Writer Caitlin Flanagan recently took Duke University to task in the Atlantic Monthly -- and now Duke students are fighting back.
The 5,000-odd word article, which appeared on the magazine's website this week, criticizes Duke's "anti-intellectual" atmosphere which, Flanagan argues, became more apparent with the infamous leak of former student Karen Owen's sex-ratings PowerPoint last fall.
In some respects Duke has never moved on from the values of the 1980s, when droves of ambitious college students felt no moral ambivalence about preparing themselves for a life centered largely on the getting and spending of money. With a social scene dominated by fraternities and sororities (a way of life consisting of ardent partying and hooking up, offset by spurts of busywork composing angry letters to campus newspapers and taking online alcohol-education classes), with its large share of rich students displaying their money in the form of expensive cars and clothing, and with an attitude toward campus athletics that is at once deeply southern (this is a part of the world where even high-school athletes can be treated with awestruck deference by adults) and profoundly anti-intellectual, it's a university whose thoughtful students are overshadowed by its voraciously self-centered ones.
She also takes the opportunity of her article to lay into young women, vis a vis Owen.
If what we are seeing in Karen Owen is the realization of female sexual power, then we must at least admit that the first pancake off the griddle is a bit of a flop. What rotten luck that the first true daughter of sex-positive feminism would have an erotic proclivity for serving every kind of male need, no matter how mundane or humiliating, that she would so eagerly turn herself from sex mate to soccer mom, depending on what was wanted from her.
Needless to say, some Duke students aren't happy.
"Arguing this school is 'anti-intellectual,' [Flanagan] claims that anyone who doesn't fit into her boxes is marginalized," Duke sophomore Samantha Lachman writes in the school's newspaper. "But by saying that women are so impressionable they are overpowered by men, alcohol and the shadow of Karen Owen, she victimizes us."
The editor of the Duke Chronicle's arts and entertainment supplement appended posted a note on the site, calling Flanagan's article a "hit piece:"
Flanagan's a hack and the worst kind of pundit; after years of her hysterical essays, this is common knowledge. But that doesn't excuse The Atlantic for having printed pages of what is essentially deception, unprofessionalism and, in at least one instance, outright lies.
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