While there are many good, decent and commendable professors on our campus, there are also a number of professors that are unethical, unbalanced and out of control. The lacrosse scandal has made this shameful reality all too apparent. And it is students who pay the price for their radical behavior.
Consider the case of Kyle Dowd, a Duke lacrosse player who graduated last year with an above-average GPA. Last spring, his professor, Kim Curtis, signed the abominable "social disaster" ad, which pointed the finger of guilt at the lacrosse team, praised the protesters who rushed to judgment and slandered our student body as racist.
It seems Curtis, however, did not limit herself to merely using words to unleash her contempt at the lacrosse team and to issue her warped brand of justice. No, it seems she decided to give Dowd an F in her course simply because he was a member of the lacrosse team.
"In a class of approximately 40 students, only two final papers received an 'F', and a professor who has publicly aligned herself with the false accuser in the criminal investigation gave those two grades of 'F' to the only two lacrosse players in the class," according to a letter from the player's attorney to Assistant Duke University Counsel Kate Hendricks in September.
Moreover, she also failed Dowd in participation even though his attendance had been almost perfect until he had to miss some class sessions because of meetings with attorneys. Dowd gave Curtis advanced notice of these utterly excusable absences and Curtis registered no complaint.
The amazing thing is, when one calculates all of his grades in the class-including her sinister decisions to fail him in participation and on his final paper-his grade still equals a D and not an F. Thus, Curtis gave Dowd two F's he wholly did not deserve and then an overall F in the course that wasn't even his mathematical mark.
Countless hours and thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees later, the school, under the dismal leadership of President Brodhead, will not budge beyond giving Dowd a D-thus accepting the two unjustifiable F's-even though it's clear to any objective observer that Dowd's performance merits the P that he and his attorneys are demanding.
Justice is evidently a foreign concept to our administration.
Indeed, it truly is stunning to consider some of the disturbed people Duke hires to teach its students. Houston Baker, who was kind enough to leave us for Vanderbilt, taught for both the African and African-American Studies and English departments during his time at Duke. Also a member of the group of 88, he wrote a particularly vitriolic open letter in the wake of the lacrosse allegations, writing that the team, "may well feel they can claim innocence and sport their disgraced jerseys on campus, safe under the cover of silent whiteness. But where is the black woman who their violence and raucous witness injured for life? Will she ever sleep well again?"
But it gets worse. What follows is the text of an e-mail Baker sent to Kyle Dowd's mother, in response to a polite and thoughtful letter she authored to the group of 88:
"LIES! You are just a provacateur [sic] on a happy New Years Eve trying to get credit for a scummy bunch of white males! You know you are in search of sympaathy [sic] for young white guys who beat up a gay man in Georgetown, get drunk in Durham, and lived like 'a bunch of farm animals' near campus.
"I really hope whoever sent this stupid farce of an email rots in.... umhappy [sic] new year to you ... and forgive me if your [sic] really are, quite sadly, mother of a 'farm animal.'"
Then of course there's Karla Holloway, chair of the Campus Culture Initiative subcommittee on race and another member of the group of 88, who resigned her post in protest over the decision to allow our demonstrably innocent peers to return to campus.
AAAS Professor Mark Anthony Neal also signed the ad and spoke out against the team, claiming that, "regardless of what happened inside of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd, the young men were hoping to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed."
Here is how Neal described his own intellectual approach in an interview with Duke Magazine this summer:
"I have an alter ego-my intellectual alter ego. My intellectual alter ego is thugniggerintellectual-one word.... I wanted to embody this figure that comes into intellectual spaces like a thug, who literally is fearful and menacing. I wanted to use this idea of this intellectual persona to do some real kind of 'gangster' scholarship, if you will. All right, just hard, hard-core intellectual thuggery."
Then there's Wahneema Lubiano and Diane Nelson and William Chafe and.
Will Brodhead ever have the courage and integrity to condemn those who defame and persecute his students? Will professors on this campus ever be held accountable?
Stephen Miller is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.