Duke professors get ominous e-mail messages

Staff WriterApril 25, 2007 

Duke University professors have reported to campus police that they have received threatening e-mail messages in the aftermath of the lacrosse case.

Duke police would not comment Tuesday on the nature of the threats or how many professors have received them.

Harsh messages related to the lacrosse case aren't new at Duke. For months, faculty members have received nasty e-mail messages. The main targets were 88 professors who endorsed an ad in the student newspaper a year ago that bore the headline, "What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?"

The ad has been characterized by bloggers and others as a politically correct rant and an unfair condemnation of the lacrosse team. Professors have said the ad was widely misinterpreted and was meant to highlight larger campus issues of racism and sexism.

Some professors say the volume of e-mail increased just after Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed sexual assault charges against three former Duke lacrosse players April 11.

Paul Haagen, law professor and chairman of Duke's Academic Council, said he had noticed an uptick in the angry e-mail after the case ended, but he has not personally received threats of violence. "It's the 'You're an idiot, why don't you jump off a building,' kind of thing," he said.

Paula McClain, a political science professor, declined to identify the recipients or comment about specific threats. But when asked if the threats were of a violent nature, she said: "When you get death threats, there is an implied assumption that there is physical violence."

The murderous rampage by a gunman last week at Virginia Tech has made real the possibility of what can happen on a college campus, McClain said. "It's a very serious situation."

Staff writer Jane Stancill can be reached at 956-2464 or jane.stancill@newsobserver.com.

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