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Smart people act foolish in Duke scandal

When Woody Allen said, "The brain is the most overrated organ," he must have had in mind North Carolina's Research Triangle, home both to the scandalous Duke lacrosse team "rape" fiasco - and to more Ph.Ds per capita than just about anywhere else in America.

Rarely have so many smart people behaved so dumbly.

Last week, the case took yet a new turn when discredited district attorney Mike Nifong, under pressure from the state prosecutors association, relinquished the case to the state attorney general.

In another development, the stripper who initially claimed she was beaten, raped and sodomized by three Duke University lacrosse team players - Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann - has changed her story.

Again.

This time she says Seligmann didn't participate in the alleged assault after all, though she still insists he was there when the others did. She also changed the time of the alleged assault so that it no longer coincides with time-stamped receipts Seligmann produced months ago indicating that he wasn't at the party house when the incident supposedly took place.

A bit earlier, the dancer also decided she might not have been (children stop reading here) vaginally penetrated by a penis, which is required for a rape charge in North Carolina. Nifong dropped the rape charges, but intended to pursue the remaining charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

And so it has gone for almost a year now. A new day, a new story.

Of all the questions still unanswered in this shameful saga, among the most perplexing is: How did so many smart people allow things to reach the level of hysteria we've witnessed in the past several months?

The answer is implicit in the question. Notwithstanding the rich brain trust created by the three points of North Carolina's "Triangle" - Duke in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh - university communities are fertile breeding grounds for the totalitarian mind-set known as political correctness.

Between a perverse form of liberation feminism that sanctifies strippers, prostitutes and porn stars - and a dogma of victimology that places blame for all things at the feet of the white patriarchy - the players were instantaneously presumed guilty by virtue of their being white males and privileged jocks.

By the same reasoning, the dancer was assured victimhood by her status as a black single mother/student, reduced by centuries of white-male oppression to stripping for food and tuition.

What happens next depends on the attorney general's review of evidence. In the meantime, members of the university community who participated in the demonization of the lacrosse team might examine their own souls.

The past year has not been exemplary for the keepers of the flame. Before any charges were brought against the three players, students produced a "wanted" poster with photos of team members and demonstrated with signs reading, "It's Sunday morning, time to confess."

Higher up the food chain, Duke faculty formed the "Group of 88" - a coalition of 88 faculty members representing 13 departments - and ran an ad demanding that the lacrosse team players confess.

It's been quite a spectacle. It also has been a damning indictment of an intellectually dishonest culture that pretends to the virtue of enlightened tolerance, but only for a select few. White males are the last remaining group approved for public vilification.

In a March letter to the Duke administration just days after the alleged rape, English professor Houston A. Baker Jr. brought clarity to the anti-white male, anti-jock bias that is today entrenched on many college campuses. It reads in part:

"How many more people of color must fall victim to violent, white, male, athletic privilege before coaches who make Chevrolet and American Express commercials, athletic directors who engage in Miss Ophelia-styled 'perfectly horrible' rhetoric, higher administrators who are salaried at least in part to keep us safe, and publicists who are supposed not to praise Caesar but to damn the unconscionable ... how many?"

Got that, white-male-capitalist-pig-jocks of the world? Guilty. To Duke's credit, Provost Peter Lange responded to Houston with an eloquent reprimand against prejudgment.

Under pressure from feminist groups, college administrators long have sponsored lectures about date rape and sexual harassment, directed at young males, all of whom are presumed to be potential predators.

In light of events at Duke, they might consider adding a new seminar to the roster - one to review the rules of due process, the evil of mob rule, and the art of apology.

They might invite their faculties to attend.

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kparker@kparker.com.

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