DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke University men’s lacrosse program will resume this fall under a strict new standard of behavior that the players drafted and with stronger administrative oversight of the program, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Monday in an electronic letter to the Duke community.
Brodhead’s announcement comes two months to the day that he suspended the team’s season following allegations of rape at an off-campus team party on March 13. Three members of the team have been indicted in the incident; the other 44 members of the team have been exonerated.
“When I met with the members of the team last month, I told them that, if and when Duke resumes the playing of men’s lacrosse, we cannot return to the status quo as of March 12,” Brodhead said in his letter. “Though it did not confirm the worst allegations against this team, the Coleman Committee (a faculty committee chaired by Duke Law School Professor James Coleman) documented a history of irresponsible conduct that this university cannot allow to continue.
“... As I wrestled with this issue, I decided that Duke should only resume men’s lacrosse if we made a clear statement of the conduct we expect of the players going forward; if the players made a commitment to live by these expectations; and if we had a strong oversight mechanism to monitor the situation. These conditions have now been met to my satisfaction.”
Under the lacrosse team’s new behavioral standards, violations will include underage drinking, disorderly conduct and harassment. Minimum penalties include counseling and community service for a first offense; a three-game suspension for a second offense; and a season-long suspension for a third offense.
Students who fail to notify the head coach and athletics director of a violation within 24 hours will be immediately suspended from the team. The coach and the athletic director can impose alternative or stricter penalties.
No sports team at Duke has had its own standards of behavior before, although all teams have rules for their players. The Athletic Department also has a code of ethical conduct for all athletes, which is available online here.
The university plans to conduct a national search for a permanent head coach, said Athletic Director Joe Alleva. Alleva has named Kevin Cassese as the team’s interim coach. Cassese, 25, is a former All-American and captain of the 2003 Duke lacrosse team who returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in July 2005.
“Kevin is one of the best examples of the complete student-athlete,” Alleva said. “Most everyone knows the type of player he was here and continues to be on the international and professional levels, but he is also a man of character and an excellent role model for our current and future student-athletes. We’re confident in his abilities to help our men’s lacrosse program move forward in the right direction.”
In Monday’s letter, Brodhead also announced changes in the oversight of athletics. Beginning immediately, Brodhead said he will assume direct responsibility for overseeing the athletics department. He said he also will ask Provost Peter Lange to include a senior member of the athletics department on Lange’s Undergraduate Leadership Group “to overcome any separation of academics, athletics and student life,” and will propose changes to the university’s Athletics Council “to ensure that we have the means to monitor successfully the policies and practices in athletics.”
Brodhead noted that some people “have questioned whether Division I athletics has a place at a school as academically strong as Duke. I would reply that if it isn’t easy to get the balance right, it’s also not clear that the task is impossible. I would rather work to put athletic goals in proper relation to our academic mission than to ‘solve’ the problem by throwing out half of the equation.”
Brodhead announced the suspension of the lacrosse season April 5, the same day he also appointed five separate committees to address issues raised in the community and on campus by the March 13 incident. To date, three committees have completed their work examining the behavioral history of the lacrosse team, assessing the Duke administration’s response to the sexual assault allegations and examining the adequacy of Duke’s disciplinary procedures.
A fourth committee, led by Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Robert Thompson and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, is now assessing the campus culture -- “the ways Duke educates students in the values of personal responsibility, consideration for others and mutual respect in the face of difference and disagreement” -– and is working to clarify the standards of behavior expected for all Duke students, including when students are off-campus. The committee, which includes students, faculty and administrators, is expected to submit its initial report to Brodhead by Dec. 1.
In Monday’s letter, Brodhead announced the composition of the fifth committee -- a presidential council that will scrutinize Duke’s responses to the broader issues raised by the lacrosse team incident and advise the president and the university’s trustees on whether the responses are appropriate and effective. The council co-chairs, both former Duke trustees, are Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke ’67, who was among the first African-American students admitted to Duke and is now provost of the University of the District of Columbia, and businessman Roy Bostock ’62, who chairs the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
Other council members include three university presidents -- Shirley Tilghman of Princeton University, Morton Schapiro of Williams College and Phail Wynn of the Durham Technical Community College –- as well as former trustee and broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff ’68. Four younger alumni also will serve on the council: Adam Silver ’84, who on July 1 will become the NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer; Sarah Dodds-Brown ’95, a former Young Trustee and currently counsel for American Express; Julian Harris ’00, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and former head of the Duke Honor Council; and Katie Laidlaw ’04, an associate with The Parthenon Group in Boston and a current Young Trustee.
In announcing the members of the council, Brodhead noted that “none of the issues we are grappling with is peculiar to Duke. But if they are widespread on American college campuses, that’s not a reason for us to ignore them. The current crisis gives Duke an opportunity to ‘step up’ and take a leadership position on issues of broad concern in American education.”
Brodhead said he is grateful that despite the constant media coverage which portrayed Duke and its neighbors in Durham as antagonists, numerous community leaders, including North Carolina Central University Chancellor James Ammons, continue to work together to strengthen the city.
He also noted that he is pleased lacrosse team members are committed to setting a new standard for the Duke program.
“These students have lived through an extraordinarily painful situation for the last eight weeks,” Brodhead wrote. “Whether or not the felony charges are upheld against the three indicted students, the fact is that members of the team engaged in irresponsible and dishonorable behavior on the evening of March 13, and those who were involved bear responsibility for their actions. For all that, few of us have suffered an ordeal like the one that unfolded as intense media interest turned this event into a worldwide news story. Setting aside the legal charges, which must be resolved in court, I am pleased that team members have acknowledged the error of their conduct and have made the commitment to create a new history for themselves and their sport at Duke.
“We will take care to assure ourselves that these changes of heart and conduct do in fact happen -- but it’s important that we believe in their possibility. None of us is free from the liability to err: that’s why we need education. To make a mistake, to recognize it as such, and to take responsibility for making a change might be said to be the essence of education. That is the opportunity now available to our team.”