Duke president discusses rape case with students

Updated: March 31, 2006, 10:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

911 call from March 13
Emergency 911 tapes revealed that on the night of the alleged incident March 13, a black woman tearfully reported that a man came out of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. as she and a friend passed by and shouted a racial slur at them. Please note: The caller is NOT the accuser.

12:53 A.M.

TELECOMMUNICATOR: "Durham 911, where's your emergency?"

CALLER: "Hi, I don't know if this is an emergency or not, necessarily, but I'm in Durham, and I was driving down near Duke's campus, and it's me and my black girlfriend, and the guy -- there's like a white guy by the Duke wall -- and he just hollered out 'n-----' to me. And I'm just so angry I didn't know who to call. [Crying]

"I don't know if this is an emergency. They're just hanging out by the wall on Buchanan [Boulevard]."

TELECOMMUNICATOR: "On which side?"

CALLER: "It's right outside of 610 Buchanan [Blvd]. And I saw them all come out of, like, a big frat house, and me and my black girlfriend are walking by, and they called us 'n------.' [Sobbing]

"So I don't know what's gonna happen. I'm not gonna press the issue, I guess. But I live in a neighborhood where they wrote KKK on the side of a white station wagon, and that's near right where I'm at, you know what I mean. And they didn't harm me in any way, but I just feel so completely offended, I can't even believe it. I thought, you know what I'm saying, times have changed, and I don't even know what's going on.

"It's right in front of 610 Buchanan. I saw them coming out of this frat house. 610 North Buchanan. …

"So, I'm not going to press the issue, but, whatever, however Durham city feels about racial slurs and stuff, however you guys want to handle it, you can handle it however you do. I'm not hurt in any way, OK.

"Thank you ..."

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.

Duke protest
AP Photo/Sara D. DavisDemonstrators listen to Duke University president Richard Brodhead on Tuesday.

"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.