Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead announced Tuesday that the university is suspending future games of the men's lacrosse team until there is a clearer resolution of the legal situation involving team members.
The action, made in response to a request from team members, follows allegations of a sexual assault of a woman hired as a private dancer at a party attended by team members March 13 at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. Durham police are currently looking into the allegations, but no charges have been filed.
Brodhead issued the following statement:
"This past weekend, Duke University's Director of Athletics Joe Alleva decided to forfeit last Saturday's and today's scheduled men's lacrosse games. His decision, which I fully supported, was based on facts team members have acknowledged about their March 13 party. A majority of the team members attended the party, which included underage drinking and the hiring of private party dancers. This conduct was wholly inappropriate to the values of our athletics program and the university. Forfeiting two games was a substantial penalty for a team that hoped to compete for the national championship. Director Alleva made clear that this move was not a punishment for pending allegations that team members deny and that remain unresolved.
"As we move past the period of the two forfeitures, the question arises what to do now. This afternoon the captains of the Duke lacrosse team notified Mr. Alleva and me that the team wished to suspend competitive play until the DNA results come back. I met with the captains this morning and they expressed regret for their errors of judgment and the embarrassment they had caused themselves, their families, the athletic department and the university. They repeated their denial of the criminal allegations that have been widely reported against three of the players.
"Athletics Director Alleva and I welcomed these initiatives from the students. We believe that suspension of play is the right course of action, and we also see the importance of their taking responsibility for their conduct. In a slight modification, I have decided that future games should be suspended until there is a clearer resolution of the legal situation. I shared the decision this afternoon with the trustees, who fully support it.
"Let me explain my own thinking about the suspension of team play. Physical coercion and sexual assault are unacceptable in any setting and will not be tolerated at Duke. As none of us would choose to be the object of such conduct, so none of us has the right to subject another person to such behavior. Since they run counter to such fundamental values, the claims against our players, if verified, will warrant very serious penalties, both from the university and in the courts. The university community is based on mutual respect among all its members and for those in the larger community. We are all obliged to live up to these values to create the world where we all can thrive.
"I feel these things deeply; but there is another principle at stake as well. The facts of the March 13 episode remain unclear and there are very different accounts of the central events. No one has been charged by the police, and we know that many members of the lacrosse team, including some who were asked to provide DNA samples, did not attend the party. To determine responsibility, we need to learn the full truth as quickly as possible. While I have urged and do urge everyone to cooperate with this inquiry, unavoidably, we have to look to the Durham police to take the lead in the investigation. Duke does not have the power to compel testimony from citizens of this city, and it lacks access to warrants, DNA records and other confidential information. I have confidence in the authorities to find the truth and to take whatever legal steps are necessary in the best interests of the community.
"While we await the results of the investigation, I remind everyone that under our system of law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. One deep value the university is committed to is protecting us all from coercion and assault. An equally central value is that we must not judge each other on the basis of opinion or strong feeling rather than evidence of actual conduct.
"In this painful period of uncertainty, it is clear to me, as it was to the players, that it would be inappropriate to resume the normal schedule of play. Sports have their time and place, but when an issue of this gravity is in question, it is not the time to be playing games."