Forum: July-August 2005



I am honored to be part of the Duke family and I applaud Duke Magazine as an excellent publication that reflects the current issues and events at our great university.†I was thrilled to read that our astute leaders of the Duke religious community have chosen to be true followers of Christ and promote inclusion of our gay brothers and lesbian sisters at Duke Chapel. Too often we forget that Christ himself was turned away by the religious "leaders" of his day.

I was consequently dismayed by a letter you published in the March-April 2005 "Forum" by an alumnus who invoked the name of Christ in her exclusionary comments encouraging no gay marriages at Duke Chapel. I would like to reply that the "high academic standards [of Duke are] compatible with high moral standards"--as she queries on recent events at Duke Chapel.

She writes of Christ's teachings, yet fails to invoke Christ's teachings on being gay--namely, that he never said anything at all!†He did, however, always teach a story of inclusion.†I will spare readers the religious argument and simply say "thank you" to our staff at Duke Chapel for being leaders in not only academics, but also the true teachings of Christ.

Christopher J. Vesy, M.D.
House Staff '96
Dallas, Texas


Letter writer David Cohen '82 [March-April 2005], under the heading "Representing All Views," states that a letter I wrote [in November-December 2004] "displays [my] vicious, paranoid type of thinking" and then chastises Duke for being an institution that "promotes free speech at all costs." What terrible sins did Duke and I commit, according to Mr. Cohen? Duke agreed to host the fourth National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, citing principles of free speech and a commitment to providing an environment for the safe and open airing of controversial ideas.

My sin was to applaud Duke for its principled stance, especially for withstanding pressure from pro-Israel organizations. I went on to state that "there are two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and that, unfortunately, we seldom are allowed to hear the Palestinian side of this issue. The late Pope John Paul II visited the Holy Land in 2001 and spoke out against the violence while identifying the root cause--the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel. In addition, the Presbyterian Church, and possibly the Episcopal Church, are in the process of divesting stocks of companies doing business in Israel because of Israel's decades-long occupation and oppression of millions of Palestinians.

Does Mr. Cohen think that these church leaders also "display vicious, paranoid types of thinking"?

Ray Gordon
Baltimore, Maryland

Statistics Shock

Being a member of the older generation, I was shocked at your [national] statistics that one in six women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her college career ["The Silent Epidemic," March-April 2005]. When

I was in college, we boys had the same hormones as they do now, but we respected the college girls too much, or were too afraid of the consequences, to attempt rape at the terrible frequency as stated in your statistics.

Has the provocative Britney Spears' "almost anything goes, almost everything shows" dress code, exposed daily from Hollywood and copied on the campuses, caused some loss of respect and contributed to this rape statistic?

Can the "hook-up" practice be a heavy peer-pressure problem to the freshmen?

I commend Duke for its attempts at curbing this sexual crime wave with Sexual Assault Support Services and Sexual Assault Prevention Week activities. Hopefully, this will help, but shouldn't criminal charges be made in the Durham courts for these rapes, instead of being glossed over by a committee of administrators and students without penalties when guilty? Rape by a Duke student is not a lesser crime than one performed by a nonstudent--the victims suffer the same! Would not the fear of serving time in prison make a student think twice (or more) before forcing sex on an unwilling partner? I believe it would!

J.W. Ramey M.D. '54
Danville, Kentucky

I read Bridget Booher's recent article and was stunned when I saw the statistics; this news needs to be circulated more widely. I think that articles like this should be mandatory reading as part of every high-school and college curriculum.

I am a past national director on the board of the largest fraternity in the U.S.; I still speak, from time to time, at the invitation of the national fraternity. Having been moved by Ms. Booher's article, I have adopted her message as the only message that I will now deliver to the undergraduate and graduated brothers. At my request, that board of directors is now considering a greatly expanded and mandatory role for the national fraternity and all of its undergraduate chapters. Earliest feedback suggests that there is universal support at the board level;

I have already been asked to consider "leading the charge" to develop a comprehensive structure for implementation.

My daughter is the assistant director of M.B.A. admissions at Fuqua, and her husband works in Duke Medical Center; he is also a student in the Executive M.B.A. Program. Articles like this cement our family bond with Duke and make us proud that Ms. Booher, another Duke alumna, could write so clearly about a problem that affects all of us, whether they are students, graduates, husbands, wives, mothers, or fathers. As a result of this article,

I can promise you that this problem will get more attention. Thank you for doing your part.

Keith H. Pollard E.M.B.A. '81
Metairie, Louisiana

In "The Silent Epidemic," Bridget Booher writes, "One in four women will be raped during her lifetime, according to the American Association of University Women." This myth--absurd on its face--has been debunked so thoroughly and so often, that I am embarrassed for the magazine that it got by its editors. Even Mary Koss, author of the controversial and much-maligned 1985 study to which this statistic is usually attributed, has never made this claim.

Unfortunately, the American Association of University Women did not respond to my inquiry as to whether it stands by the "one-in-four" claim. However, while its website contains several questionably sourced and seemingly contradictory statistics about rape, "one-in-four" is nowhere to be found.

Exactly how many women are victims of rape in a given year or a lifetime remains the subject of intense debate, which has unfortunately been characterized more by transparent politicization and ad hominem attacks than by serious scholarship. A letter to the editor cannot accommodate a comprehensive analysis of the competing claims, but another statistic cited by Ms. Booher may be instructive: Within the same paragraph as the "one-in-four" statistic, she notes that 65 percent of rapes are not reported to the police. In 2003, approximately 93,400 rapes were reported to law enforcement officials, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, an incidence of 0.063 percent of women nationwide. One need not be a statistician to see that

Ms. Booher's two statistics are mutually exclusive.

I defer to no one in my abhorrence of rapists or my sympathy for rape victims. But the visceral reaction that the word "rape" engenders in most of us is no justification for manufacturing phony statistics about its prevalence.

Phillip Allen J.D. '97
Louisville, Kentucky

Booher responds:

As with all research, statistics vary depending on how the study defines sexual assault/rape, methodology used, the population, and many other factors. For example, based on the U.S. Department of Justice's

National Crime Victimization Survey, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes. (See for a broad range of statistics with citations about rape and sexual assault.)

Whether Mr. Allen agrees or disagrees with the Justice Department, the Association of American Women, or any other organization that tracks crime trends, is his prerogative. I'm sorry he chose to ignore the larger issue explored in the article-- namely, how best to understand and address the factors that contribute to rape culture (adolescent/young-adult sexuality, the hook-up culture, the prevalence of alcohol abuse, gender socialization, media influences, etc.), as well as how to support the healing of individuals and communities affected by it.


Reading about the rude treatment to Herald-Sun staffers when the paper was sold to an outside news syndicate this year ["Under the Gargoyle," March-April 2005] reminded me of my days as a Sun reporter. It was in 1947, in the balmy days just after World War II. The entire news staff, including sports and society, totaled ten people.

My pay was $35 a week. Although my salary was a pittance, my news beat was formidable. It included the police blotter, the city manager, the county commissioners, and the tobacco market. Looking toward my own future, I yearned to buy stock in the newspaper. No, I was told, there is none for sale. In so many words, it was implied, this is a closed corporation. Outsiders are not invited to join.

Okay, I thought, I'll make my mark as an investigative reporter. What then would make a better target than "revealing" that there were two "cathouses" within the Durham city limits?

Taking pad and pencil along, I dutifully visited the "meeting rooms" of the houses. I talked with some of the girls, noted prices, hours, drink's availability, and addresses. The information was typed in duplicate and handed to the chief of police for his comment.

Seated in his office in the basement of the court house, the chief glanced at the story, tore it into two pieces, and stared at me. "Shucks," he said. "I know what you have been doing at night. If you want any assistance from us in the future, things like traffic accidents, robberies--help of any kind--you will stop this foolishness. Otherwise, you will never see another police report again."

Happy that I was the tip of the spear of public morality, I submitted my story, including the chief's remarks, to the managing editor.

"For heaven's sake," he said. "This is a family newspaper. Quit wasting your time and get back to your own news beat. Besides, if you tick off the chief of police, we will never ever get any news from him."

But I still wanted to be an investigative reporter. So, when whispers circulated through the courthouse of possible marijuana availability, I was interested. That vanished quickly when I was jammed into the corner of the courthouse elevator by a massive, six-foot-four man. "Boy," he murmured in my ear, "if you ask any more questions about drugs, I'll break both your legs."

Back I went to the city room to report the elevator conversation to my boss.

"Gosh," he sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you? This is a family newspaper. We don't need these kinds of stories."

Well, I thought, if they don't care about my legs, why should I go around asking dangerous, leading questions? Luckily, soon after, a job opening appeared at an out-of-state newspaper and I was gone.

But that's the way it used to be in Durham.

Tim Rowan '47
Jacksonville, Florida


At the recent Reunion Weekend, I attended the State of the University address by President Brodhead. Upon entering Page Auditorium, a student handed me what appeared to be, based on the front cover, a program for the morning's events. I discovered, however, that the inside had nothing to do with the State of the University, but was about the "struggle for workers' rights."

While the struggle for workers' rights is often a commendable one, and one that is not new on the Duke campus, the situation decried in this leaflet was not commendable. In essence, the Duke Health System outsourced its laundry service, with price presumably one of the factors used in choosing the contractor. Now a segment of the Duke student body is demanding changes in the outsourced firm's human-resource practices.

It strikes me that the concerned students are fighting the battle at the wrong time and with the wrong villain. They should be demanding that the Duke Health System choose a different outsource contractor, and be prepared to pay the higher costs that are bound to come with higher wages, lower production quotas, and unionization.

I also wish that the students would give some attention to "truth in labeling." I found the whole incident misguided and tasteless. If the organizers set out to offend alumni, they succeeded with me.

T. Chandler Cox B.S.E.E. '60
Rockville, Maryland

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