Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Framing Duke University

A Science Blog article, “Framing Technique Can Be Used as a Public Relations Strategy in Cases of Sexual Assault” reports on a new study published in the journal Communication, Culture & Critique.  Researcher Barbara Barnett of Kansas University reports on her qualitative textual analysis of public relations materials published by Duke from March 24, 2006 through June 18, 2007 relating to the three white Duke University lacrosse players who were charged with rape.  Professor Barnett found that “Duke University officials framed the crisis in terms of institutional reputation rather than the rape issue at hand.”

The Science Blog reported the following

Allowing for the examination of emphasis and meaning, Barnett’s analysis revealed that the University carefully crafted its response to allegations of rape, presenting itself as a voice of reason in an emotionally charged atmosphere, and as a victim of a rogue prosecutor, whose case relied on rumor rather than solid evidence. In a case that involved allegations of rape, there was surprisingly little discussion on the issue of rape itself.
Duke University proved adept at speaking about its own image and integrity, but failed to address the larger issues in the case, including sexual objectification of women, the risks of sexual violence on college campuses, and the perceptions of privilege in U.S. college athletics.

“In the end, the charges against the Duke athletes turned out not to be true, but for nearly nine months, Duke lived with allegations that three student athletes might have raped a student at a nearby university. Duke focused on its own reputation but missed an opportunity to talk about the larger issue of rape” Barnett notes. “Sexual violence is a serious matter, and organizations that find themselves confronting such charges, even charges they suspect may not be true, need to speak clearly and strongly to the issue of rape.

The dankprofessor finds Professor Barnett’s conclusions to be surreal.  The fact of the matter is that ultimately the Duke lacrosse imbroglio did not deal with rape but with false charges of rape.  What Duke proved adept at was never considering such a possibility but employed a frame which presumed the lacrosse players to be guilty.  Such a framing functioned to encompass the suspension of the players from class, the termination of the lacrosse coach, the termination of the lacrosse playing season, the acceptance of faculty and student stigmatizing of the players and a refusal to confront the flagrant racial objectification of the Duke lacrosse players.

Clearly a due process frame was an alien frame to the Duke University administration.  Ultimately Duke in some way could have employed what happened as a means of educating about the importance of the presumption of innocence, the personal devastation that can result from false charges, and the importance of holding those responsibility who directly and indirectly promulgate such charges.

And now we have Kansas University professor Barnett who avoids dealing with the irresponsible “framing” employed by Duke University.  Such represents another academic engaging in avoidance and denial.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Duke University, ethics, higher education, political correctness, rape, sex, sexual politics, sexual rights, victimization, violence | Leave a comment

   

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