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.