Monday, October 04, 2004

Re: Professor Ogletree’s Response

Dear Colleagues:

A September 29th posting on this blog strongly, even harshly, criticized Professor Ogletree. Here is what was said, in full relevant part:

Anyway, Professor Tribe quickly issued a mea culpa, an apology, after being ‘outed.’ He took ‘full responsibility’ for the failure of attribution. One should applaud the immediate assumption of responsibility.

What one cannot applaud are the apparent reactions of Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz to the Tribe situation. Ogletree is quoted by The Harvard Crimson as saying that the charges against Tribe are ‘nonsense.’ Nonsense? When Tribe has admitted them and apologized? It is hard to believe Ogletree said that. Is The Crimson quoting him correctly and in context? If it is, what the hell is the matter with this guy? One begins to wonder whether Harvard should keep him.

Whenever someone is criticized here, he or she (so far I don’t remember any she’s, however) is asked if they would like to respond. Professor Ogletree was asked. He has responded. Set forth below are the relevant context of what appeared in The Crimson, and Professor Ogletree’s response to me.

The Crimson wrote:

‘I have immediately written an apology to Professor Abraham, whom I -- like so
many others -- hold in the highest regard,’ Tribe said in his statement.

The 83-year-old Abraham, who is retired from his post as a law professor at the University of Virginia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But both Ogletree and Dershowitz jumped to defend their colleague from the charges leveled against him.

Ogletree, speaking to The Crimson yesterday, dismissed The Standard’s allegations against Tribe as ‘nonsense.’

Professor Ogletree’s response says:

My ‘nonsense’ response was to the claim that Professor Tribe would NOT respond
to the charges. He responded the very day that the matter was brought to his
attention, as I imagined he would. Nothing else was said or should be implied
from my comment. [Emphasis in original.]

There obviously is what one might politely call a disjunction between what The Crimson wrote and what Professor Ogletree wrote. To explicitly state the utterly obvious, The Crimson says Professor Ogletree called the charges against Professor Tribe nonsense. Professor Ogletree says he called the idea that Professor Tribe would not respond to the charges nonsense.
This all seems quite unfortunate. For either The Crimson would seem to have quoted Professor Ogletree horribly out of context (as the blog suggested might be possible), or there was a misunderstanding somehow, or Professor Ogletree’s response is not true.

In view of what the first and last of the three possibilities might mean, it would seem desirable for the dramatis personnae to try to clear up what caused the disjunction. One is sorely tempted to think, one surely wants to think, that there was some sort of misunderstanding on one side or the other, or even on both sides. But one doesn’t know. Given the unhappy meaning of two of the alternatives, the parties should try to clear up what happened.

If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection; please tell me if you do object.

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