Sunday, 9 April 2006

What to do when the dust settles

At some point—perhaps in a few days, perhaps in a few months—the Duke lacrosse rape allegations will be resolved, at least in terms of the criminal issues. The question arises as to what Duke should do then. Dealing with the players is the easy stuff (these expectations are my predictions and are not normative):

  • Any players charged with battery, assault, or the like will almost certainly be expelled from the university (or suspended indefinitely, with expulsion to follow upon conviction). Even if acquitted, I doubt they would be welcome to return to the university.
  • Other players present at the party probably won’t be expelled; I would expect any players with past disciplinary issues to be suspended from the university for a semester or year, and others to receive some probationary sanction. If no charges for violent offenses are filed against any players, I would expect any player present at the party to be subject to these sanctions.
  • Ryan McFadyen will probably be allowed to return to the university if no rape or battery charges are filed against anyone. My guess is that he probably will choose not to return, though.

What is to be done about the men’s lacrosse program and athletics in general? Assume, for the sake of argument, that it is decided there has been a lack of institutional control over student-athletes’ behavior—which probably is a fair assessment. If that is the case, I think a number of solutions present themselves:

  • I expect that Duke will abandon running a men’s lacrosse program. It is not particularly popular in the region; it doesn’t recruit a very ethnically diverse pool of athletes; and it loses money. Getting rid of the program would also help Duke improve its Title IX situation and save the headache of searching for a new coach. I expect this decision to be made soon; in fact, I suspect it has already been decided, probably as a condition of AD Joe Alleva keeping his job.
  • I expect that student athletes will be required to live on campus for four years starting in August 2007. If this requires letting other students out of the six-semester obligation in order to have sufficient housing over the short term, so be it.
  • Student-athletes will probably also be housed across campus and not allowed to be concentrated in particular quads. They might even be barred from living on Central, which might require letting non-athlete sophomores live on Central.

I also expect that many suggestions for “consciousness raising,” “encouraging substance-free living,” and “diversity awareness” will be made, and accepted, by the committees studying these issues. No doubt these proponents will overlook the fact that the men’s lacrosse team was, if anything, exposed more to these things than most students—and they proved completely ineffective in curbing their abhorrent behavior.

Over the long term, I expect that the six-semester requirement to live on campus will be replaced by an eight-semester requirement for all students, which will finally snuff out the “unofficial fraternities.” This, of course, will require additional housing space, but the university has plenty of empty land on West and East (if necessary) to construct the additional needed beds, in addition to the net addition of beds already planned for Central. If this means that Pratt has to forgo increasing enrollment for now, they’ll survive.

The end result: a Duke that has retreated further within its walls as a protective measure to ensure that these problems don’t recur. Is that a good thing? I don’t know; I think a bit more interaction between Duke’s students and the wider community would be, on average, a good thing, even if the students who the community encounters in their neighborhoods haven’t always been the best ambassadors the university has to offer. But I think a bit of disengagement from the neighborhoods around East may be an important first step in reducing the enmity between Duke and the wider community—and if that hurts the 9th Street Merchants’ Association, so be it.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.
[Permalink] 1. ogler wrote @ Sun, 9 Apr 2006, 6:21 pm CDT:

and so the LAX game will remain for women but not for men? Will all the current roster depart Duke ASAP?? It seems odd to me that a team would be removed as a result of administrative negligence.


Sure, there’s plenty of schools where they have women’s soccer without men’s soccer, and the same could be done for lacrosse.

I’d imagine that the administration would continue scholarships for existing students on the team and the incoming class, so they could stay and complete their educations (and, if they want, try out for football or some other sport); maybe some would transfer, but who would have them after these allegations? Lacrosse isn’t football or basketball, where a school can make a few bucks by looking the other way to let in “problem children,” broadly defined.

And, a majority of team members behaving like complete jackasses at off-campus parties sounds like more than mere “administrative negligence,” even if the rape allegations ultimately turn out to be somewhere between unprovable and bogus.


Now, if the allegations against the players are false (and they look that way to me), what kind of charges could be brought against the woman? And would or should they be?

I wonder what happens in similar situations (and after real crimes) with athletes and athletic programs in other colleges? There are plenty of those. Do they suffer the same fate as you suggest in this case (even if nothing happened)?


I wouldn’t care to speculate on the first point.

The only near-analogous situation that springs to mind is the Baylor basketball team. But basketball is a revenue sport (albeit one that Baylor wasn’t particularly prominent in), and only one player committed a crime.


What I am saying here is that the measures you suspect would be enacted seem inappropriately severe. (Particularly in the likely case of no rape.) I hope most of them would not be implemented.

Now, if the crime did occur something would surely be done, partly to appease those who hold vigils and such.


The players at a bare minimum violated numerous university policies, embarrassed the university, hired two prostitutes, and violated state alcohol laws; the university would be quite justified just to turf them out onto the street at the end of the academic year by not renewing their scholarships, as far as I’m concerned.

Canning the lacrosse team, however, is more a business decision—which I’m in the middle of putting together a post explaining.


You may be right, although drinking is so widespread, even at boarder schools’ level…Anyway, I would be interested to see what ‘d happen with them in the end.

But whatever else they did, if there was no rape, they will still be victims of false accusation. Whose reputation suffers because of that ( and may continue to suffer) even if they were not at the party (like some of those 46).

Student-athletes will probably also be housed across campus and not allowed to be concentrated in particular quads.

As someone who regards “theme halls” in general as a bad idea, I’d consider this to be a positive development. Fraternity and sports houses are almost always an embarrassment to their host institution, and sometimes are little more than gang headquarters.

When Brodhead was appointed president at Duke, I conjectured that a residential college system would be in Duke’s future. Chris, have you ever heard this subject brought up in on-campus discussions?


No, I’m afraid I haven’t. It probably would be a good idea, but the physical logistics at Duke would be tough—the issue of what to do with East would loom rather large.


So what happens to the AD who knew but ignored the problem? Or the president for that matter who also knew.

[Permalink] 11. Locomotive Breath wrote @ Mon, 10 Apr 2006, 1:42 pm CDT:

So take the alternate hypothetical. Suppose the event went off as planned. Two strippers show up, get paid and leave w/o incident. Underage students drink. Somebody at the party documents the event and publishes an account in the Chronicle or the Durham H-S. At most we might be talking about a several game suspension for those actually at the party. We would not be talking about canceling the rest of the season, not to mention the death penalty for the program. Even if you add in a disagreement over money and a physical altercation between the players and the strippers with the cops being called, well then you might cancel the rest of the season but still not the death penalty. In either case, you’ll also be talking about better behavioral controls on the players. Only if you add in an actual rape do you get to the conclusion that the team is so broken it can’t be fixed.


Phil: Alleva might be out the door, one way or the other; today’s Chronicle editorial called for his firing, but I don’t know if the administration will go along with that.

LB: Them’s the breaks. They had the bad luck to (a) get stuck with the rape allegations, which will dog them even if they are cleared and (b) have the situation arise when the university desperately needs to fix its Title IX issues. Killing men’s lacrosse and adding a new womens’ team is essentially revenue neutral; adding two new womens’ teams is probably $1 million/year or so—you do the math.

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