Tuesday, April 30, 2013


              Like many, I receive abundant mailings from my alma mater, endlessly soliciting alumni contributions on the premise that whatever funds I have available for charity could be put to no better use.  Although these solicitations are both annoying and presumptuous, they are so ridiculous in the context of more compelling and attractive charitable needs that the fits of laughter they induce are almost worth the annoyance.  Almost.

                My alma mater, at least so far as my law degree is concerned (my B.A. is from Penn State), is Duke University. I rarely receive solicitations from Penn State, which is fine with me, but the Duke Fundraising Office is one of my most faithful correspondents.  Not only are their mailings frequent, but they are very elaborate, slick, and expensively produced.  Imposing artistic renditions of the iconic Duke Chapel are a regular feature, undoubtedly designed to tug at the heartstrings of more sentimental alumni by conjuring up images of their halcyon days gamboling on Duke's picturesque gothic campus. 

                 Duke seems to spare no expense in convincing alumni that it is in desperate and perpetual need of more and more millions -- although its elaborate expenditures on the machinery of fundraising itself are rather difficult to reconcile with its protestations of critical need.  Indeed, Duke's latest fundraising brochure lists an imposing staff of professional fundraising personnel whose payroll might necessitate another fundraising campaign all by itself.  There is a Senior Philanthropic Advisor, a Director of Trust and Estate Administration, a Director of Gift Planning, and even a Senior Gift Planning Counsel.  On top of all this, the solicitation documents give every indication that even the Dean of the Law School herself is primarily a fundraising officer.  The highest plaudits listed in a tribute to former Law School Dean Pamela Gann were that she had led a capital campaign for the law school that raised more than $17 million and that, in her later post as President of something called Claremont McKenna College, she had raised over $600 million.  What, one wonders, could something called Claremont McKenna do with $600 million?  But I digress.


                                         Duke's Lavishly Renovated Law School Building

                I have never associated Duke University with threadbare circumstances, crumbling infrastructure, or impoverished faculty, so the relentless fundraising naturally triggers a bit of skepticism.  And a quick check of internet sources confirmed my assumption that the Duke University endowment was incredibly large – about $5.75 billion, to be exact, as of 2011.  This is a breathtakingly astronomical number, especially taken in the context of the equally breathtaking number that comes next.

                Although I expected to find that tuition and fees at Duke Law School were remarkably high for 2013, I was not really prepared for what I found.  When tuition ($52,620), fees, and other student costs for the 2013-2014 academic year are totaled up – including, interestingly, $1,895 for medical insurance applicable in certain programs – the total comes to $75,103.  See http://law.duke.edu/admis/tuition/.  This to support a single year (out of the three required for a Juris Doctor degree) in the education of yet one more callow law student to inflict on society and the job market.

                With an endowment approaching $6 billion, and tuition receipts that, for a single student for a single year, exceed 100% of the average annual household income, one must grudgingly admire the audacity of an institution that, with a straight face, relentlessly solicits charitable contributions on the grounds of perpetual need.  And why pick on me for help?  True, I am an alumnus, but the moderately liberal, moderately priced Duke I attended over 40 years ago bears little resemblance to the bloated, overpriced, left-wing institution that occupies the quad surrounding the frowning statue of James B. Duke today.  With my conservative views, I would be about as home at Duke as a Tarheel who had lost his way from Chapel Hill garbed from head to toe in Carolina Blue.

                In any event, there are countless charities that tug on one's heartstrings more convincingly than a smug and well-heeled institution that specializes in unleashing hundreds of  neophyte liberal lawyers each year on a society already reeling under the social, political, legislative, and judicial atrocities inflicted upon it by the long line of legal pettifoggers that have preceded them to the bar.

                To name but a few examples -- of worthy charities, not unworthy pettifoggers -- there are inspiring childrens' hospitals, like St. Jude's, that devote their resources to curing innocent young children of deadly diseases or crippling injuries.

                There are also any number of national and international charities, like Child Fund International, that provide food, medicine, shelter, and healthcare for half-starved, disease-ridden, or simply impoverished children in grim corners of the world where a place like the Duke campus has never been imagined, let alone experienced.

                And there are admirable organizations supporting our military veterans, like Wounded Warriors, that at least make a partial payment of the immeasurable debt we owe to those who have sacrificed their health and limbs in furtherance of our national security.

                But perhaps this comparison is unfair.  Perhaps more context is needed – like considering the content and benefits of the courses that one's contributions would presumably subsidize at Duke Law School.  Well, let's take a look.

                Here is just a sampling of the fascinating menu of the current Duke Law School curriculum:  Advanced Issues in Wrongful Conviction (i.e., how to re-open and retry the cases of convicted murderers and felons in circumvention of res judicata); Animal Law (do cats and cows have constitutional rights?); AIDS Policy Clinic (why is AIDS policy more compelling than, say, cancer policy?); Community Enterprise Law; Forensic Psychiatry; and, with a tip of the hat to our budding capitalist-supporting lawyers, Structuring Venture Capital and Private Equity Transactions.  Apart from the latter, a more representative sample of the politically correct academic ideal would be difficult to imagine.  Surely the needs of childrens' hospitals or veterans assistance programs should not stand in the way of subsidizing these critically important fields of legal education?

                                            Beneficiary of Duke's GTMO Defense Clinic

                But we save the best for last.  To round out the picture, Duke donors should know that the Law School's curriculum includes that paragon of practical, hands-on legal education, the Guantanamo Defense Clinic (Course No. 448, 4 credits).  See http://law.duke.edu/curriculum/courseinfo/course?id=91.  One can do no better than quote from the Law School's own Course Information listing:

                                The Spring 2013 Guantanamo Defense Clinic will assist in the representation of
                Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the named defendant in the military prosecution of the 9/11

                                Clinic students will work with clinic professors and defense counsel to construct
                case theories and to identify and analyze legal issues and will produce legal memoranda
                (comprised of both legal analysis and exposition of potential defense strategies) and
                draft defense pleadings.

                                Each student will perform a minimum of 100 hours of work apart from meetings
                at the scheduled class time.

                 In case memories have grown a bit dim, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad is the odious terrorist who was identified by the 9/11 Commission Report as "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," which slaughtered thousands of Americans and gave rise to the many impositions on our liberties which eventuated from the War on Terrorism.  He was captured in 2003 and now, 10 years later, he remains untried, unconvicted, and unpunished – thanks to the efforts of batteries of defense attorneys who have been energetically assisted by the Duke Guantanamo Clinic for eight years.

                So, as we can see, donors to Duke Law School can rest confident in the knowledge that their charitable dollars are not going to something so commonplace and pedestrian as the health and feeding of embattled small children.  No, they will instead subsidize a faculty and a curriculum that enables ambitious young law students to leave no stone unturned in the fanatical and pettifogging defense of a malicious Islamic terrorist mass murderer who is already tenaciously defended by a crack phalanx of experienced lawyers.

                Duke's law professors are adroit at teaching their students about the "balancing tests" that are such an integral part of modern legal analysis.  Those considering a generous contribution to Duke Law School might consider a balancing test of their own:  Would the dollars I contribute to an already prosperous institution that churns out surplus lawyers our financially embattled society neither needs nor wants, and subsidizes student support of extreme legal maneuvers to defend one of history's most malicious terrorists, be better devoted to a childrens' hospital, a wounded veterans' project, or the relief of the world's starving millions?

                Even a lawyer should be able to figure that one out.

                                                                         * * * *


              Following my posting the above, I came upon the following story posted by the energetic bloggers at The College Fix, see www.thecollegefix.com/post/13359, which sheds further light on why the cost of a Duke education is so ridiculously high and why donors should give some serious reconsideration to just what it is they are supporting with their contributions.  As College Fix reported (with a citation to Campus Reform for the full story) in part:
                        Duke Raises Student Fees to Pay for Sex Change Surgery
"College costs are on the rise–having increased at a rate that outpaces inflation for more than two decades, contributing to record levels of student debt. Nevertheless, Duke University saw fit to raise the cost of its program even more. This week Campus Reform reports that Duke has raised student fees in order to pay for sex change operations for any student who wants one.

"Administrators say they will cover the cost of the reassignment surgery up to $50,000 that will be covered with a cause a 0.3 percent increase to overall student fees.  LGBT advocates on campus immediately celebrated the university’s decision.

“'The addition of sexual reassignment surgery with a $50,000 cap makes Duke’s student health care plan one of the most, if not the most, transgender-inclusive plans in the country,'” Sunny Frothingham, the outreach chair for Blue Devils United told the Duke Chronicle last week…"
Read the full story at Campus Reform.




  1. great post GC!

    you may want to further expound on this post with a peek at Swarthmore's Mountain Justice and their supremecy there. Likely Duke has myriad counterparts, but this video posted on the National Review CORNER written by Stanley Kurtz gives a palpable witness to the results of classes such as
    those you review above. None of these institutions deserve alumni money. It would be interesting to now who is feeding the billions to the coffers of Duke and others. Of course we can surmise international governments and oligarchs and corruptocrats.



    another site you must peruse to get aquainted with what is happening in K-12 education and how places like Duke Have fascilitated the travesty

    1. Thanks for the comments and the leads, tanni. I will take a look.

  2. continued from above:


    Common Core is a behemouth woth examination and scrutiny. the truth is it is a nationalized education plan masquerading as a state led independant operation. it is to be one of the greatest American tragedies if it does not get mass opposition and that is hard because those that feather Dukes nest also own the airwaves to the low info masses. Stanley Kurtz among other have much to say about it.

    also acknowledge a typo from my comment above, now should be Know.