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Interpretation of letter misses mark

In a letter published in The Chronicle Jan. 10 ("Professors call for investigation, welcoming of all students"), I joined 18 of my colleagues to say that (1) we regret an impression has been formed in some circles that Duke faculty are prejudiced against some of our students, that (2) we support our president in his call for an investigation of a botched legal process and (3) that we welcome all students to our classes. That our simple three points would be interpreted as subtly insinuating more is a surprise to most of us.

In particular, one of our colleagues from another department (quoted in the Jan. 11 article "Reinstatement sparks fiery faculty response")suggests that our letter feeds "a wheel of hatred that's bound up with the blogs" and does not support "a healthy and constructive dialogue." He went on to contrast this to the spring 2006 advertisement taken out by several departments and endorsed by 88 faculty members, many of whom are good friends of those of us who signed the Jan.10 letter. The distinction was made that the spring ad raises "larger questions," while our letter did not.

We can disagree about whether the spring ad and its insinuation that Duke is a place of rampant and widespread racism and sexism was "healthy and constructive," particularly in the charged atmosphere in which it was published. But our letter was not an attempt to raise "larger issues" or to engage our friends who used the events in the spring to do so from their perspective. All it did was make three very simple points.

While I do not believe that racism and sexism define our community, I join all those who condemn the pockets of racism and sexism that exist at Duke as they do in other parts of our society. I also join Dean George McLendon's and President Richard Brodhead's call for a civil atmosphere in which disagreements among friends are possible, at least within the faculty of our Duke community.

Thomas Nechyba

Fuchsberg-Levine Family Professor of Economics

and Public Policy


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