Feds postpone civil rights focus panels

✔ Fact Checker here. On duty. No vacation.

Months after formal complaints were filed, and just days before the formal investigative process was to begin with focus groups, Duke University has told the Department of Education it is open to "resolving" issues raised by students Justin Robinette and Cliff Satell.

Kay Bhagat, attorney in the Office of Civil Rights of the education department, says it's postponing for one week the all-day focus groups that had been scheduled for January 12 to begin assessment of problems at Duke. A similar Duke announcement indicated the postponement was indefinite.

Loyal Readers will recall all this started when leaders of the campus Republican Club changed their own rules in the middle of the night, excluded most members of the club from having a role, and proceeded to oust Robinette as chair. Just a coincidence of course that Robinette was coming out gay.

That was just the start. The issues involved went well beyond and spilled over in several directions.

One curiosity has arisen: invitations to the focus groups came from a fourth echelon Student Life functionary with an office in the cellar of Flowers Building -- not from President Brodhead, Vice President Moneta or Supreme Dean Nowicki as one would expect for something so serious.

And the invitations to the focus groups were not extended to everyone -- raising issues of how Duke picked the people to invite to discuss with federal investigators general conditions here as the first step in the formal inquiry.

✔ So we have a last minute switch of tactics by Duke, a familiar tactic to those of us who follow the sad state of the Brodhead administration's handling of our business. In years-old lacrosse litigation, with just hours to go before officials who have never been held accountable and told their story, much less told it under oath, were to respond to subpoenas, Duke changed course to head off the testimony.

This time Duke tries to head off testimony about continuing conditions on campus.

Lawyers on our staff and more firepower brought in from the outside at great cost (how's $2 million for one law firm in one year) under General Counsel Pam Bernard's supervision are notorious for dragging out proceedings, hoping plaintiffs and complainants will get tired or go broke.

FC has recently written about the possibility this immoral course will be followed when patients of Dr Anil Potti begin their inevitable malpractice suits. With the latest number showing 300 patients actually in clinical trials (which is to say medical experiments on human beings), plus many others subjected to screening, the liability here is very likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another FC theory: The last thing Brodhead and his coterie need is for a procession of students and other stakeholders to tell the feds that we have not only the issues Justin and Cliff are raising, but others as well.

To be continued.