Supposedly the administration at Duke University is mad as hell about the behavior of members of the school’s lacrosse team. That’s the rumor at least, but you wouldn’t know it judging from the university’s slow, tepid response to what could add up, if proved, to be a horrendous collection of crimes by a group of students. And you wouldn’t know it by the statements of President Dick Brodhead and Athletics Director Joe Alleva at their news conference Tuesday night.
They rightly announced that they have suspended lacrosse matches until resolution of the charges of rape, kidnapping, robbery and strangulation made by a stripper–an N.C. Central student–who performed at a lacrosse team party. And they properly support the team’s right to remain silent and be considered innocent until proven guilty. It even appears team members have cooperated with police more than has been previously acknowledged.
But, as apparently convinced as they are by team members’ insistence that they are innocent, they have not faced up to the fact that what happened that night is a reflection of a larger problem at the university that may very well have led to a violent crime.
The racism and sexism that have come to light are horrifying. The night of the party, neighbors heard a student shout at the dancer as she tried to leave, “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt.” A woman walking past the house that night called 911, unrelated to the alleged assault, complaining that someone had shouted the “n” word at her. Near a vigil over the weekend, someone at a student party taunted women holding candles with “C’mon up, you know you want it, too.”
Combine that with the descriptions of routine embarrassments suffered by four black Duke students reported this week by Fiona Morgan (see page 13), and you get a picture of some students who are not afraid to express the most outrageous kind of prejudice.
There have been statements from Brodhead on down about how awful it is if what is alleged is true and how certain behaviors will not be tolerated. But it’s not a shock to most that there is out of control drinking and partying and an all too pervasive indignant, privileged and racist attitude among some of the students who share the town of Durham. That is now as much a part of the issue as the alleged rape–and one that the administration is not addressing.
Alleva said Tuesday that, “Unfortunately, they’re young men, and sometimes young men made bad decisions, make some bad judgments, and that’s what this whole incident’s about–making a bad judgment.”
He doesn’t seem to get that it has become about a lot more than that.