<
>

Duke president discusses rape case with students

3/31/2006

DURHAM, N.C. -- The president of Duke University met
Wednesday with students who feel his suspension of the lacrosse
team during a rape investigation was not enough, urging them to be
patient while police look into the matter.

"I don't want to say I'm satisfied, but I will say that what
happened in there makes me feel like we're moving in a good
direction," sophomore Bridgette Howard said after the roughly
hourlong session.

The meeting between President Richard Brodhead and a few dozen
students was closed to all media except Duke's student newspaper.

Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team from play until the
school learns more about accusations that team members attacked an
exotic dancer hired to perform at an off-campus party. The alleged
victim, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, has
told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and
raped by three men at a March 13 party, where she and another
dancer were hired to perform.

Police collected DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 members
of the lacrosse team last week; the 47th player, the only black
member, wasn't tested because the victim said her attackers were
white.

No one has been charged, and the team's captains have said the
tests will clear players.

Police said three players who live at the house where the party
took place spoke with investigators and voluntarily provided
samples March 16. A scheduled meeting between detectives and the
rest of the team was later canceled by the players' attorney, and
District Attorney Mike Nifong said Wednesday the players still
refuse to speak with investigators.

About a third of the members of the team have been previously charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior in the past three years, according to court documents quoted in Tuesday's editions of the Raleigh News & Observer.

Fifteen of the 47 members of the team have been charged with offenses ranging from underage alcohol possession, violating open container laws, loud noise and public urination, according to the News and Observer.

The paper said that most of those charges were resolved in deals with prosecutors that allowed the players to escape criminal convictions.

News of the attack has sparked days of protest at Duke and in
Durham, culminating Tuesday in Brodhead's decision to suspend the
team. He stressed the suspension was not a punishment, but a
response to the inappropriate nature of playing while the
investigation is ongoing.

Those comments led about 100 students to approach Brodhead after
Tuesday night's announcement and demand his administration deliver
a stronger response.

"We understand that the legal system is that you are innocent
until proven guilty," said sophomore Kristin High. "But people
are nervous and afraid that these people are going to get away with
what they did because of a wealthy privilege, or male privilege, or
a white privilege."

Their protests led to Wednesday's meeting inside the campus'
black cultural center, where participants said Brodhead urged
patience as police continue to investigate.

Graduate student Michelle Christian complained Duke is
continuing to downplay the alleged attack.

"They need presidents, they need administrators, they need
faculty, to tell them that it was wrong behavior and that they are
not going to be coddled because they are athletes, because they
come from privileged backgrounds, because they have money,"
Christian told Durham's WTVD-TV.

Later in the day, sophomore Jeff Shaw wore a Duke lacrosse
T-shirt on campus in support of his friends on the team.

"Even if it's true, it's three guys and unfortunately, this is
going to be a label the team is going to carry," Shaw said.

At an annual campus rally against sexual violence Wednesday
night, about 300 people wearing purple and white ribbons marched
across Duke's campus. Protesters handed out flyers to marchers
bearing the photos and names of the lacrosse team, and taped them
onto garbage cans in front of the student union.

"Rape is not sex. Rape is violence," Geoff Lorenz, 22, a
senior from California, told the crowd. "May our sea of purple and
white demand a change on this campus."

Also Wednesday, Brodhead apologized for language used by those
at the party. A woman calling 911 on the night of the party told
police that men outside of the house called out to her and another
woman using a racial slur.

"It's disgusting," Brodhead said in a statement. "Racism and
its hateful language have no place in this community."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.