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The Resonance of Duke Lacrosse

David Shribman ‘76, a Trustee from 1993-2003, has written a fine review for the Wall Street Journal of William D. Cohan’s book, “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities.” His observation below holds an echo for anyone who follows the current life of Dartmouth College:

But this book is also about the power of narrative. The narrative in Durham and across the country growing out of this episode was simply too delicious for its own good: Snotty, privileged boys at an elite school playing an elite sport hold a private party where their worst impulses were played out in a drama involving a woman who was a member of both a racial minority and the economic underclass. The story satisfied every politically correct assumption. The only obstacle was that, while the snotty/privileged/elite part was true, and also the loutish behavior, the boys didn’t rape the woman. The rush to judgment on the part of the campus community—well ahead of due process—was a travesty of its own.

Mr. Cohan captures brilliantly the theater of the absurd that is played out on campuses every year over one controversy or another: the predictable groups behaving predictably, the loudest advocates for social justice often too impatient to let legal justice take its course, the voices of reason drowned out by the clatter of cliché…

That said, it is clear in these pages that, while the members of the Duke lacrosse team were not guilty of the crimes for which they were arraigned, they also were not innocents.

Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Press.

Addendum: An alumnus points us towards some of the aspects of the Duke situation that did not come up in Shribman’s book review:

Interesting WSJ review from Shribman. However, he passes lightly over some of the most egregious misconduct from the prosecutor, and the Duke administration and faculty. The prosecutor didn’t just “have a taste for hype and hyperbole,” he had political ambitions that he thought would be served by inflaming black voters’ paranoia, and was willing to wreck people’s lives to further them.

Shribman does not mention the faculty statement signed by over 80 members condemning the defendants, at least not directly. The fact that the faculty had no knowledge of what had in fact happened did not slow them down in the least.

The authority on what happened at Duke and the aftermath is K.C. Johnson, who has followed this nearly from the inception on his Durham-In-Wonderland blog. Johnson demolishes author Cohan here:

http://www.durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/

Shribman’s review appears in a very different light after one reads Johnson.

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