Executive Committee of the Academic Council
April 5, 2006
On Thursday, March 30th, an extraordinary executive session of the Academic Council was called, with the fullest support and participation of President Brodhead, to enable communication and consultation between the faculty and the president about the events now rocking our community. Sitting faculty representatives on the current Council as well as all incoming representatives were convened, and all interested Duke faculty were invited to attend. The following statement is based on the Executive Committee of the Academic Council's best overall sense of that meeting, and it is ECAC's attempt to convey some of the intensity and cogency of faculty responses -- not only to events unfolding around the March 13/14th episode involving members of the lacrosse team, but also to the host of related concerns about the undergraduate experience at our school that this episode has made especially and painfully evident.
There are two distinct but related aspects of the situation we now face:
The first aspect narrowly concerns the conduct and resulting charges surrounding the lacrosse team incident of March 13/14th. We specifically expect members of the lacrosse team to cooperate fully with the investigation insofar as their Constitutional rights against self-incrimination allow. We specifically expect all DukeUniversity officials, whether from the Athletics department, the senior Administration, or anywhere else, to exert themselves to facilitate this investigation. We recognize clearly that the legal process relating to this incident and any individuals who may be named in it must and should take its own due course; charges of this grave nature belong in the jurisdiction of governmental and not university educational authorities. That said, and aside from any charges ultimately emerging from the prosecutorial investigation, it is the sense of the faculty that we have reached the point where a critical mass of information and witness concerning lacrosse team behavior compels a comprehensive inquiry into the program, its culture, its staff, and its effects on the daily lives of our students and our neighbors. To that end, in constructive collaboration with President Brodhead, a committee chaired by Professor James Coleman of the LawSchool has been appointed. This committee will present its findings and recommendations to President Brodhead and the Academic Council on or before May 1, 2006.
The second phenomenon before us is both more broad and more elusive, concerning everyday life on campus: Duke's own share of a web of interconnected issues that we all recognize are at least national in scope. This web is easier to describe than its effects are to remedy. Across college campuses, already volatile issues of race, gender, and class privilege intersect negatively with the powerful social reaches of sports culture and alcohol use on campus. The events of the past weeks have occasioned collective reflection and collective anguish on the part of the Duke faculty. The anguish comes from faculty who already felt too familiar, by experience and by expertise, with the taxing terms and conditions of campus life for many segments of our student body. The anguish came also from faculty for whom this occasion brought forth formerly unknown details of student experience outside the classroom, creating a new sense of both urgency and uncertainty about how best to fulfill the educational mission of our institution in its broadest sense.
The problem now in front of us, individually and as a collective body of teachers, presents vast challenges. Not the least of these challenges concerns the formulation of a response that will be both substantive and consequential when relevant structural realities and cultural practices far exceed the reach of any one university. What we need now is to determine which aspects of our local manifestation of the mix of race, gender, sexuality, sport, and alcohol in undergraduate culture can be addressed effectively by the means available to us as an academic community -- not in an attempt to curtail social life on campus, but in order to promote justice, a more respectful social and educational environment, and real conviviality. We will be working in collaboration with President Brodhead, Vice President Larry Moneta in Student Affairs, and others to develop an adequately specific approach to the issues that have been made so starkly apparent in this episode. At the same time, we urge our colleagues to channel the profound concern and knowledge that have been generated here to develop constructive ways, great and small, to engage and support our students beyond the classroom. Regardless of developments in the narrower legal situation, or in a review of the lacrosse program, we as faculty need to develop richer forms of attentiveness to the lives and hopes of our students.
Paul Haagen (Law), Chair
Julie Edell Britton (Fuqua)
Linda Franzoni (Mechanical Engineering)
Sally Kornbluth (Pharmacology & Cancer Biology)
Elizabeth Livingston (Ob/Gyn)
Marjorie McElroy (Economics)
Laurie Shannon (English), Vice Chair
John Staddon (Psychological & Brain Sciences), Faculty Secretary