Columbia, Duke and the Media

Posted: Oct 02, 2007 12:01 AM
Columbia, Duke and the Media

On page 28 of last Sunday's New York Times, right opposite the page where the obituaries were, at the very bottom was a news item almost exactly the size of a 3-by-5 card.

It was a fraction of an Associated Press dispatch about Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, apologizing for "not having better supported" the Duke lacrosse players last year when they were accused of rape.

When this story first broke last year, it was big news not only on the front page of the New York Times but on the editorial page as well.

The way things were discussed in both places, you could hardly help coming away with the conclusion that the students were guilty as sin. But now that the president of Duke University apologizes for the way he handled the case, that gets buried on page 28 at the bottom, opposite the obituaries.

There is no indication that the Times itself is going to apologize for joining the lynch mob in the Duke "rape" case -- as it did in the Tawana Brawley "rape" case before, and as it will probably do again if and when the same kind of issue arises again.

In the full Associated Press dispatch, including the part left out by the New York Times, Richard Brodhead said that he regretted the university's "failure to reach out" to the players under indictment, "causing the families to feel abandoned when they were most in need of support."

Brodhead got a standing ovation after this speech at the Duke law school but to call what he said "spin" would be much too charitable.

The issue was never his failure to "support" the students or their families. Universities are not equipped to determine guilt or innocence. That is why trials are held in courts instead of on campus.

It was none of the university's business to "support" either the students or those who were accusing the students.

What Brodhead did was join the campus lynch mob by firing the lacrosse coach, cancelling the rest of the team's season, and suspending the students.

Now, after reaching an out of court settlement with both the students and the fired lacrosse team coach, Brodhead gets a standing ovation at his own law school for an apology that sidestepped the real issue and might well have been part of the out of court settlement.

Brodhead is not the only university president who can walk through a sewer and come out smelling like a rose, at least to those in academia and the media.

At Columbia University, its president, Lee Bollinger, picked up kudos for courage for having Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speak on campus.

It would "impoverish public debate" to exclude controversial speakers like Ahmadinejad, Bollinger said.

But apparently it did not "impoverish public debate" to have a representative of the Minuteman organization disrupted and shouted down with impunity at this same Columbia University earlier this year. The "courageous" Bollinger did nothing to punish those students who used storm trooper tactics to silence a point of view they did not like.

Sadly, Columbia University is not unique in either its double standards or its double talk. A Harvard dean back in 1987 put limitations on the number of "controversial" outside speakers allowed on campus, on grounds that it was expensive to provide the extra security needed to prevent disruption or violence.

Since the only speakers who are likely to provoke campus disruption and violence are speakers that left-wing students don't like, this act of preemptive surrender gave campus storm troopers a de facto veto over who can speak on campus.

The real problem on these and other campuses is that no one has to take responsibility. With the power being in the faculty, administrators can evade responsibility, and trustees are not around enough to exercise the ultimate power that is legally theirs.

Moreover, so long as alumni and other donors keep sending money, there is no price to be paid for caving in to the threats of campus ideologues.

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