Take a look at KC Johnson’s dissection of those dozens of Duke University professors who attacked the Lacrosse defendants publicly and relentlessly without the benefit of evidence or even logic. One of the more frustrating aspects of my work is dealing with the attitude that events in the “ivory tower” don’t matter in the “real world.” Yet there are few things more “real” than facing decades in prison and knowing that fashionable academic nonsense is helping to deprive you of your life and liberty. KC puts it well:
Groupthink has its effects. Any orthodoxy — even the race/class/gender approach currently in vogue — can go too far, especially in an atmosphere when it passes unchallenged, blinding its adherents to injustice in their midst. Academic debates can sometimes seem trivial, and it’s easy to understand the overwhelming temptation that some Duke professors felt last April to do the politically correct thing and denounce the lacrosse players.
This particular behavior, however, had significant consequences. Less than four weeks after the Group of 88 issued their statement, Nifong captured a hotly contested Democratic primary by a mere 883 votes. Given the political and legal fluidity in Durham last spring, it’s hard to imagine Nifong prevailing had 88 Duke professors publicly demanded that he respect their students’ due process rights rather than thanking the protesters who had branded the players guilty.
Instead, of course, the denunciations continued — and have continued to have an effect. In what could be a first in American criminal law, the actions and statements of accused students’ professors have been cited in a recent defense motion as grounds for a change of venue.
A parenthetical note: It is interesting to see the sheer numbers involved when radical faculty members get agitated. At Duke, 88 faculty members essentially declared the guilt of criminal defendants without the benefit of a trial, credible evidence, or fair procedures. At Colorado, 199 faculty members demanded that ALL investigations of Ward Churchill should end — even those investigations that related to real academic misconduct (such as plagiarism). At some point, the public must wonder how more than one or two — much less dozens and dozens — of such transparent ideologues survive the supposedly rigorous and scholarly academic hiring process.