While there's a lot of competition, (Lee Bollinger is perpetual favorite) this year the award goes to the President of Duke University, for supporting the Duke Rape Hoax, and for failing to protect his students from threats of violence.
The last of our three finalists is president of Duke, Richard Brodhead. [Send him mail.]Because Michael Nifong made himself such a spectacular villain in the lacrosse case, Mr. Brodhead escaped without much criticism. But here is what Mr. Brodhead did: On hearing the first reports, he abruptly canceled the lacrosse season, suspended the two players named in the case, and fired the lacrosse coach of 16 years, giving him less than a day to get out.
This helped create the impression that the players were guilty. His long letter to the campus on April 20 did the same thing. He didn't say the boys were guilty, but he talked passionately about the coercion and assault of women, the legacy of racism, and privilege and inequality – all of which fed the anger aimed at the lacrosse team.
Mr. Brodhead did nothing to deter the tsunami whipped up against the players by some students and the Group of 88, an alliance of mostly radical race and gender professors. One of the looniest of the 88, Houston Baker, answered a polite and worried letter from one of the lacrosse moms by calling her "the mother of a farm animal."
Without any comment from Mr. Brodhead, the protesters issued death threats, carried banners that said "castrate," featured photos of lacrosse players on "Wanted" fliers, and banged pots outside the boys' residences in the early morning hours to disturb their sleep. A word from the president about leaving the boys alone and guaranteeing them a fair trial would have been nice.
Like Mr. Brodhead, the Group of 88 did not quite call the players guilty, but praised the campus protestors for "shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman." No comment about that from Mr. Brodhead and no comment from him on Mr. Nifong for nine months. An engineering professor at Duke said, "There never was a clear sense that the students were innocent until proven guilty."
Congratulations Richard Brodhead, Sheldon laureate 2007. And you should resign.