A Duke University Sexual Assault Case

March 3, 2015

Just coming into public view is a sexual assault case at Duke University. The student newspaper at Duke reports that two students made separate allegations of sexual assault against Rasheed Sulaimon during the 2013-14 academic year.

The first student made the allegation in October 2013 at a diversity retreat called Common Ground, and the second made her allegation following another Common Ground retreat in the spring. But, says the paper, neither filed a complaint through the Office of Student Conduct or took legal action through the Durham Police Department. Various news sources report that the alleged victims chose not to file charges or come forward to the Office of Student Conduct because they were afraid of backlash from Duke basketball fans.

Sulaimon, speaking through an attorney, has declared he did nothing wrong.

This makes national news because Rasheed Sulaimon, until recently, was a member of the Duke men’s basketball team. At the end of January, Sulaimon was released from the team by coach Mike Krzyzewski who said that Sulaimon “has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program.” Krzyzewski declined to say anything further, then or subsequently.

The ABC-TV affiliate in Raleigh reports that an ‘affiliate of the program’ came forward after talking to both women. The whistleblower told the paper that in March 2014 the allegations were brought to a team psychologist, head coach Mike Krzyzewski, assistant coaches Jon Scheyer and Nate James, and associate head coach Jeff Capel.

So who should have done what when? And what should someone do now? (Full disclosure: though a critic of Division 1 NCAA Athletics, I am fan of Duke basketball and of Coach K.)

First, no one employed by Duke should be talking about the case to the media, and no one should fault them for declining comment. Students have rights to confidentiality, both moral and legal, and university officials should be respecting those rights. (Krzyzewski was also right to say as little as he did about Sulaimon’s dismissal from the team.)

Second, it would have been better if the two students had reported the incidents either to university officials or to the Durham police—if they wanted to say anything at all in public. Of course both had a right to keep whatever happened to themselves, but it puts everyone, especially the accused and the university, in a bind if the allegation is made in public without making a formal report of the incident. Under such circumstances, we get trial by rumor.

Third, if the students had any fear of reprisals from reporting the incidents, Duke had an obligation to see that there would be none.

Fourth, once anyone in the employ of the university learned of the allegations, the university should have done two things. It should have gone to the student making the allegation and asked if she now wanted to report it. Whether or not she said yes to that question, the university should have undertaken to investigate the allegation. If it found credible evidence of criminal wrong-doing, it should have brought the matter to the attention of the Durham Police.

This is the one question I have given the reporting to date: last spring when the matter first (apparently) came to the attention of Duke employees, was any investigation started? That’s what I’ll be looking to learn.  Regarding what Krzyzewski did or did not do over the last few months, the Duke Athletic Director has already stood up for Coach K, though no details were given.)

Mike Bianchi, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, has written a piece with the headline Duke basketball is entering Jameis Winston territory regarding rape allegations. That is overreach, not to use a blunter word. In the Jameis Winston case, the young woman did report the incident and the university did nothing to pursue it.

P.S.: My hackles go up when someone is referred to as ‘an affiliate of the program.’ Is this person a Duke employee, with all the responsibilities that come with that? Why the shadowy cloak?

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What Is the Purpose of a College Education?

March 3, 2015

An arresting sentence in David Brooks’s column this in the NYT this morning on Leaving and Cleaving:

…to be around college students these days is to observe how many parents have failed to successfully start their their child’s transition into adulthood.

Strong words, but accurate, I think. It brought to mind something I found myself saying from time to time in conversations with professors. The occasion was usually their complaining that such-and-such was not their job. Their role was to teach their subject matter and to do their research. Mayhem in the dorms or crises in students’ relationships were none of their business, they’d say.

And I’d ask, why do you suppose parents are willing to pay us $30,000 (or $40,000 or $10,000) a year for their child’s education? Do you suppose it is to learn Shakespeare or organic chemistry or even critical thinking?  Perhaps, a few have such motivations, I’d say, but deep down I think most parents have a deeper motivation. They want us to perform a stupendous trick.

They want us to remove their child from their household, keep the child for four (or so) years, and then insert that child into adult roles: a paying job and a relationship that will lead to marriage and grandchildren. Deep down, those parents aren’t too interested in how we perform this trick so long as we do it. They are a bit frightened that their child hasn’t grown up yet, and frightened that they are significantly to blame for that failure to raise their child toward adulthood. Now they are willing to pay us significant money to do it for them.

I’d want the professor I was speaking with to see her/his role more broadly than s/he was inclined.

By and large residential liberal arts colleges do perform that trick and fairly reliably. We invite students to live in community, to bear an increasing share of responsibility for their learning and their living, and we provide a watchful eye and coaching to see that the transition to adulthood goes well.

I see the promise of on-line education for some narrow purposes of education, but I have my doubts that MOOCs can perform this trick.

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Our Far-Flung Alumni: Kathleen Mulloy

March 2, 2015

Grew up in Indiana (Peru, Indiana, no less), works in Kampala, Uganda for UNICEF, and was recently married at Copenhagen City Hall in Denmark. Sounds like an Earlhamite to me. And she is: Kathleen Mulloy.

Kathleen MalloyWe don’t often see Earlham graduates in the marriages section of the Sunday New York Times Style section, but there she was yesterday with new husband Evan Wheeler. He didn’t go to Earlham, but at least he went to college in Maine and also works for UNICEF in Uganda.

Best wishes!

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Meanings: Dessert”

March 2, 2015

The mnemonic I learned in school–and perhaps you, too–was that “dessert” had two s’s because it was sweet stuff, but “desert” had only one because it was just sand. Today there’s probably as much desert as ever (they cover about a fifth of the earth’s surface), but desserts are in decline.

Dessert decline“Only 12 percent of dinners eaten at home in the United States ended with something sweet last year,” significant decline over the past few decades, according to data from market research firm NPD group, and many restaurants don’t really want you to order dessert because their margins are smaller on desserts.

I’m happy to say dessert is alive and well at our house, though some of us eat fruit and some of us eat cookies. But where did that word come from? Here’s what etymology.com says:

dessert (n.)Look up dessert at Dictionary.comc.1600, from Middle French dessert (mid-16c.) “last course,” literally “removal of what has been served,” from desservir “clear the table,” literally “un-serve,” from des- “remove, undo” (see dis-) + Old French servir “to serve” (see serve (v.)).

But now it looks like it’s the main course that’s clearing the table, not the dessert.

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How to Know What to Do

February 12, 2015

You don't know what to do?Our son, Robbie, is now a sixth grader at Mount Ararat Middle School in Topsham, Maine. He has the great good fortune to have Mrs. Latti as his principal teacher. She teaches the class science and math while Ms. Hopkins teaches them language arts and social studies. They are a team (the Magalloway 6th Grade Team), but when we have parent-teacher conferences we meet with Mrs. Latti.

We had such a conference on Tuesday, and I couldn’t help but notice this poster on the classroom wall. It’s Mrs. Latti’s standing directions to her class about what they should do when they aren’t sure what they should be doing. 6th graders are prone to such moments of uncertainty, but then aren’t all of us?  I’m glad Mrs. Latti is teaching them how to work through such moments.  (I don’t think that was any part of my 6th grade experience.)

I think the poster says it all — almost. That last direction takes some explaining.

“Reread the directions.” That often helps. “Take a deep breath:” don’t get frustrated; believe in yourself; you can do this.  If those don’t work, “ask a neighbor.” You’ve got friends: ask them for help, and be ready to help your friends when they get confused. “Ask another neighbor.” If the first friend can’t help you, ask someone else.

Mrs. Latti is teaching them confidence and self-reliance, and she is teaching them to work as a group, helping each other, even on projects where each person has to do his own work.

So what about that last instruction, “Get a Latti lamp”?  She wants them to know that she stands ready to help if they need her. They should turn to her only when they’ve tried to work themselves out of confusion themselves and sought the aid of friends if they are still confused. But if none of that works, they can turn to her. Across the classroom, on a shelf, are a dozen or so little electric lanterns she bought at the Dollar Store.  You go get one and turn it on at your desk. The light tells her you need her help, and it does so in a way that doesn’t distract others.

We all need a Latti lamp in our lives. But we shouldn’t use it until we’ve reread the directions, taken a deep breath, asked a friend, and asked another friend. What a great approach to learning.

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Meanings: Cheat

January 24, 2015

“This kind of gamesmanship goes on all the time,” said Stephen Mosher, a professor at Ithaca College who studies sports ethics. He was commenting on the Patriots’ deflated footballs in last week’s AFC title game, sign stealing, corked baseball bats and scuffed baseballs. “It’s certainly accepted as part of the culture that you game the system as much as you can, and if you don’t get caught, it ain’t cheating.”  (Tim Rohan, “Gamesmanship vs. Cheating,” New York Times, January 24, 2015, pB9.)

I dissent from that view however commonplace it may have become.  (I also wince at a professor saying “ain’t.  Mosher, by the way, has a B.A. in English and Journalistic Studies, and a Ph.D. in Sport Studies with Concentrations in Philosophy and Literary Criticism, both from U. Mass, Amherst. Such expertise….)

Games have rules; those rules define the game. Having all contestants adhere to those rules is what makes a game ‘fair.’  In professional football, there is a rule about the permissible pressure in a football. If someone deliberately altered the footballs so they didn’t adhere to that standard, that’s cheating, and there should be consequences.

I remember a faculty meeting many years ago where we were discussing student plagiarism. Some members of the faulty were upset at some recent incidents. Others began to talk about how murky s concept plagiarism is, how difficult it is to know dishonest plagiarism from honest borrowing. (In my view, the cases under discussion were far from murky.)  A member of the music faculty rose, someone who rarely spoke in faculty meetings, and said “in my field, plagiarism consists of three notes.” He sat down; he knew plagiarism when he saw it.

In the discussions of deflate-gate, I’m astonished that there isn’t more outrage and more talk of consequences being visited on the Patriots. No one seems to question that the Patriots should play for the NFL Championship next Sunday. After all, I’ve read many saying, the Patriots would have won even if they hadn’t cheated, so decisively did they defeat the Colts. Here, for example, is an exchange on NPR between Audie Cornish (host) and Tom Goldman, NPR Sports Correspondent:

CORNISH: Now, if a current NFL investigation shows the Patriots did purposely under-inflate the balls, will people be able to say that New England cheated its way into the Super Bowl?

GOLDMAN: I know you may disagree with this, Audie, but no. The Patriots dominated Indianapolis in all facets of the game, as they’ve done the past few games against the Colts.

So it’s OK if you would have won anyway? And it’s also OK if you don’t get caught?

The NFL and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have both issued statements. The NFL statement says that the goal of the investigation is to determine “the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules” and”specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action.” But the statement is utterly silent on what consequence might follow if the footballs were found to be deliberately under-inflated by action of anyone working for the Patriots.  After pledging full cooperation with the investigation, Kraft’s statement makes it clear he expects the Patriots to be playing next weekend in the Superbowl: “Meanwhile, our players, coaches and staff will continue to focus on our preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the many challenges we face as we prepare for the Seattle Seahawks.” He doesn’t even imagine the possibility of disqualification.  (“Meanwhile” = this investigation is to one side of the question of whether we should be playing.)

If the Patriots cheated, why should anyone watch?

The word “cheat,” by the way, comes from the legal term escheat. According to etymology.com:

cheat (v.) Look up cheat at Dictionary.commid-15c., “to escheat,” a shortening of Old French escheat, legal term for revision of property to the state when the owner dies without heirs, literally “that which falls to one,” past participle of escheoir “happen, befall, occur, take place; fall due; lapse (legally),” from Late Latin *excadere “fall away, fall out,” from Latin ex- “out” (see ex-) + cadere “to fall” (see case (n.1)). Also compare escheat. The royal officers evidently had a low reputation. Meaning evolved through “confiscate” (mid-15c.) to “deprive unfairly” (1580s). To cheat on (someone) “be sexually unfaithful” first recorded 1934.

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Our Far-Flung Alumni: Rock Scully

December 23, 2014

I note the passing of Rock Scully, Earlham ’63, whose obituary appeared a few days ago in the New York Times.  He was an alumnus I never met, alas.

Scully was a long-time manager of the Grateful Dead.  The Dead’s website, the obituary tells us, “praised Mr. Scully’s ‘central sweetness.’ It went on to say that if he conned you, ‘it was almost always in the service of a higher ideal and for the best of reasons.'”

In a statement, Bob Weir (core member of the Dead) said of Rock Scully:  “His mischievous sense of adventure made him a perfect candidate for the position of manager for a band with similar sensibilities and and an equally similar disregard for the way things were supposed to be done.”

Sounds like an Earlhamite to me.

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