President Richard H. Brodhead Statement on Committee Reports

Committees examined lacrosse program, university disciplinary processes

In my April 5 letter to the Duke community, I outlined a series of steps the university would take in response to the controversy raised by the men's lacrosse team party of March 13. Today I received reports from two of the five committees I announced. We have posted both of these reports on the special website for announcements related to the lacrosse situation.

The first committee, composed of faculty who are current or past members of the University's Athletic Council, was asked to investigate the behavior of the men's lacrosse team prior to March 13. They were not asked to investigate any of the events related to the criminal allegation, which is properly the responsibility of the Durham Police and the District Attorney. The committee's task was to study the conduct of the men's lacrosse team over the past several years to determine whether the team had a history of "outlier" behavior and whether conduct violations had been addressed in appropriate ways. This committee was chaired by Professor James Coleman of the Duke Law School.

The second committee, consisting of faculty, students, and administrators from the Academic Council's Student Affairs Committee, was asked to look at the way Duke deals with problems of student behavior and the applicability of our Community Standard to social life. This committee was chaired by Professor Prasad Kasibhatla of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.

I encourage you to read these reports, and I am indebted to all who labored to produce them. We now have something we have lacked to date, namely, careful, evidence-based inquiries into student behavior and institutional process. I look forward to discussing the reports with members of the Academic Council and others in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, I would offer a few initial observations.

First, concerning the men's lacrosse team. The Coleman committee's report tells of a close-knit team that did well academically and excelled athletically but that was irresponsible in its repeated abuse of alcohol. The committee did not, however, find a pattern of racist behavior or sexual abuse. The picture that emerges is complex, with players praised as respectful to employees who worked near the team, and criticized for their inability to learn from multiple citations for inappropriate behavior.

The Coleman committee's report will give us useful information as we consider the future of men's lacrosse at Duke in the weeks ahead. In addition, we will begin immediately to improve communication between Student Affairs and the coaches in the area of disciplinary infractions and will clarify a code of conduct for Duke athletes so that it better reflects the role they play in representing the institution.

The committee investigating Duke's judicial system concluded that the policies and practices governing on-campus and off-campus student behavior are different in ways that require review and refinement. They offer suggestions on how our student judicial system can be made more effective and urge greater involvement by the faculty. They note the recurring theme of irresponsible use of alcohol in many of the issues that come before the student judicial system. They also recommend that we integrate our administration of students' academic and non-academic life.

I welcome these findings and recommendations. We will set to work this summer to address the recommendations involving clarification of policies and procedures. The committee's comments on larger issues of student conduct are closely related to the work of the Campus Culture Initiative (CCI), another of the initiatives that I announced on April 5. Accordingly, I will bring the report to the CCI steering committee for its consideration.

Common to both reports is concern with the behavioral consequences of student drinking and how the university implements its policy on alcohol. I share these concerns and recognize that much inappropriate behavior by students is alcohol-related. We should have no illusions that it will be easy to address the issue of alcohol abuse, since this is a national issue on college campuses, one that often begins before students come to college. At the same time, the current situation gives Duke both an obligation and an opportunity to address this issue in a serious way. Most of all, we are committed to using this moment to find ways to educate our students about the meaning of the choices they make.

In closing, I want to express my gratitude to the committee members and most particularly the committee chairs, James Coleman and Prasad Kasibhatla, for taking on this important civic obligation. This campus community is deeply in their debt. I take pride in being part of a community whose members are willing to step forward in times of stress to do the work that needs doing. Our collective life will be better for their efforts.

Richard H. Brodhead


Duke University