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January 20, 2007
Duke Contemplates Its Own Navel For Fun And Profit

The sorry spectacle of the Mike Nifong prosecution of three Duke lacrosse players for sexual assault despite the repeatedly changing story of the accuser and the utter lack of physical evidence has captured the nation's attention for the past several months. One of the secondary issues in the case involves Duke University's abandonment of its students, suspending them after Nifong filed the charges without any consideration to the possibility of their innocence. Duke reversed itself earlier this month, allowing the three students to resume normal actvities at the university, after Nifong's prosecutorial misconduct became too clear to allow Duke's betrayal to stand.

Even before that reversal, Duke had not completely washed its hands of the lacrosse players charged in the case. As CQ reader azbookrat discovered, Duke hs no compunction about using them and the case as the subject of a women's studies course in the upcoming semester. Here's the synopsis from WOMENST 150-04, titled "Hook-Up Culture At Duke", which includes this description:

What is “hook-up culture”? What does it have to do with power and difference? Is the concept useful for framing gendered, raced, classed, and sexualized experiences at Duke?

This course, designed as a direct result of events last year on campus, will give students a unique opportunity to examine and reflect upon gendered/ sexualized life at Duke in relation to contemporary life in the U.S. We will ask:
how has the history of university attendance in the US (in terms of race, class, and gender) impacted campus culture? Are new technologies changing intimate or familial relationships between people? How are distinctions between “at home” and “at work” (or public and private) linked to new kinds of subjectivity and sociality? How do particular bodies gain value in contemporary commodity culture? And finally, what does the lacrosse scandal tell us about power, difference, and raced, classed, gendered and sexed normativity in the US?

Students at Duke would be better advised to ask what the "lacrosse scandal" (as opposed to the Nifong scandal?) tells them about Duke University and its loyalty to its students. The answer appears to be that they will throw students to the howling wolves at the first opportunity to appease locals on the thinnest of accusations, even before the evidence has been evaluated.

What I find fascinating about this course, offered in this semester, is that instructors Anne Allison and Margot Weiss believe that they can reach the conclusions they imply in the synopsis. New courses have to win approval from a faculty committee, which usually means at least a few weeks of preparation before the deadline for inclusion in the semester catalog. They will have already set their instruction before such developments as the discovery that Nifong conspired to hide the DNA evidence from the defense and knowingly misrepresented the case to the media. The pair have reached conclusions far ahead of hearing all of the evidence; is that the standard of education at Duke? It certainly appears to be the standard of administration there.

Mostly, though, the spectacle of Duke attempting to sit in judgment on a scandal in which it acted so badly is little short of despicable. Duke and its faculty and administrators should be ashamed of themselves.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 20, 2007 8:38 AM

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