Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Concentrating the Mind

Duke University president Richard Brodhead has issued an official apology to the falsely accused students whose travails were national news throughout the past year. The AP article says this:

Brodhead, speaking at the university's law school, said he regretted Duke's "failure to reach out" in a "time of extraordinary peril" after a woman accused three players of rape at a March 2006 party thrown by the team.

"Given the complexities of this case, getting the communication right would never have been easy," Brodhead said. "But the fact is that we did not get it right, causing the families to feel abandoned when they were most in need of support. This was a mistake. I take responsibility for it and I apologize for it."

"Duke needed to be clear that it demanded fair treatment for its students," he said. "I took that completely for granted. If anyone doubted it, then I should have been more explicit, especially as the evidence mounted that the prosecutor was not acting in accordance with the standards of his profession."

Brodhead also said the school could have done more to show that some members of Duke's faculty who were openly critical of the lacrosse team did not speak for the university as a whole.

I wonder whether the University would have been slow to support the students and their coach had this not been a crime involving the politically correct trifecta of race, class, and gender. I'm sure that Brodhead has had many more headaches as a result of this episode than what have been made public.

Might his regrettable mistake - and that of many on the Duke faculty - have been a result of seeing the original charges against the boys as a chance to show the university community and the nation that he was one white man who, despite his privileged status, stood in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed? Such opportunities to assuage "white guilt" don't come along very often, and perhaps, blinded by the sudden opportunity to demonstrate that his heart was in the right place, he simply forgot about his responsibility as president to withhold judgment until the evidence was in.

At least he seems to have forgotten about it until it became clear to him that his solidarity with the accuser and against the accused was going to cost his University a bundle. No doubt that realization served to concentrate his mind and helped him to see clearly the error of his thinking.

Thanks to Bill for passing along the article.


More on Jena

Dissatisfied with media coverage of the Jena 6 matter, Joe Carter has posted links to many of the relevant documents. It's a good source for material on the case that's hard to find anywhere else.


The Slaughter in Myanmar

The slaughter in Myanmar is worse than originally thought. Apparently thousands of Buddhist monks, non-violent by creed and tradition, have been butchered by the government of the country formerly known as Burma.

This article gives details and it also provokes a couple of questions. Why, for example does Marcus Oscarsson, the journalist who wrote the piece, print the name of a defector who provided the information when the defector's family remains in Burma?

This strikes me as terribly reckless at the very best. It's amazing to me that anyone would want to talk to journalists when so many show such insensitivity and concern for those they exploit as sources. Oscarsson says that his source "had no fears for his family's safety because his brother is a powerful general who will protect them," but why does Oscarsson take it upon himself to take that chance?

The second question this entire tragedy raises is for those who lean toward a pacifist solution to conflict. The Burmese interviewed for the story fear that the current protest movement, like the last one in 1988, has been extinguished for another generation. No one is more non-violent than Buddhist monks, but their attempts to reform their government have met with nothing but repression and murder each time they try to have their oppression eased. What are the lessons to be learned from both this terrible atrocity and the atrocity perpetrated by the Burmese junta's masters at Tianamen square?

Perhaps one lesson is that peaceful, non-violent protest generally succeeds only in countries where the government has a tradition of respecting human rights and where the government is accountable to the people - in other words, in Western democracies and states like India and Israel which are based on Western traditions.

In repressive regimes ruled by thugs, the non-violent solution may work, but experience seems to indicate that it's more likely to produce little more than the corpses of martyrs.