What I Learned From Duke University


I used to live in Durham. I used to visit Duke’s magnificent open-stacks libraries on a regular basis. I learned a lot in those libraries. But I learned a lot more from Duke over the last month.

In 1942, America’s most distinguished academic economist, Joseph Schumpeter, offered a theory. He argued that America’s business elite had lost its will to resist the socialists. The key to this surrender was higher education. The anti-business socialists had been hired by America’s elite universities, he said, yet the business elite continued to send their children to these universities.

In 2007, Duke University seemed to confirm half of Schumpeter’s thesis, in full public view. But which half? This half: his thesis regarding the surrender of America’s elite. But he was dead wrong about the triumph of socialism. The socialists did not survive the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. They went down on the Good Ship Marx.

It is not socialists who control America’s prestige universities. It never was, because they never did. Socialists gained secure employment in American universities, but never control. Those in control today are socialism’s illegitimate ideological offspring, born out of wedlock by way of socialism’s Darwinist soulmates. Those in control of the universities today are the post-1965 moral drifters known as the hippies. They cut their hair and bought tweed jackets, but they remain hippies.

It is not capitalism that enrages them most, although they despise it. Rather, it is middle-class morality, which gives rise to the free market because the free market rests on the concept of inescapable personal responsibility in a world governed by the inescapable fact of scarcity. The hippies have always rejected any such morality. They also resent scarcity, except insofar as it can be used to justify increased state control over other people’s lives — a state controlled at the top by the elite universities’ graduates.

On this point, the professors share a deeply religious commitment with America’s business elite.

Schumpeter was entirely wrong. He completely misunderstood what the arrangement was in 1942 . . . and still is. It was not that the business elite had surrendered to socialism in 1942. It was that they hired socialists and others to educate their children in the joys of regulated markets — regulated so as to hamper the social enemies of both groups: consumers, who were mostly middle class in 1942, or else the parents of those who would be by 1950, the year of Schumpeter’s death.

The business elite wanted government regulation of the free market to protect them from the shifting and ruthless authority of consumers, who have money to spend as they please. This commitment to regulated markets increased exponentially, beginning in 1942: the wartime planning boards.

The socialists and their academic colleagues also wanted protection from the free market: government-accredited colleges and academic tenure. They received both, as well as the money to fund this insulated system — insulated from the free market’s open entry and price competition.

Both sides worked out a deal. They imported the system of higher education that had been working in Prussia since about 1820. Expensive universities would train the children of the elite to administer the regulatory agencies and the corporations protected by these agencies. Low-tuition, tax-funded state universities would train future mid-level administrators and corporate employees, as well as a few bright graduates who could be recruited by the elite. The high-tuition elite private universities would train future senior officials, corporate executives, and the senior lawyers who would work out the terms of the alliance. This arrangement is still working just fine. It is business — and anti-business — as usual.


Duke University has recently suffered the most well-publicized humiliation of any university in my lifetime. Nothing else comes close. Duke University has become the nation’s symbol of academic liberalism: deeply prejudiced, emotion-driven, rumor-driven, ruthless, tyrannical, and — most of all — gutless.

In response to this publicity, Duke in 2007 received 19,170 applications from students whose families were prepared to pay up to $45,000 in 2007—8, with about a 4% increase each year thereafter — call it $190,000 — for their children to be awarded a bachelor’s degree from Duke.

Are we living in lunatic times? Indeed we are, and we have been for two generations.

Here is a representative incident in the Duke University soap opera. After the story of the alleged rape hit the media in March, 2006, 88 faculty members paid to run a full-page ad in the student newspaper. The ad attacked — of all things — the racist-sexist atmosphere at Duke.

What was the response of Duke’s president to the story of the alleged rape? He immediately did what any university president would have done. He appointed several committees to look into the matter, criticized no one, defended no one, accepted the "voluntary" resignation of the lacrosse coach, and announced the cancellation of all lacrosse games for the rest of the season.

Almost all university presidents are a unique hybrid: half chameleon, half jellyfish. They have the same sign inside their bottom desk drawer: "The Buck Speeds Up Here."

All of this bad publicity had no noticeable effect on the success of the university in (1) recruiting very bright students, (2) removing small fortunes from their families, and (3) continuing to indoctrinate students in a form of politically correct liberalism that is so far to the left that the Democratic National Committee stands in awe.

Until you understand this phenomenon, you will not understand the nature of the culture war. Until you understand why rich parents proudly send their children into an ideological hellhole like Duke, decade after decade, you will not understand why the business leaders of our society seem unable to understand what they are facing. They are financing their destruction and their children’s destruction.

To steal William F. Buckley’s ancient quip, I would rather be governed by the first 200 names in the Durham telephone directory than by the faculty of Duke University. I say this as a former resident of Durham.


On June 18, 2007, news agencies announced that Duke University had agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement with the families of the lacrosse students who had been suspended by Duke in 2006. One graduated in 2006. The other two were invited back on January 4. This issue was this: On what basis had they been suspended?

Notice the settlement date: June 18.

On Saturday, June 16, the North Carolina Bar Association voted to disbar Mike Nifong, the district attorney for the city of Durham. He was the first sitting district attorney in the state’s history ever to be disbarred. This was the lead story on the big three network TV evening news shows: the tearful testimony of one of the students about how he had been hurt and the tearful admission of a measure of guilt — but not complete guilt — by Nifong.

On June 16, Nifong’s career was clearly over. He had destroyed himself by relentlessly pursuing a case based on the confused and self-contradictory testimony of a stripper who, having made false accusations, had long since disappeared from public view.

Where did that leave Duke, which had expelled the students in 2006? The parents were suing Duke. Duke settled out of court two days later. Duke’s lawyers decided that discretion — plus three checks — is the better part of valor.

This settlement came two months after the Attorney General had pronounced the three young men "innocent."

If this timing looks to you as though Duke University’s lawyers decided to settle with the families only after their chances of not being crushed in a court of law were zero, then you see it the way I see it. It looks as though they dragged things out until they saw where Nifong was headed. Nifong went over the falls. Duke was close behind. Duke settled.

Justice at Duke? Yes, siree. Liberals’ justice. When the civil case against Duke could not possibly be won in court, when news of the case would be on national TV if Duke’s lawyers let the case go to court, when potential donors would see the whole thing on national TV one more time, Duke settled.

No information on the size of the settlement was released. I am willing to guess that it was large. It should have been large, given the humiliation suffered by these students. Duke was not in a strong bargaining position after June 16.

Duke was not in a strong moral position after April, 2006. That did not bother officials at Duke. The threat of a prime time court case did.


On April 6, 2006, the ad was run in the campus newspaper. It had been paid for and signed by 88 Duke professors in 17 departments. The headline: "What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?"

Now Duke’s faculty knows the answer. It sounds just like the lead story on three major TV networks. It sounds like howls of derisive laughter from tens of millions of Duke non-alumni.

The ad has been removed from the web page of the Duke department that wrote it: the Department of African and African-American Studies. Fortunately, the original newspaper ad is still on-line. Here, we read of terrorism on campus.

The ad is filled with quotations from unidentified students.

This one is representative.

We want the absence of terror. But we don’t really know what that means . . . We can’t think. That’s why we’re so silent; we can’t think about what’s on the other side of this. Terror robs you of language and you need language for the healing to begin.

Yes, my friends, terror — sheer, unadulterated terror — on a campus that charges $45,000 a year. These students are trapped!

The ad spoke for all 88 professors when it announced, "We can’t think." But they surely did not remain silent.

Regardless of the results of the police investigation, what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism, who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with everyday.

These people are unfamiliar with English grammar, yet some of them are English professors. "Everyday" means common; "every day" means all the time. Let me give an example of correct usage. "These 88 professors are everyday academic liberals who are out of touch with reality every day of their lives."

The ad was not so much an attack on the accused Duke lacrosse players as an attack on Duke itself. But in the atmosphere created by Nifong and the media, the ad implied that the lacrosse players reflected a deep-seated racist-sexist student attitude on campus. The ad’s sponsors might as well have been the Tawana Brawley Society, Duke Chapter. Instead, 88 professors signed it.

The ad was a symbolic lynching based on guilt manipulation. It reflected an attitude that is almost universal on the most prestigious campuses today in the humanities departments. "Love us; we’re victims." Victims all: at $80,000 to $200,000 a year for six to nine hours of lectures a week, 36 weeks a year. The horror!

When asked to retract the ad, an unnamed group of Duke faculty members posted this response:

We stand by the claim that issues of race and sexual violence on campus are real, and we join the ad’s call to all of us at Duke to do something about this. We hope that the Duke community will emerge from this tragedy as a better place for all of us to live, study, and work.

As for the students who railed anonymously against Duke, they are people who have seen career success come to those who play the race card. They are merely practicing for their lifetime careers, probably on a Duke scholarship.

[Note: A "scholarship" offered by a college is in fact a discount offered to one student which is paid for by the full tuition paid by some other student’s family — a family with a lot of money. This practice is a form of wealth redistribution. Economists have a term for this: price discrimination. It is a characteristic feature of organizations that are protected by the government from competition: legal barriers to entry. The government-licensed college accrediting associations perform this service in higher education.]

The one exception to all this was Duke’s economics department. Its 17 members signed an ad inviting athletes in general and lacrosse team members in particular to take classes in the department. That took courage — not a lot, maybe, but some. On campus today, that’s all the courage you are likely to find.

One bit of information — unconfirmed — did leak out regarding Duke’s settlement. The 88 professors in 17 departments who signed the ad will not be sued by the parents.


The three accused lacrosse players were not the only victims of this academic lynch mob. In January, Kyle Dowd filed a lawsuit against Duke for academic discrimination. Mr. Dowd had been a student in a class taught by Kim Curtis, one of the 88 signers. He had received a grade of C- on one paper and a C+ on the other. This counted for 50% of his grade. After the rape accusation story broke, he received a grade of F on his third paper and an F for the course. Another lacrosse team member was also given an F, also on his final paper and in the course. No other student received an F.

Dowd was a senior. Seniors in any university rarely receive failing grades in their last semester. First, they are too close to graduation. An F can keep them from graduating. They hustle, or else they take snap courses. Second, people who get F’s flunk out or leave school before their senior year.

You should visit Dr. Curtis’s Duke web page. Here, you will read of her academic achievements.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, specializes in political theory with particular concentration in contemporary continental work and feminist theory. She has written Our Sense of the Real: Aesthetic Experience and Arendtian Politics. She has also published articles on multicultural education, ethical debates among feminists over new reproductive technologies, and the early women’s liberation movement.

Why Mr. Dowd enrolled in this woman’s course is far beyond my powers of comprehension. But he did.

What, you may ask, is a "visiting assistant professor"? An assistant professor is a low-rung faculty member who is hoping to get tenure, which guarantees that he or she cannot get fired short of committing a felony. After five to seven years, an assistant professor is usually either granted tenure (rare) or told that his/her contract will not be renewed after the next year (common). At that point, he/she goes looking for a job at a community college. His/her career is over in the academic big leagues.

Dr. Curtis has been teaching at Duke for ten years. This is rare for a visiting assistant professor, who ranks just above an instructor. Here is how the University of California, Berkeley, describes the position.

These positions are either part-time and/or limited, fixed term appointments. Visiting positions range from one semester to three years, and at times are renewable. Typically, visiting professors are hired to replace faculty on leave or to provide coverage in an area where the administration doesn’t want to commit a tenure slot. Visiting/adjunct faculty generally carry higher teaching loads at a significantly lower salary than their tenure-track brethren.

She has been in a low-level, non-tenure track position far beyond what is normal. Duke has now paid for its decision not to encourage her to seek employment elsewhere. On May 11, Duke released this announcement, which is not on Duke’s website, but should be.

This lawsuit has been settled through mediation to the mutual satisfaction of Kyle Dowd and his family and Duke University, and without any admission by any party of legal liability. The mediated settlement terms are, of course, confidential.

As reflected on Kyle’s transcript, he has received from Duke University a "P" in the Politics and Literature course he took in his senior year.

He got the "P" for Pass because he had appealed the F in order to graduate. At first, the university’s bureaucracy ignored his appeal. Visiting assistant professors have more clout than students — though nobody else. But, as a potential disaster grew more likely regarding the lacrosse team’s case, they changed it to a "D," claiming that there had been a "calculation error" on Prof. Curtis’s part. She is apparently very good at multicultural education, but poor at math . . . or so the Duke bureaucracy wants the public to believe.

Perhaps Duke will keep her on, just to save face. But Duke could hire any of a dozen replacement candidates with Ph.D.’s from Harvard, not the University of Massachusetts. Her main qualification for a tenured position is that she is regarded as a poor teacher by students. This may console her tenured peers.


On April 22, almost two weeks after the Attorney General declared the students innocent, Dr. Richard Brodhead, the president (read: senior fund-raiser) of Duke University, gave a speech to the Duke Alumni Association. After the speech, he was asked about the lacrosse situation. He blamed the media for Duke’s troubles.

Here is a man who had cancelled the lacrosse season, accepted the "voluntary" resignation of the coach, and had eaten plates of crow dished out by the Committee of 88 and its faculty defenders about terrorism on the Duke campus. You may recall the old TV show, "Bowling for Dollars." I call this speech "Groveling for Dollars." It is posted on Duke’s "Development" website. ("Development": a code word for "Write us a fat check, you fat cat dimwits.") Here are some samples.

All I want to tell you about this is that one of the really, really disturbing things about this episode has been to discover that the media — including the most respected forms of the media — if you go back to the early stories, they are all written in the key of hysteria, they are all written to inspire hysteria, and they teach the lesson that hysteria breeds extraordinary mental simplifications. . . .

This argument is reminiscent of the complaints by southern politicians regarding "outside agitators" and "yankee reporters" back in 1965. It sells as well to the Duke alumni as it sold to white voters in the South in 1965.

Next, President Brodhead insisted, it was all a big misunderstanding — a misunderstanding fostered by the media.

Now you know one of the troubles is, we can’t go back to all these networks afterward and say, "Now that that blew over, would you care to give us the same amount of air time to tell the truth about this story?" That is not the way the media work.

In Dr. Brodhead’s version of historical reality, the Attorney General of North Carolina did not just declare the students as innocent. He also implicitly declared Duke University innocent. But the media deliberately failed to report this.

Duke had a fine opportunity to prove his point, with the media in full attendance. Duke could have demanded that all three civil cases be tried before a jury. Instead, Duke settled out of court with no disclosure. What a shame. Justice denied!

Dr. Brodhead is scared. He has lived for over a year being scared, but now he is really scared. This incident may affect the self-respect of graduates of Duke. This could affect donations. This is every university president’s nightmare. He said:

Nothing has pained me more about this episode than the notion that people don’t want to say where they went to college, because that name is now a source of embarrassment.

A source of embarrassment? Here are millionaires with piles money to donate, and President Brodhead thinks some of them might be embarrassed by the off-the-wall newspaper ad by the Gang of 88. I wonder why. The alumni have seen their university dragged through the mud — mud laid down by a now-disgraced District Attorney. Yet 88 faculty members had publicly justified the mud. "It’s worse than you think. It’s terrorism here!" Meanwhile, the rest of the faculty, except for the economics department, did nothing. Why should any Duke graduate be embarrassed? But they just may be. So, he hastened to add,

If you are ever in a situation where you find yourself in that light, you’ve just got to turn that around. You’ve got to walk up and say some true thing about this place that is a source of pride and, Lord knows, there are many. And you know what? At the end of the day, this place will be known as it is. It will be known for what it is. And I hope this will be a better place after this episode. But it won’t be an altogether different place. It will be known for the excellence that characterizes us now. And that’s all of our work, to bring that day about. Thanks.

According to the introduction to the posted version of this speech, "His remarks received a standing ovation."


The alumni cheered.

Over 19,000 families begged Duke to let them spend $190,000 to be taught by the likes of Visiting Assistant Professor Curtis.

What is going on here? This: business as usual.

Let us return to 1942. In that year, Joseph Schumpeter’s book appeared, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Schumpeter, a Harvard economist, was probably the most respected academic American economist in his day. He understood the failure of successful businessmen to understand the nature of the threat that modern intellectuals, especially university intellectuals, pose to the free market economy that has allowed these businessmen to succeed. It was true in 1942. It is doubly true today.

These men are so short-sighted that they pay to have their children taught by their ideological enemies. On page 161 of his book, Schumpeter penned one of the most profound analyses of the modern bourgeoisie that I have ever read. It had only one defect. It was wrong.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the picture is the extent to which the bourgeoisie, besides educating its own enemies, allows itself in turn to be educated by them. It absorbs the slogans of current radicalism and seems quite willing to undergo a process of conversion to a creed hostile to its very existence. Haltingly and grudgingly it concedes in part the implications of that creed. This would be most astonishing and indeed very hard to explain were it not for the fact that the typical bourgeois is rapidly losing faith in his own creed.

This is verified by the very characteristic manner in which particular capitalist interests and bourgeoisie as a whole behave when facing direct attack. They talk and plead — or hire people to do it for them; they snatch at every chance of compromise; they are ever ready to give in; they never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals and interests — in this country there was no real resistance anywhere against the imposition of crushing financial burdens during the last decade or against labor legislation incompatible with the effective management of industry. . . . Means of defense were not entirely lacking and history is full of examples of the success of small groups who, believing in their cause, were resolved to stand by their guns. The only explanation for the meekness we observe is that the bourgeois order no longer makes any sense to the bourgeoisie itself and that, when all is said and nothing is done, it does not really care.

Schumpeter was wrong about the business elite in 1942. It cared, and cared deeply. It cared about insulating itself from the competition of the free market. By funding the universities that employed socialists, the elite was buying them off, putting them on academic leashes. (The story of how John D. Rockefeller, Jr., bought off American social scientists by well-placed charitable funding is told in great detail by the Leftist sociologist, Donald Fisher, in his 1993 book, Fundamental Development of the Social Sciences.) The elite hired a few socialists and their non-socialist Darwinist peers to undermine any lingering commitment of their children to middle-class morality, which they regarded as beneath them. This is why the elite did not protest in 1960 when gender-mixed dorms appeared, especially in state universities. This speeded up the process of moral erosion.

Schumpeter was also wrong about socialism, which was only a subset of the intellectuals’ war against capitalism. The university was at war with the concept of moral cause and effect in a world of inescapable personal responsibility, a moral system that says, "Thou shalt not steal, even by majority vote." It still is.

President Brodhead is a well-paid agent of both groups, the business elite and the professorate: men and women who are at war with American society and the moral foundations of Western civilization. His job, above all other jobs, is to preserve the mutual arrangement without disturbances from outside the campus. He is required to gain funding from the elite’s high-income world, a world of easy divorce, easy adultery, and high-paid lawyers who defend both. The elite and the professorate regard money as a tool in their joint war against society’s losers.

They see average Americans as the losers: married couples who work all their lives to stay ahead of the bill collectors, the tax collectors, and the Federal Reserve System’s digital printing press.

Under Dr. Brodhead’s leadership, the full insanity of today’s professorial moral indignation — an indignation based on envy against their wealthy and mostly white handlers — became evident because of the lacrosse case. Lacrosse is an elite New England sport, rivaled only by rowing. The temptation for ersatz moral outrage in the name of the oppressed, directed against the sons of their rich employers, became too great for the hippie professors to resist. They went public. The media spotted them. President Brodhead responded: "Red alert! Red alert!"

The academic world is never supposed to become this visible to the public. President Brodhead was unsuccessful in his attempt to keep the media’s spotlights away from Duke. Month by month, Duke moved steadily from blogs to prime-time national news. He was also incredibly inept at media relations. Now he blames the media for the moral insanity that Duke became long ago, along with the whole of American higher education.

Richard Brodhead is arguably the most inept president in the history of America’s elite education. Under his administration, the faculty’s most vocal hippies got off their leashes temporarily, and the media covered this.

May he not be the last.


The elite bourgeoisie and the professors are allied together in a struggle to overcome historic Christianity and the free market. To put this as a slogan, they stand together against Moses and Mises — against Moses, because they refuse to answer to God; against Mises, because they refuse to answer to consumers.

Hippies, even in tweed jackets, remain hippies. The high-IQ ones saw their opportunity in 1970: tenured employment. They took it.

Until the top 1% of America’s students cease attending the elite three dozen universities in the United States, of which Duke is one, all of which present the same basic outlook on society that Duke does, the war to save this civilization is still in its infancy. The best and the brightest from all over the world are instructed in these asylums.

What offers us at least some legitimate hope is this: the tenured and untenured hippies who now occupy the high-prestige seats of higher learning are not taken seriously by all of their students. I am convinced that, a decade after their graduation, a majority of their students will not even recall their professors’ names. Nonsense has a tendency to fade in the face of challenges in the non-tenured world.

The lesson: keep your children away from these high-IQ tenured nihilists. If the elite want to play moral Russian roulette with their children’s lives by sending them to elite universities, let them. If your elite-uncertified child cannot get tenure after graduation, shed no tears. Job security tends to corrupt, and tenure corrupts absolutely — maybe not an individual, but the market-insulated institution that provides it.

June 23, 2007

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 19-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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