Search words: Duke University Duke Republican Club
At Duke, one of the deepest obligations of our elected leaders -- be they student Senators or University Trustees -- is to insure that the promise of this university is fulfilled, that this community not only tolerates but welcomes the entire spectrum of people, to live and learn surrounded by decency and decorum.
Last night, the Senate did its duty very well indeed, defunding the campus Republican organization and, in a further rebuke, taking the first step toward defanging it by revoking its charter.
The leaders of that organization, including the pusillanimous Carter Boyle who did not show despite his consent to a waiver of Senate rules that allowed consideration last night (Peter Feaver, the faculty adviser, also did not attend), stand confirmed as homophobes, racists, sexists, anti-Semites and common vandals. Convicted as individuals last spring by unanimous vote of the judiciary which did not find them guilty as a group, they did not stop, they continued if not escalated, and now stand exposed, gaining succor from each other's hate and utilizing the Republican Club, which should be playing a vital role on this campus, as their dirty instrument.
Justin Robinette, club chair until he was ousted last spring because other club leaders discovered he was coming out as gay, pursued this moment with unusual commitment and vigor, displaying dignity, vast inner strength and fortitude. We all can take pride in his journey to justice, and in the role of his friends, particularly former Republican vice chair Cliff Satell, with him at every turn.
The depth of the bigotry Justin endured, the repetition of it, the slurs, the innuendo, the unwanted sexual e-mails -- not to mention anonymous death threats -- are not just an issue for students to resolve. But rather, the homophobia -- as well as other discrimination by Boyle and his ilk -- cry out for a response from our administration as well.
Vice President for Student Life Larry Moneta is critical. Almost two weeks ago Fact Checker received an unsolicited, confidential e-mail from a student who provided specific information about a racist incident, the target not involved in any way with the Republicans who perpetrated it.
With permission of the writer, this information was forwarded to Moneta, who responded to FC within the hour indicating an entire dossier was being compiled. But as of two days ago, that witness had yet to be contacted by university disciplinary officials. Our community needs reassurance that our zero tolerance policy is being enforced.
As I wrote when I alluded to this in a previous post, this incident alone is of the gravity to merit suspension. Coupled with a pattern of unacceptable behavior, it should lead to expulsion. And it is incumbent upon Moneta and his staff to consider these options.
Last night also revealed contradictions in testimony on other incidents that must merit the concern of disciplinary officials, as the Duke Community Standard's strict prohibition against lying comes into play. If you could see me now, you'd see me chuckle, for today's Republicans seem destined to repeat the sin of fellow Dukie Richard Nixon, who made lying during the cover-up worse than the crime.
President Brodhead refused at first to meet with Robinette, and later allowed him a brief visit. I have held back details of that meeting, expressing instead my hope that Brodhead would at the very least reaffirm university principles.
Unprepared, seemingly disconnected, not tuned in at all to the hate e-mails, Brodhead said he did not want to appear to be taking sides. Mr. President, when you are confronted by people whispering and yelling Fag, calling the LGBT office the Faggot Center, referring to fellow students as Shit-on-Dicks, writing notes about Naggers, suggesting blacks order Kentucky Fried Chicken, and calling all Jews pigs, all directly at odds with the commitment of Duke, you are not accorded the luxury of not taking sides.
When FC heard that Brodhead would not speak out, I recalled the speech that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave at Duke, which you can listen to on-line.
I say speech, because the racists who prevented King's appearance for many years, having been trumped by his winning of the Nobel Prize, had their last breath in denying him a sermon from the pulpit of Duke Chapel, relegating him instead to the podium of Page Auditorium.
King made two points, both relevant today.
First he took note of new civil rights legislation, and he said it was remarkable how fast the rule of law was allowing blacks to eat in restaurants and stay in hotels, even in the depths of Mississippi and Alabama.
Brodhead should have renewed for this campus the law under which we live, for that alone would have been a force for good will.
King also said that good men, who in times of moral challenge merely stand by, are as guilty as the segregationists themselves in perpetuating racism. In today's terms, it means that Brodhead's being mute left him no better than Carter Boyle, and indeed our hapless president might just as well have invited Boyle to his office, thrown open the windows, and shouted onto the quad in unison, "Fag!!"
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