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Duke does precious little for the patriotic holidays, letting July 4th, Memorial Day and Veterans Day go by with barely a mention. It neglects American heroes like Washington and Lincoln by passing on President's Day too, not to mention the common working man's Labor Day. On the most rare of occasions, it does pay homage to the eclectic, as when President Brodhead adopted the role of Satan and joined in readings to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Milton.
In this context, with so little observance of other holidays, the annual week-long celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday has raised many eyebrows: Is Duke trying to atone for its racist past? Is the University pandering?
I shall leave that debate to others, and instead propose that we follow the grand sweep of speakers and events in the coming week with new resolve to address unfinished business right here on campus.
At the beginning of last semester, two student leaders (Bergmann and Passo) called our attention to the man whom we honor with this building: an aggressive white supremist, agitator and fomenter of a lynch mob in Wilmington NC that succeeded in killing dozens of blacks -- perhaps 100 -- on November 10, 1898.
A Deputy Fact Checker wrote to President Brodhead on September 22, 2009 about this outrage -- and sent two other e-mails to jar him -- and has yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.
The WILLIS SMITH AWARD
Given annually to the law school graduate with the highest academic average, this award memorializes a rabid racist. Chair of our Trustees, he stopped two votes by the board that would have integrated Duke. He also ran for the US Senate. His winning slogan: "Wake Up, White People!" He labeled his opponent, Frank Porter Graham of UNC fame, as a proponent of "mingling of the races."
A Deputy Fact Checker wrote to Mr. Brodhead and Dean Levi of the Law School about this disgrace, and I regret to report to you that there has been no response since September. With Brodhead, I have come to expect it. Shame on you Dean Levi.
Duke took a small segment of its vast forest and carved it into building lots for faculty members. It inserted two covenants in every deed:
The faculty member could never sell nor rent to a person "with Negro blood," a common covenant in the south in years ago.
The faculty member could not allow a person "with Negro blood" to sleep over on the property unless he or she was household help. That's distinctly Duke.
People of good faith have challenged these covenants for more than half century; after much prodding President Brodhead went further than any of his predecessors in responding, adding to the deeds a promise that Duke would never enforce its rights. Though he called this "largely symbolic," Fact Checker found it interesting that Mr. Brodhead never apologized, and made an underling sign the promise. Sadly, only one member of the faculty spoke up in support of Mr. Brodhead's actions, even though hundreds are directly affected.
Brodhead's "action" is not good enough. As the former University Counsel agreed, Duke can take legal steps not only to waive its rights under living covenants, but to kill the covenants themselves. Here's one time that we should call for the death penalty.
ENDOWMENT FOR WHITES ONLY
Duke takes money for special causes, for example scholarships restricted to blacks. I find that laudable -- to advance a stated university goal to make higher education more available to people historically discriminated against or marginalized.
Some donors had malice in their hearts when they restricted their endowments to "whites only." That's wrong.
Duke has secretly sued two of those early donors to try to change the terms -- but our secretive administration refuses even to say what court the lawsuits were filed in.
It's time for the Brodhead Administration to come clean on this one, to show us all the cards.
AWARD FOR TEACHING EXCELLENCE
Dr. King stood for more than racial justice. He summoned everyone of us to fulfill all of America's promise with honor and fairness and social and economic justice.
Which brings us to the award presented annually by the President personally -- named for a sick homophobe who carried on a personal pogrom. How's this quote: "There are two things we cannot have around here. Thieves and homosexuals."
Mr. Brodhead, answer the e-mail you got four months ago on this.
Nan Keohane initiated a thorough review of the status of women at Duke, and Dick Brodhead buried it. There will be a revival in the coming weeks, and here are some statistics that should loom large at that time.
The numbers are from the American Association of University Professors, salaries for the nine month 2008-2009 academic year at Duke.
Full professor - average excluding Medical School
Male $163,600 (Above the 95th percentile for all academics)
Associate professor - etc
Assistant professor - etc.
Why the academics on this campus do not raise holy hell about this, I have no idea. Engage, my teachers, engage!
✔ The Keohane initiative to hire at least one new black faculty member in every department bore some fruit. But not enough. Fact Checker does not have updated statistics. But I assure you we can do better.
I would hope in the not too distant future, one of our newest recruits, Professor Matory, who was very outspoken at Harvard, will be heard.
CHARGES FOR MEDICAL CARE
As Mr. Brodhead has noted, the Duke Health System has more than 700 contracts with health care insurers and others -- a crazy quilt that means different people are charged different fees for the same treatment. Indeed the task of keeping tabs on all this -- and squeezing out every dime -- is so complex that we have set up a separate entity, the Patient Revenue Management Organization, with 1,341 employees. Fact Check: yes that's right, 1,341 employees sending out medical bills.
And who do you think pays the highest fees for medical care? People not covered by insurance, who do not have contracts with a negotiated discount. Those discounts can be huge -- 50, 60, 70 percent.
The uninsured people are most often poor, often minority. And they are always pursued by Duke for every buck. For most of them, Duke is not a school or a hospital, but a plaintiff represented by an aggressive collection attorney.
This is immoral. At the very least, the poor should be accorded the same rates as the rich, who benefit from negotiations by insurance companies. Chancellor Dzau, take time off from your international travels and high paid corporate directorships, and address this.
Hold up a piece of imported Swiss cheese. Notice the holes? Our investment policy is worse.
Duke's pledge to withhold investments in Sudan is empty. It covers only "direct investments," that is, when we go to the stock market ourselves and do the picking. It does not cover our hiring of investment managers -- private equity and hedge funds -- who in turn do the picking.
Loyal readers, at least $3.3 billion does not fall under our policy.
All of Duke's investments are a big secret. Duke says to reveal any of its holdings and the results of its trades would cut into our annual return. That's as close to bullshit as you can get: even the charity founded by the partners of the Wall Street vultures Goldman Sachs reveals its annual purchases and sales, profits and losses, and not one of Goldman's partners has been heard to say this affects the yield.
Moreover, our investments should be made with more than an eye toward profits. They should do some good too.
✔✔ DR KING VISITS DUKE
Finally a history lesson. Fact Checker provides historical background and discusses Dr. King at Duke on November 13, 1964.
For many years prior to that date, as Dr. King emerged as the moral leader of his generation, students and others called for an invitation for him to speak -- an invitation to be handled by the Major Speakers Committee of the Student Union.
But there was subtle pressure against this. From administrators, from stacking the committee. Dr. King was "too radical" and "too disruptive." We'd prefer "someone with an intellectual approach." "Inflammatory."
Please understand the times: during most of these years Duke was segregated. When students in Women's College voted to ask the Trustees to include blacks, the KKK burned a giant cross through the night in front of the East Campus auditorium. The White Citizen's Council held sway with rallies at Durham High School's football stadium, George Wallace punctuating the night air with cries for "segregation forever."
There were sit-ins in Durham for the right of blacks to eat at lunch counters, and pickets for the right to go to movie theaters. Duke's drama students invited their counterparts from North Carolina Central to a performance -- only to have President Edens (honored with his name on a quad) bar them, explaining Page Auditorium had no rest rooms for blacks.
Even after Duke desegregated, the athletic director refused to take down the "Negro Section" sign at the football stadium (he's honored with Cameron Indoor Stadium). And on the very day that the first four black undergraduates arrived, the new president of the university (honored by having Knight House named for him) knowingly joined the notorious all-white Hope Valley Country Club.
And so the Student Union invited the president of Morehead College in Atlanta, Dr. Benjamin Mays, as our first major black speaker. He fulfilled the milquetoast requirement perfectly.
When Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize, he could be denied an invitation no longer.
He promptly accepted -- indeed Duke was one of his first stops. But segregationists took control of arrangements and denied the foremost Christian preacher of the era the pulpit in Duke Chapel. Relegated to Page Auditorium, an overflow crowd also gathered under loudspeakers on the Quad.
He had two messages:
--The Civil Rights Law of 1964 covering restaurants and hotels was very rapidly changing the landscape -- even in Alabama and Mississippi -- proving the moral force of law.
--People who stand by silently in an age of moral challenge are as guilty as the segregationists themselves in sustaining immorality and dishonor.
A few people did sit silent in Page. But many cried. And most rose in thunderous ovation and spontaneous singing of "We Shall Overcome." Please relive that moment in Duke's history by clicking here and listening.
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