Duke University's Eternal Bonfire of the Vanities

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by William L. Anderson: Regime-Based
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When we last
left Duke University and its home of Durham, North Carolina, the
bogus story fueled by the leftwing politics that governs Duke and
Durham that three lacrosse players from Duke had beaten and raped
Crystal Mangum was being put to rest. True, there were lawsuits
filed against both entities by former lacrosse players, but the
fires that burned at Duke seemed to have been doused.

For a year
while the false criminal case went on, Duke University truly was
the Bonfire of the Vanities as students and representatives of the
Ruling Party of Durham competed with each other to see who could
make the most outrageous and untrue statements. Almost six years
ago, I
likened it to the Reichstag Fire
, but since that time, I have
concluded that in the make-believe world that is Duke and Durham
(or Dukham, for short), the fires always are burning and there always
is a new reason for the Right Kind of People of Dukham to be offended.

(During the
lacrosse case, many journalists referred to Tom Wolfe's book, I
Am Charlotte Simmons
, which was loosely based upon life
at Duke. However, Wolfe's Bonfire
of the Vanities
really does a better job of describing the
university, where certain people always are on tap to be offended
and take to the barricades, making sure all the while that facts
don't get in the way of their pronouncements.)

Six years ago,
the lacrosse incident set Dukham ablaze (or, to be more accurate,
the refusal of Dukham's finest to do any independent thinking set
Dukhanm ablaze). Today, it is the appearance of an unpublished paper
that takes a hard look at some of the unforeseen consequences of
Duke's aggressive affirmative action policies.

Granted, the
end of the criminal portion of the lacrosse case was disappointing
to a large number of Dukham folks. The charges, after being investigated
for the first time (disgraced DA Mike Nifong never did take the
time to do an actual investigation even though he had three indictments),
were dismissed by North Carolina's Attorney General Roy Cooper,
who said openly that the players were "innocent." Such
a thing did not sit well with the leftist and racialist faculty
members that had pontificated on the case, as well as the Usual
Suspects of the local activist groups.

Much has happened
since then. Mangum is in jail awaiting trial for allegedly murdering
her boyfriend, Nifong remains disbarred and disgraced, and his sidekick
Tracey Cline, who has served as Durham County's DA since Nifong
disappeared (Cline was to be second chair in the prosecution if
it had gone to trial), has
been suspended from her duties
while she is investigated for
alleged misconduct.

While the lawsuits
creep along, an
email from Duke's dean of students
, Sue Wasiolek, that surfaced
during discovery, pointed out that right from the start, the lacrosse
players "cooperated" with the police. Unfortunately, when
Nifong used the local and national media to insist that the players
were "putting up a wall of silence," no one from Duke
University's administration, including Wasiolek, tried to set the
record straight. It is clear that the leadership at Duke knew the
truth, but the fiction was so much more satisfactory to the locals,
a significant portion of the university's faculty and student body,
and, of course, the New York Times, which fell headlong into
the Nifong pit. The players were guilty and Dukham's leaders were
not going to let a little thing like the truth spoil a party put
on by self-righteous activists.

As I said earlier,
the bonfires might have simmered temporarily, but today, they are
in full blaze as Duke University is enmeshed in another self-inflicted
crisis. Once again we see many of the same people from the faculty
and the administration beating their chests to atone for the university's
supposed racism and to point out to others that there are dastardly
racists in their midst.

Well, kind
of. Before going on, I need to point out that there are two groups
among the Duke faculty. The first group is what I would call the
Adults. These are people who write, teach, and publish on a high
level. The adults were in their offices on Saturdays doing research,
and they were the ones publishing in top journals and advising doctoral
students.

You will find
the Adults in departments like economics, biology, engineering,
physics, and mathematics, and even some members of the English Department,
and they mentor both graduates and undergraduates that are put through
their paces, academically speaking. The Adults do not grant the
easy "A," and they have high expectations from their students
— and from themselves.

While most
of the Adults have political views, when it comes to issues like
tenure and promotion, they generally do not try to sabotage someone
else's career because they disapprove of the other's political leanings.
These are people who care deeply about their line of work, and their
students, the kind of professors that the rest of us admire greatly.

Unfortunately,
Duke University's faculty also is populated by large numbers of
what I would call the Spoiled Children, people who are quick to
call out the rental protesters when things don't go their way. The
Spoiled Children generally occupy departments and majors like Women's
Studies, Cultural Anthropology, English and History (which used
not to be the case, but over time, these departments have traded
scholarship for falsehoods), and other such areas that are relatively
new to the college curriculum scene. (I also include history because
one of its most "prestigious" professors, William Chafe,
publicly compared the lacrosse players to the murderers of Emmett
Till in 1955. Chafe never apologized for his utterly false statements,
thus bringing shame upon his entire department.)

It is rare
that the Spoiled Children actually turn out real scholarship or
see their students from any other perspective than their political
viewpoints. Unlike the Adults, who tend to evaluate their students
according to what they do, the Spoiled Children pre-judge
their students according to what they are, be they black,
white, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, straight, or gay.

Their academic
output often, to put it mildly, is shocking. One full professor
that teaches in a Spoiled Children major has no published works
in any reputable journal and has had a "forthcoming" book…for
the last 15 years. The Adults publish in journals like Econometrica
and Science. The Spoiled Children publish in journals like
Social Text,
which became famous because an Ivy League professor
purposely wrote a parody
of what has become academic babble,
and Social Text published it as legitimate work, only to
have the whole thing later exposed.

When word that
an unpublished paper written by an economics professor, a sociology
professor, and a graduate student might not paint the happiest picture
of academic life at Duke, the Usual Suspects rose up to protest.
The paper itself looked at what happens after students with lower
SAT scores (including both those admitted via affirmative action
and the "legacy" students) actually settle into academic
life at the university.

While many
of these students might start out majoring in natural sciences,
economics, or engineering, they often change majors and migrate
to the "softer" majors in liberal arts. The significant
part of that migration, the paper noted, was that the "legacy
admissions" and affirmative action students migrate in statistically-significant
larger numbers than do the students that did not need any special
dispensation to enter Duke.

The paper's
findings matched what other researchers already have noted regarding
affirmative action and legacy students attending other highly-select
universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Many of these
students arrive unprepared for the level of work they must do in
the difficult majors in order to keep up with those students who
can do the work, and this leads either to students dropping out
or changing majors.

Thus, many
researchers have argued, affirmative action policies very well might
make a university look good in its admissions policies, but
many of the students admitted in these circumstances are led into
a bait-and-switch situation in which they are led to water, but
are unable to drink. The solution is not to water down the curriculum
or to engage in the higher-education equivalent of social promotion,
but rather to encourage many of these students to attend colleges
and universities where they still can major in the more difficult
areas, but the level of work required is not as difficult as in
the top-tier universities.

I give myself
as an example. When I wanted to go to graduate school in economics,
I decided to apply to those places where I would most likely be
successful. I received an education in the whole thing after having
taken my Graduate Record Exam and scoring close to 700 in the quantitative
section.

One place where
I inquired about admissions was the University of Virginia, which
is highly-regarded in graduate economics. When the woman on the
phone asked what I received in the quant section, I told her my
score. There was silence on the other end, and finally she told
me, "Many of our students score 800 (a perfect score)."
Yes, she said, they probably would admit me, but there likely would
be no funding and I might be eaten alive in the numerous mathematics
courses I would be taking.

I chose another
university and got through the program mostly in one piece, and
have enjoyed a reasonably successful career since then. No, I wouldn't
be a candidate to teach at Harvard or Duke, nor would any "prestigious"
state university desire my resume, but there has been a place for
me, anyway, and I am happy with it.

One of the
unspoken tragedies in this whole affair is the fact that it really
would be desirable to see more African-Americans in the hard sciences
and engineering, and if the Dukes and Stanfords were not so fixated
on their own public relations, we would see many of these students
in programs which could be successful and spawning new opportunities
for blacks in occupational fields where they now are scarce. Within
a generation, a new group of black students would arise that could
excel in the difficult majors at the most-select universities, but
the current political climate simply won't allow for that to happen.

Not surprisingly,
the faculty members in those areas of study such as Cultural Anthropology
went ballistic over the paper, decrying it as "scholarly racism"
(according to English and Law professor Karla Holloway, the same
Karla Holloway who declared the lacrosse players to be rapists because
"guilt is a social construct"). In fact, many of the same
professors that rushed to judgment in the lacrosse case and created
an atmosphere of hate and hysteria at Duke also are the out-front
people here.

One of the
worst offenders in the lacrosse crisis was professor Tim Tyson,
who openly called
for dismissal of all of the lacrosse players and repeated the lie

that they were refusing to cooperate with the police. Tyson also
led on-campus protests against them, rushing to judgment and then
refusing to acknowledge after the players were exonerated that they
actually were innocent. In other words, Tyson is one of those Duke
faculty members who absolutely hates a large portion of the Duke
student body along with most of the Adults who are on the faculty.

Tyson, as is
his wont, openly attacked one of the authors, economics professor
Peter Arcidiacono, in an article,
alleging that Arcidiacono was a racist and worse
. (Of course,
Tyson's article is filled with ad hominems and he refuses
to address the real issues of the paper, preferring to wrap himself
in the righteousness of his own worldview.) Writes historian
K.C. Johnson
:

As with virtually
all of Arcidiacono’s critics, Tyson does not challenge the data
that the paper of Arcidiacono, et al., uncovered. Instead, he
resorts to the race-baiting attack lines: after disingenuously
suggesting that he’s not challenging the academic freedom of people
who don’t share his world-view, he does just that: “Duke's treasure,
the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, whose legacy Arcidiacono treads
upon, provided research for Thurgood Marshall in the Brown
v. Board of Education case. But there is no constitutional
right to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha might put it. BSA members who
question ‘the research's intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion,
in addition to its validity,’ display a generosity and deliberation
far exceeding those of this study.”

Once
again: Tyson does not challenge in any way the data that Arcidiacono,
et al., presented, that black students at Duke disproportionately
migrate away from more difficult (science and engineering) to
easier (liberal arts) majors.

As in the lacrosse
case, a large portion of Duke's professors are permitted to launch
baseless and public attacks on other students and faculty, all the
while drawing large salaries and having to do little productive
work while denouncing their employer and anyone else who pays for
them to stomp about campus. In fact, it seems that their "work"
is to claim that they are mistreated by Duke, which requires little
out of them but spending a few hours a week on campus protesting
that they should even be there at all.

In the end,
these people will get what they want. Duke's leadership will bow
and scrape before them and apologize for the presence of Adults
on campus. The Spoiled Children will be appointed to leadership
positions and will further try to make life miserable for those
students and faculty members that actually are trying to pursue
serious scholarship. And the bonfires will continue to burn and
burn and burn.

February
1, 2012

William
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

The
Best of William Anderson

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