditional” and “radical” scholars, the radicals are winning at Duke.

Thus, the army of fanatics who gathered forces to ruin the lacrosse players was confident of victory. Those who would disagree were never hired or drummed out of the University corps. Relying on their typical arsenal of righteous indignation, it was damn the torpedoes of truth and legal procedure. The boys were the enemy simply for being affluent white male lacrosse players. And the victim was wholesome and truthful simply because she was a black female. Nothing else mattered. With this cast of characters, no wonder the Group of 88 never worried that their newspaper ads and media statements would come back to haunt them. Nifong was one of them, he too spouting the party line that Duke was “inhospitable to women and people of color,” as the mantra still goes from the campus activists. And none of them cared about the effect on the boys or their families. (To make this point, Metro published an exclusive interview with the Finnerty family, by Sharon Swanson in the January 2007 issue, well before the so-called “first” interview claimed by CBS 60 Minutes.)

Thank God the boys, their families and their lawyers didn’t stand for the outrageous charges. They possessed the rage and the means to set the record straight, and they weren’t college professors whose lives are made a living hell by the radical scholars. These poor souls risked what was left of their careers if they fought back. Fortunately, this time the campus activists went too far, exposing to the public the putrid state of academic politics. But they have gotten away with it again because Duke’s administration has protected them with the settlement to the lacrosse families. As is the case at most of the heads of our top liberal arts schools and universities, Duke President Richard Brodhead is either in sympathy with the radicals, afraid of them or simply a coward.

It’s probably a little bit of all that, but this time you would think Duke would take the opportunity — with the entire world watching — to face down the radicals. Instead, as all campus presidents do, he backed down and covered up the abuses of the treacherous class warriors. I believe this action will come back to harm Duke in the future. For sure the public, for years unaware of the unsavory types teaching their children, has learned a lot very quickly following the case. I hear it over and over, when before few cared or even knew about the scandals occurring on campus: We don’t like Duke protecting the Group of 88 now that we know their true character. I already predicted that Nifong will never let down in his belief that he had a case against the boys because he is consumed with class warfare rhetoric. Now, the other culprits will get off free and never admit their guilt. Look for them to continue their nefarious campaign to smear those they don’t approve of, who don’t alter their personal and professional lives to their agenda.

Nifong was just a pawn — a useful idiot, as Lenin put it — in this battle royale. But at least he is receiving punishment for his crimes. But the key players are free to continue to radicalize scholarship and wage class warfare unscathed, to pounce again on those who don’t agree with their radical point of view. A vigorous house-cleaning at Duke could have gone a long way to repairing the sorry state of liberal arts and social politics in America. Shame on Duke.