FAQ on Situation Involving Men's Lacrosse Team

[Updated June 30, 2006]


Are the three indicted students suspended?

The university is prohibited under federal privacy regulations from releasing information regarding student disciplinary matters. Historically, it has been the university's practice to issue an interim suspension when a student is charged with a felony or when the student's presence on the campus may create an unsafe situation. One of the students was indicted the day after his graduation from Duke.

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Why is Duke not conducting its own investigation into allegations relating to the men's lacrosse team?

Police authorities are authorized by law to compel testimony and the production of evidence. Without such authority, Duke lacks the ability to conduct a complete investigation. In addition, Duke must avoid any actions that would compromise or interfere with the police investigation. After the criminal charges are resolved, Duke will evaluate whether charges should be brought under Duke's judicial code.

A committee appointed by President Brodhead has examined the on-campus and off-campus culture of the men's lacrosse program. That group, led by law professor James Coleman, issued its findings and made recommendations to the president on May 1 (To read the committee report, go here).

For more information, go here.

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How does Duke handle disciplinary cases?

Students may be accountable to both civil authorities and to the university for acts that violate state or federal laws. University disciplinary action will normally proceed during the investigation of a criminal action, once authorities have completed their investigation and charges have been filed. However, if a student faces a serious criminal charge (such as a felony), the university may wait (usually at a student's request) until the case is resolved through the court system before implementing its process. In such an instance, interim actions may be taken.

For example, earlier this year, state Alcohol Law Enforcement officers arrested or cited more than 200 Duke students for alcohol violations. After those cases moved through the court system, the university began undergraduate disciplinary hearings, leading to 138 sanctions ranging from a formal warning to a two-semester suspension. Several students in these cases requested that their criminal matter be resolved first, which the university granted.

Any alleged violation of university policy is within the jurisdiction of the Office of Judicial Affairs, a division of the university's Office of Student Affairs. In some cases, the Office for Institutional Equity will be called in for assistance. Mediation or informal resolution is possible, but if this is not appropriate or not feasible, the complaint will be taken through the undergraduate disciplinary system, often through the Undergraduate Judicial Board (UJB).

The UJB is comprised of students, faculty and staff. Student members are juniors and seniors selected each spring semester. Student co-chairs are be elected by the board immediately following the completion of the new member selection process. Faculty members are appointed by the dean of Trinity College or the Pratt School of Engineering. Staff members are appointed by the vice president for Student Affairs.

Disciplinary hearings are not trials and are not constrained by rules of procedure and evidence typically used in a court of law. The university disciplinary system operates under a standard of fairness, which includes an opportunity for the student/group to be notified of the alleged incident and policy violations under consideration and an opportunity to be heard.

A committee appointed by President Brodhead has examined the way Duke deals with problems of student behavior. That group, led by Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences professor Prasad Kasibhatla, issued its findings and made recommendations to the president on May 1 (To read the committee report, go here).

For more information, go here.

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Did the university jump the gun in canceling the lacrosse season?

Throughout this incident, the university has based its action on the principle of the presumption of innocence while still holding students accountable for confirmed behavior. In the face of emotionally charged issues, an absence of clear information and intense media scrutiny, it has attempted to balance the integrity of the legal process, the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and the presumption of innocence.

President Brodhead made clear that Duke's initial canceling of two games was a response not to the criminal allegations but, rather, to acknowledged behavior by the players that included underage drinking and the hiring of the dancers. Similarly, he emphasized subsequently that his decision to suspend the season was not a punishment against the players or the team but a recognition that the uncertainty of events made it impossible for the games to be held in the current environment.

When announcing on April 5 that he was canceling the lacrosse season, President Brodhead urged patience for the criminal justice system to take its course. He announced a series of actions to respond to broader issues that have emerged, separate from the criminal allegations. He explained why this was essential and could be undertaken in a way that did not interfere either with the criminal investigation or the students' constitutional right to the presumption of innocence. President Brodhead's June 5 announcement that the men's lacrosse program would resume in fall 2006 came after careful review of information collected in the preceding two months, including a report on the lacrosse team's past conduct [To read the lacrosse program report, go here; to read the other committee reports, go here]. At the news conference, President Brodhead stated: "I decided that Duke should only resume men's lacrosse if we made a clear statement of the conduct we expect of the players going forward; if the players made a commitment to live by these expectations; and if we had a strong oversight mechanism to monitor the situation. These conditions have now been met to my satisfaction."

Read President Brodhead's full statement here.

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Why did it take so long for the Duke administration to respond to these allegations?

The Duke administration has received a good deal of criticism --" in media reports, public forums and written correspondence --" for being slow to respond to the allegations against the men's lacrosse team associated with March 13. A partial explanation is that the full magnitude of the allegations emerged only gradually as police and other information was reported in the media. Nevertheless, the university realizes a more complete and meaningful understanding is needed to determine the role of the Duke administration and Duke Athletics in handling this episode.

On April 5, President Brodhead announced the creation of a two-person committee --" consisting of Julius Chambers, a veteran civil rights attorney and former chancellor of North Carolina Central University, and William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University --" to investigate the administration's performance in responding to the allegations and to point to lessons the episode can teach. Their findings and recommendations were issued to the president on May 8 (To read the committee report, go here).

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What is Duke doing about the critical, sometimes incorrect, things being stated about the allegations in the media or by students and faculty?

The university is guided by principles of openness, inclusiveness, mutual tolerance and mutual respect. We fully support the constitutional right to free speech, even if that speech is critical of the university and comes from those in our campus community. When warranted, and on a limited basis, we are pointing out inaccuracies in an attempt to educate those writing and speaking about the incident and related issues. Our website about the allegations and the university's response (to which this FAQ is linked) is a part of that effort.

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How accurate is the "Sex and Scandal at Duke" article that Rolling Stone published in its June 1, 2006, issue?

Janet Reitman, the Rolling Stone reporter, spent several days with a handful of undergraduate women while researching her article. The women she profiled were vocal supporters of the lacrosse team. While Reitman's article may accurately depict a certain subset of Duke undergraduates, it presents a very limited view of the wide range of experiences and opinions that actually characterize Duke students. Many other students have protested vigorously that their social lives look nothing like those shown in the article; they define themselves first and foremost by academics, or community service, or the arts, or athletics or other activities. Duke prides itself on the diversity of its students, and a diverse student body produces a lively and varied social life --" one far more complex and interesting than what's shown in this article. Simultaneously, through its Women's Initiative and other efforts, Duke is addressing many of the issues raised in the Rolling Stone article regarding social interactions among undergraduates.

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Does Duke have an honor code for students?

The Duke Community Standard is the university's name for its honor code. As a statement of principles, it expresses an expectation that students will adhere to the values of "honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and respect for others...in both their academic and nonacademic endeavors," and that they will actively promote a "climate of integrity." Specifically, students sign a pledge that they will not cheat in their academic endeavors nor accept the actions of those who do cheat. In the second part of the pledge, students affirm that they will "conduct [themselves] responsibly and honorably in all [their] activities as a Duke student."

While the Duke Community Standard sets forth principles, Duke has many policies dealing with specific behaviors, and students may be found to be in violation of those policies.

The 2005-06 Bulletin of Information & Regulations outlines undergraduate community standards. The Bulletin can be downloaded here.

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How does Duke let its athletes know what behaviors are and are not acceptable?

The university's Dean of Student Office offers briefings each year to varsity athletic teams and their coaches on the school's standards of conduct, including expectations regarding academic integrity, alcohol, drugs and sexual misconduct. The sessions, which are conducted upon request, serve as a reminder of university expectations and to clarify any confusion about the athletes' roles as representatives of the team and university, according to Suzanne Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs. Teams that routinely request or have most recently requested briefings include men's basketball, baseball, football and men's lacrosse. In the past, women's basketball, women's lacrosse, field hockey, volleyball and men's and women's soccer have also participated.

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What is the status of the lacrosse player who shortly after the March 13 party sent an e-mail to teammates in which he threatened to kill strippers and who subsequently was placed on interim suspension?

Students receiving an interim suspension are entitled to a hearing with Duke's Office of Judicial Affairs. Under Duke's disciplinary process, the officer of Judicial Affairs reviews allegations of undergraduate misconduct.

After talking at length with the student and reviewing the evidence, Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs Stephen Bryan concluded that the student did not violate university policies related to physical abuse/endangerment and disorderly conduct and is once again eligible to participate in academic and extracurricular activities, including lacrosse.

In a June 7 letter to President Richard H. Brodhead, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said the student's e-mail was intended as a joke and the language was "largely taken from a book and later film 'American Psycho.'" Moneta also said the student has "expressed regret for the shame he had brought upon himself, his family, and the university. He accepted full responsibility for a significant error in judgment and acknowledged its inappropriateness with no qualifications."

"Accordingly, Dean Bryan has lifted my interim suspension and reinstated" the student, Moneta's letter said.

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What is Duke's policy regarding sexual misconduct?

Duke University is committed to providing an environment free of personal affronts against individuals and will not tolerate sexual misconduct in its community. Sexual misconduct is defined as any physical act of a sexual nature perpetrated against an individual without consent or when an individual is unable to freely give consent. Judicial Affairs staff in the Dean of Students Office receives complaints of possible violations of this policy for adjudication through the university's disciplinary process. A formal investigation may be launched and a hearing panel convened. Sanctions for a finding of responsibility include, but are not limited to, expulsion, suspension, disciplinary probation, recommended counseling, and/or other educational sanctions deemed appropriate by the hearing body. Students who are found responsible for a violation of this policy have a right of appeal.

For the complete policy, go here.

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How do the Duke and Durham police departments work together to handle cases that involve students and other members of the Duke community?

Duke has an agreement with the City of Durham that allows Duke police officers to enforce the law in neighborhoods surrounding campus. For off-campus emergencies and calls for assistance, Durham police officers are the first responders and lead investigators; Duke officers may be asked to assist if matters involve a Duke community member. During an investigation, for example, the two departments may share incident reports that are public record, or the departments may help locate people to be interviewed. The investigation itself, which includes, among other matters, interviewing witnesses and executing search warrants, are planned and conducted by the lead investigating agency. As part of their working relationship, Duke police officers attend city and neighborhood crime prevention meetings, where information is shared in an effort to keep Duke and Durham safe.

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How is a sexual assault reported at Duke?

A student who has experienced sexual or relationship violence has legal and judicial options for reporting the incident. Options include pursuing criminal charges, civil charges and/or charges under the Duke judicial codes.

Reporting options for students include the Duke or Durham Police (depending on where the assault took place) and the campus Judicial Affairs office. These are NOT mutually exclusive; a victim can do both, though the processes are entirely separate.

Reporting options for Duke employees include the Duke or Durham Police; if the suspect is another Duke employee, the incident could additionally be handled as a harassment case through the Office of Institutional Equity.

Trespass orders, restraining orders and "blind reporting" --" filing a report without including a victim's name on the public records portion of the report --" are available options for both students and employees with Duke and Durham's police departments.

Victims also may choose to tell the Women's Center, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Duke Student Health Center, the Durham Crisis Response Center, resident advisers and residential coordinators, friends and family, among others, without ever filing a report.

The Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) Coordinator is available to discuss the details of various options and to provide support or accompaniment during judicial appointments and hearings. Exploring these options, or even reporting an incident, does not obligate a person to proceed with legal or judicial action. The SASS web site provides extensive information about services for sexual assault victims.

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What services does Duke offer to prevent sexual violence and help victims of sexual violence?

Duke's Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS), housed in the Women's Center, is the central on-campus resource for addressing gendered violence issues. SASS offers support resources for student survivors of sexual and relationship violence and their support networks, as well as extensive educational programming to the Duke community. The Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Life provides support to members of the LGBT community. Duke also has a close relationship with the Durham Crisis Response Center.

Duke programs include Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention (SHARP) peer educators, First Six Weeks Campaign (First-year students are at the highest risk for sexual assault of the entire undergraduate experience in the first six weeks on campus), Sexual Assault Prevention Week and Safe Skills Self-Defense Workshop.

For more information, go here.

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What is happening with the house at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.?

In February 2006, the university purchased 12 houses and three lots in neighborhoods close to campus -- including 610 N. Buchanan -- with the intent of turning them into owner-occupied residences. The $3.7 million investment came in response to complaints about the noise and other disturbances caused by parties in off-campus houses rented by multiple students.

After the recent allegations of sexual assault, the students renting the house at 610 N. Buchanan asked to be released from their obligations under the lease for safety reasons and Duke agreed to permit them to leave. They are living in other accommodations at their own expense.

For more information about the university purchase of neighborhood houses, go here.

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Since the rape allegations, what has Duke done to reach out to North Carolina Central University, where the woman is a student?

There have been several instances in the last several months in which students, staff and administrators of the two universities have come together.

A small group of African-American women from Duke has met with NCCU's Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and with the Director of their Counseling Center. The group intends to continue meeting together and encouraging our respective students -- both undergraduate and graduate -- to get together for ongoing dialogues.

All senior leaders in Duke's Division of Student Affairs have made contact with their counterparts at NCCU. A meeting between Duke Student Affairs Vice President Larry Moneta and NCCU Student Affairs Vice President Roland Gaines and their respective chief of staffs will take place in early April on NCCU's campus. The discussion focused on working together to manage rising tensions within each institutions' student bodies. That group intends to continue meeting and to encourage their respective students to meet for ongoing dialogues.

Duke's Women's Center extended an official invitation to NCCU students and staff inviting them to participate in Duke's Take Back the Night event March 29 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week. The center has continued to work with NCCU.

President Brodhead has met with North Carolina Central Chancellor James Ammons and other city leaders. After the initial meeting, according to the (Durham) Herald-Sun, Chancellor Ammons said, "I thought it was a very good beginning to, first of all, share our feeling about the seriousness of these allegations and our stand against sexual violence against women, racial discrimination and racial hate, and to share our concerns about the young lady who was obviously traumatized by these alleged acts and to find a way to be respectful of the legal process, to let it play out and not to rush to judgment."

Student volunteers from Duke, NCCU and Durham Technical Community College worked together on a Habitat for Humanity home in Durham in late April.

Additionally, Duke and NCCU have a longstanding relationship that includes academic endeavors and community projects. Recent joint projects include: 1) Project H.O.P.E. (Holistic Opportunities Plan for Enrichment) and Project C.A.R.E. (Community Access to Resource Enterprises), two collaborative programs funded by separate $2.25 million grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to each university; 2) building the playground, supporting a weekend academy for at-risk children and running a medical clinic in a Lyon Park community center; 3) the Durham Family Initiative to promote the well-being of children in Durham and to reduce child-abuse rates; 4) the Partners Allied in Research (PAIR) summer internship program aimed at increasing the number of minority scientists in the cancer research field; and 5) faculty and student collaborations in areas such as art, music, cultural anthropology and environmental sciences.

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What has Duke done to improve the relationship between students and the Durham community?

The Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, begun in the mid-1990s, has generated more than $12 million for programs aimed at improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods closest to campus and boosting student achievement in the public schools that serve those neighborhoods. More than 75 percent of students perform some community service while at Duke -- contributing more than 100,000 hours each year -- through the Neighborhood Partnership, Community Service Center and service-learning courses.

While Duke does not have legal jurisdiction over students who live off campus, the university has focused on making the on-campus social scene a more inviting one. The university has also taken steps to work more closely with Durham police in patrolling the neighborhoods close to campus.

The university has also created a new position, program coordinator for judicial affairs, in the Dean of Students Office within Student Affairs. Kendra Sims, who began work in October 2005, assists in the administration of the university's disciplinary process for undergraduates, especially off-campus students. In this role, she serves as the university liaison with neighbors and other off-campus individuals regarding disruptive behavior.

For more information, see this release.

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