60 Minutes Interview with President Brodhead

Richard Brodhead [RB]: I had to take personal leadership of this issue really from the first day. It was obviously a story of that magnitude. I thought my role was to remind this community and to speak on behalf of this community in speaking about the seriousness of the crime that was alleged while also reminding people of the serious obligation we all have not to pre-judge people before the facts are in.

Ed Bradley [EB]: You've said that it was a very difficult situation to get right. Do you think you got it right?

RB: The facts kept changing. Every day we learned new things that no one knew the day before. Every day we were being urged to speak with certainty about facts that were full of great uncertainty at that point. Our policy all along was to act on the basis of the things we knew for sure and to withhold action and decision on the things we didn't know for sure.

EB: You met with three captains of the lacrosse team. And from what I'm told in explaining to you what happened that night and proclaimed to you their innocence as well as the innocence of all the players who were there -- .

RB: That's right.

EB: What did you say to that?

RB: These are my students, too. When they came in, I said to them, "The first thing you've got to do is tell the truth." You know, however bad things are is bad enough but the only way you can be sure you can make it worse is if you don't tell the truth because soon enough the truth will be established." They told me -- first of all, they expressed their extreme regret and contrition for the episode of the evening, for the shame it had brought on them, the shame it had brought on their families and the shame it had brought on the university. I was glad to hear that from them. But they also categorically denied that the rape had taken place.

Do you think I don't spend time thinking about those students -- the indicted students? Their families? The difficulty everybody has gone through in this case? I just want to say I can't move from that, though, to saying, "Carry on your trial if you wish. As for me, I've already reached my verdict." It's just an inappropriate action for me to take in spite of the powerful feelings I know that would push in such a direction.

EB: Is alcohol consumption out of control at Duke?

RB: My honest belief is that alcohol consumption at Duke is probably not very different from on most American campuses. When I talk to presidents of other universities -- you know, you can't imagine, or maybe you can imagine, how many other university leaders have come up to me knowing that this particular mess landed on my doorstep but how easily it could have landed on someone else's. And everyone understands that the issue of alcohol -- alcohol is not the only issue here but it certainly aggravated all the issues.

EB: And then there's the issue of race in this case -- not only because the accuser is black and the players are white but because of some of the racial comments that were made that night.

RB: That's right.

EB: Given the history of this campus, and the city of Durham here in North Carolina, what troubles you most there?

RB: To hear that any member of this community called any other member of this world -- I'm not talking just Durham, I'm not just talking our students -- by a racial epithet, there's something just profoundly depressing about that. I'd like to think that students wouldn't have said these things when sober but the fact that they said them when drunk is no comfort to me.

EB: So what do you say to African Americans -- to people of color about the culture here at the Duke campus and whether or not people who are different or minorities are made welcome here.

RB: A person walking on this campus would see the answer in part pretty quickly. Forty percent of the undergraduate students at Duke come from one or another minority of the American population and about 10 percent of them African-American. This university, like every other university in the South and de facto many in the North, closed its doors to African Americans up until a certain date that's now about 40 years ago.

But I'll tell you, when Duke decided to write a different history for itself, it really pursued that history pretty aggressively. We have a wonderful history of African American alumni who've come out of this school. I could tell you lots of examples. Current students here -- really impressive, serious, gifted people. Faculty -- you tell me a field and I'll tell you a distinguished African American faculty member we have in that field.

EB: What did you think of that -- statements by the public officials, by the district attorney?

RB: Well, at the time the statements were made, I had no way of knowing anything other than the fact that they must be true. There's no doubt about it that that helped to create the climate at the beginning in which an awful lot of people were absolutely certain that these kids had done this deed. And, of course, that was one of the really difficult things in the spring was trying to remind people that our system is based on the presumption of innocence and that we all needed to work to offer our students that.

EB: Do you think that the district attorney has conducted a fair and unbiased investigation?

RB: Well, I'll respond to you in this way. I have read all the same things that everybody else in America has read and seen on TV about this case and I share the concerns of people in general. I think the public has a legitimate interest in knowing whether this is a real case, whether this was a case that was brought in an honest and straightforward fashion.

You know, I've said over and over again if our players are found guilty, they've done an abominable thing and should be punished for it. But if these people whose names have become known across this country and around the world for something they didn't do because of a false accusation, that's a pretty serious injustice, too. And if it's been further aggravated by a case being brought that didn't have strong legs under it in the first place, that's an injustice, too. We have to wait for the legal system to grind on to its conclusion but when this thing goes before a judge and a jury, my view is that the DA's case will be on trial as much as our players will be on trial.