Duke vs. Freedom

By on March 5, 2013

As Torch readers (and lots of Americans generally) know, Duke University’s conduct during the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax scandal was, shall we say, subpar. But many may not know that the fallout from the scandal continues to this day, with Duke’s lawyers doing everything they can to extricate the university from a mess of its own making. Unfortunately, Duke has been heedless of some of the collateral damage it has attempted to cause in its quest to save itself some money—and some of that damage has splashed over into the territory of free speech and academic freedom.

Brooklyn College professor and FIRE friend KC Johnson, who, along with Stuart Taylor Jr., literally wrote the book on the Crystal Mangum hoax, is one of the people most recently in Duke’s crosshairs. On his blog Durham in Wonderland, KC shares the harrowing story of how Duke used the legal process to run roughshod over his rights as a journalist and a researcher—and how it would have succeeded if not for KC’s excellent legal counsel. It’s well worth reading in full, and it’s particularly interesting how Duke is willing to make arguments that are highly likely to come back and bite the institution in the future:

A major research university that deems itself “happy” with forcing researchers to turn over internal correspondence in a civil suit to which the professor isn’t a party—as Duke’s attorneys described the university’s attitude to Maine District Court judge Brock Hornby—will have trouble attracting quality scholars, at least those whose research in any way touches on controversial, contemporary matters.

Food for thought for Duke administrators, I think.

Schools: Duke University