A Historical Note on the Duke Kerfluffle

The lacrosse saga continues at Duke University. The latest development: the so-called Group of 88 (now numbering 90, apparently after significant turnover) has released a statement rejecting criticism of an earlier advertisement, deploring “the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus,” and calling on “all of us at Duke to do something about this.”

The earlier ad featured quotes from Duke students “shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman and to themselves.” The Group of 88’s knee-jerk condemnation of the accused lacrosse players and allegations of pervasive racism and sexism at Duke betrayed an attitude conditioned more by noxious stereotypes than by the nuances of actual life – not to mention a disregard for the probably innocent young men, also Duke students. (For more, see Durham-in-Wonderland or LaShawn Barber.)

To an attentive observer, the first stages of this affliction were apparent over 10 years ago. Duke was in my first screen of undergraduate colleges. In those pre-internet days, Barron’s Guide to American Colleges was a key resource. Among the 15 or so colleges that I initially considered, Duke was the only one that advertised in its Barron’s profile that it required “sensitivity training” of all freshmen. Not enamored of such a politicized campus, I never requested a viewbook from Duke. I never expected my snap judgement to be so gaudily vindicated.

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