Saying he is "deeply troubled" by the sexual assault allegations against members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team, President Richard H. Brodhead sent a letter to the Duke community late Wednesday outlining five specific actions he is taking to address issues raised in the community and on campus by the March 13 incident.
Earlier in the day, Brodhead announced that the remainder of men's lacrosse season has been canceled, and Athletics Director Joe Alleva announced that the team's coach, Mike Pressler, has resigned, effective immediately. In addition, one of the members of the lacrosse team has been given an interim suspension from the university pending a formal student judicial hearing.
In an interview, Brodhead said, "In listening to community leaders, faculty members students and alumni, it is clear that this episode has touched off angers, fears, resentments, and suspicions that range far beyond this immediate cause. It has done so because the episode has brought to glaring visibility underlying issues that have been of concern on this campus and in this town for some time."
In his letter, Brodhead said he has asked separate committees to examine and to report back to him quickly on a range of concerns, including:
-- examining the culture of the lacrosse team;
-- investigating the Duke administration's response to the sexual assault allegations;
-- examining the student judicial process and disciplinary procedures;
-- launching a Campus Culture Initiative, a rigorous self-examination "to evaluate and suggest improvements in the ways Duke educates students in the values of personal responsibility."
-- creating a presidential council, made up of people from the Durham community, national higher education circles and Duke, that will scrutinize Duke's responses to the lacrosse team incident and advise the president on whether the responses are appropriate and effective.
In his letter, Brodhead explained the reasons for his actions. "To get the good of the current situation, we all need to face up to the profoundly serious issues that recent events have brought to light and address them in a positive, substantive and ongoing way," he wrote.
Duke law professor James E. Coleman Jr. will lead Duke's examination of the on- and off-campus conduct of its men's lacrosse team. The committee will not be looking into any of the recent criminal allegations against the team. "We do not want to interfere with the criminal investigation in any way," Coleman said.
"The question is whether the members of the team engage in behavior that is inconsistent with what is expected of a Duke student; whether this is something that has been ongoing, whether the university has been aware of it, whether the teams -- the coaches and Athletic Department -- have been aware of it; and whether the university, coaches and Athletic Department have taken appropriate action to deal with it," Coleman said.
"We will begin by reviewing all available records -- disciplinary records, and complaints made to the Duke and Durham police -- and we'll look at the various procedures in place for monitoring the conduct of students in general, and athletes in particular, to determine the adequacy of those," Coleman said.
While the focus is on the lacrosse team, the committee will look into reports of misconduct by other relevant student groups to see if the lacrosse players' conduct "stands out," Coleman said. The committee's report to Brodhead is due May 1.
Other actions noted by Brodhead in his letter include:
-- an investigation of the Duke administration's performance in responding to the allegations. The investigation will be conducted by William Bowen, president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University, and Julius Chambers, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and past chancellor of North Carolina Central University.
Brodhead explained in his letter: "I have heard a good deal of criticism of the Duke administration for being slow to respond to the allegations against the team associated with March 13. At meetings with faculty, students, community members, and others, I have explained why it took time to know how to respond: we learned the full magnitude of the allegations only gradually, as police and other information was reported in the media, and indeed it appears it took the police themselves some time to understand the nature of the case.
"I am grateful that two of the nation's most respected leaders whose knowledge of higher education and reputation for integrity are unsurpassed have agreed to undertake this assignment."
Their findings and any recommendations will be given to Brodhead by May 15.
-- an examination of how Duke deals with problems of student behavior. The Academic Council's Student Affairs Committee, headed by environmental professor Prasad Kasibhatla, will study the student judicial process and disciplinary procedures and make any recommendations for change to the administration and faculty by June 1, said Academic Council chair and law professor Paul Haagen.
Haagen said the committee will look at several questions, including, "Does the Community Standard and the policies which apply to student behavior adequately convey Duke's values and behavioral expectations?"; "Are the distinctions between on-campus and off-campus behaviors, and Duke's approach to adjudication of those behaviors, appropriate?"; and "Are there limitations in the policies which prevent various behaviors from being addressed appropriately and effectively?"
"I am determined to have a disciplined approach to dealing with these questions so we don't merely end up acting in regards to this one issue, but end up with good, sustainable and appropriate solutions," Haagen said.
-- the launching of a Campus Culture Initiative, a rigorous self-examination "to evaluate and suggest improvements in the ways Duke educates students in the values of personal responsibility, consideration for others, and mutual respect in the face of difference and disagreement."
The initiative will be headed by Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Robert Thompson, vice provost for undergraduate education and dean of Trinity College.
"In honesty, some of the initiative's work will require long-lasting attention and is unsusceptible to any quick fix," Brodhead wrote. "This would include promoting a more responsible approach to the culture of campus drinking, a major factor in Duke's recent crisis and the source of much bad college conduct throughout the United States."
Work on the initiative is expected to begin this spring; in the fall discussions will be held with returning students about Duke's social climate.
-- the appointment of a widely representative presidential council to critique Duke's responses to the issues raised by the March incident. Answering the question "How can we have confidence that Duke is seriously addressing these issues?" will be one of the primary missions of the council, Brodhead said in the letter.
"I will ask [the council] to receive and critique our internal self-assessments regarding the promotion of these central values; to inform our on-campus efforts with the best practices in other university settings; and to consider ways that Duke and its community can work yet more closely to promote these values in a larger social setting," Brodhead wrote.
That council will be headed by Roy Bostock, a former Duke trustee and director of the Duke University Health System who is now chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, a Duke alumna and former Duke trustee who is currently Provost/Vice President Academic Affairs at the University of the District of Columbia. The council is set to hold its first meeting this spring and will report back to Brodhead and the university's Board of Trustees.
In his letter, Brodhead spoke about why this incident has proven to be so painful to him, the campus and the community. He said "the huge majority of Duke students are well-behaved and good-hearted, and many work hard for the larger social good."
He also vowed to continue working with Duke's neighbors, area leaders, students, faculty and others to address the issues raised in this incident in a "positive, substantive and ongoing way."