Some thoughts on the Duke lacrosse situation

Update 12/22/06: The rape charges have been dropped.

Update 05/15/06: Having been in North Carolina since last Wednesday (part of the time on the Duke campus, where I had a really nice visit), I am actually geographically closer to the situation than at any point since it all started. The whole thing is starting to sound really fishy and it’s certainly possible that a rape did not occur. Bad behavior, definitely, but not necessarily rape. I stand by my criticisms of Duke culture below, but the case is starting to seem muddy at the very least. It’s also theoretically possible that we’re seeing the effects of excellent legal and PR work by the attorneys of the accused. Whatever happens, I hope the guilty are punished severely, and that includes the accuser if false allegations were made. For now, I’m going to stand back and watch the proceedings and hope the situation hasn’t gotten so twisted that justice can’t be served either way. In the meantime, Duke continues to do an excellent job of providing information to the community.

Update 05/16/06: OK, folks, I’m not approving any more comments on this thread unless someone says something new and insightful on either side. I left some wretched stuff in the comments, but frankly, I’m not interesting in being in the top 10 search results for any more searches like “duke lacrosse accuser whore.” You’ve made your point.

Original post begins below, unedited from the original

The alleged incident in Durham involving the Duke lacrosse team is troubling (to its credit, Duke has done an excellent job of covering itself). I’ve been debating whether to write about it for days now, but it’s been occupying my thoughts a lot lately as I have reflected on my own Duke experience as a student there from fall 1990 until the end of 1993, when I finished my degree (a semester early). I can’t say whether or not the incident in question happened, but I can say one thing for certain: Duke continues to have a serious problem with arrogance and entitlement, and it’s nothing new, unfortunately. At the very least, anyone associated with Duke should be ashamed at how believable the whole situation is.

This is not just about the lacrosse team (though they have been a problem for years), it’s about the institutions and traditions that Duke holds most dear in its public image, like basketball. When I was at Duke, I remember hearing the celebrated “Cameron Crazies” chant smugly “That’s all right, that’s ok, I’m gonna be your boss one day” on the rare occasions when the Duke basketball team would lose. Even worse, taunting chants of “State school! State school!” would fill Cameron when the opposing team was a public school — and everyone thought this was funny. I thought it verged on sickening, and still do. To me, it insulted people like my dad, who took seven years alternating among working in tobacco fields, going to class, and generally doing whatever it took to pay for his engineering degree at NC State — a state school.

I commend Duke University President Richard Brodhead for taking swift action and clearly communicating his thoughts on the matter to Durham and the Duke community in this letter. President Brodhead is still fairly new to Duke, and no one can expect him to make fundamental changes overnight. The state of affairs at Duke is clearly something that he inherited (his presidency has had its share of crises already).

My Duke card, 1991Before going on, I want to state that I really have nothing to gain personally by criticizing Duke at this point in my life. In lots of ways, though I didn’t come from a wealthy family, I have been the beneficiary of the privilege that an environment like Duke takes for granted. I learned a lot at Duke, graduated with honors, and I’ve had a great career. It seems entirely reasonable that I will be able to send my children to a university like Duke if I chose to do so without enduring the financial pain that my parents bore in sending me there. Life has been good to me.

But let’s be honest: no matter how you slice it, Duke is primarily an institution of privilege. President Brodhead tries to counter this notion somewhat in his letter:

Duke is not, as some have reported, just an institution for the children of wealthy families. This university admits undergraduates without regard to their family’s ability to pay, and we invest more than $50 million a year to enable the 40% of students who receive grant aid to afford a Duke education.

That’s true, but look at some of the raw numbers in a different way:

  • The average full cost of attendance at Duke for 2005-06: $44,005 (Source: Duke Financial Aid)
  • 42% of the entering Class of 2008 received need-based aid (Source: Duke Financial Aid)

I won’t go into all the factors that determine need-based aid, because Duke explains the process pretty well. The thing that strikes me is that when you look at the numbers above, 58% of the entering Class of 2008 were determined not to need aid. In other words, the families of those students could afford to fork out $44K for one year of college. Sure, Duke is not an institution “just” for wealthy families, but for whatever reason, a full 58% of the last incoming class was able to afford the $44K price tag for the first year. This paints a portrait of an astoundingly wealthy student body (or at least a massive gap between rich and poor within Duke).

Of course, wealth is as much an accident of birth as poverty, but it carries more responsibility, or at least some self-awareness. I knew wealthy kids at Duke who were both self-aware and responsible, and those stories of Duke good are being told. In my experience, though, the displays of mindless arrogance when I was there were shocking at times. One incident that I remember clearly is a fellow student from out-of-state asking me if I had gotten into Duke on an affirmative action program for people from North Carolina. Seriously. Another time, I had taken a summer job working on Duke’s Central Campus, painting student apartments and mowing grass. As I was mowing, I saw an acquaintance from a class the prior semester walk by and he motioned to me. I turned off my lawn mower and walked over to him. He asked me what I was doing. I said, “working.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Because I need the money.” He looked seriously puzzled. I had honestly never met people like that until I went to Duke. I could go on and on with stories like the ones above.

When I look at President Brodhead’s letter, the “Campus Culture Initiative” he describes jumps out at me:

The task of the Initiative is to evaluate and suggest improvements in the ways Duke educates students in the values of personal responsibility, consideration for others, and mutual respect in the face of difference and disagreement.

My freshman year (fall of 1990), we had a similar initiative called “Duke’s Vision.” I don’t remember the details or if there was any particular catalyst behind it, but I do remember that I invoked “Duke’s Vision” in a published letter to The Chronicle about some t-shirts that were surprisingly popular on campus. The t-shirts read: “Duke University: We’re not snobs, we’re just better than you.” Were these t-shirts just more zany “fun” from the same folks who brought you the “Cameron Crazies”? I didn’t think so then, and still don’t now. There’s something sinister and just plain nasty about it — why would the already over-privileged feel the need to rub it in? Again, this attitude certainly didn’t reflect everyone at Duke, but it was broad enough that an entrepreneur recognized it as a legitimate business opportunity, and that’s sad.

It’s deeply disturbing that some of the identical behaviors and attitudes I experienced (as one of the privileged!) are being echoed so clearly in events fifteen years later. I think the best thing I can do now is raise children who don’t take privilege for granted, or even worse, use it as a weapon against the less privileged. Whether the allegations against the Duke lacrosse team turn out to be true or not, the fact that it seems so plausible makes me less proud to be associated with Duke.

19 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the Duke lacrosse situation

  1. How about concern for the Very serious crime of false allegations of rape?

    I just heard a Duke Professor on the Radio in a planned interview. In the 48 hour it has come out that one of the stippers placed the first 911 call reporting a slur (when she initially said she had no) and it was also reported that the Defense attorneys possess pictures of the alleged victim arriving scratched, bruised, and very intoxicated – she’s also smiling in the pictures. With those recent revelations, the Duke Professor gave a live interview and he was asked about his biggest concerns. He said there were 3, concern about the behavior of the team, concern about community relations, and concern for Duke as in institution.

    He didn’t say he was concerned that these young men (some 18) were falsely accused. He didn’t say that he was concerned that they convicted in the media absent any charges. And he didn’t say he concerned about whether they could get a fair trial after all the negative media.

    The accuser is a convicted Car-jacker that tried to run over a police officer and she has DWI and Drug arrests. She’s a student too, representing NCCU in Durham. Why is no one concerned with her behavior? Why doesn’t she have a responsibility in representing her University?

    She gets a pass because she is Black. If 3 men on a basketball team were charged the season would not be cancelled. The Media would NOT judge them all by the actions of the 3. And the media would be voicing their concerns over a rush to judgement and their ability to get a fair trial in this country. To deny this is to choose blindness over sight.

    It’s readily apparent for anyone willing to be honest and open-minded in assessing this case.

    Thank you,

    John

  2. Forgive me for stumbling upon this commentary; but I find the author’s bit very thoughtful. “John,” on the other hand:

    It is not atypical (clearly, as the information is so readily available) to dig up dirt on people who make rape allegations. I would even go so far to suggest that the sad truth is that people who tend to put themselves in potentially dangerious situations (such as stripping in a Lax house) also find themselves, well, getting into trouble frequently. This “evidence” is no more (or no less) applicable to the eventual trial as the pillorying of the Duke lacrosse team…

    …speaking of which: might the rest of us be so quick to jump to conclusions about the lacrosse team because of THEIR prior guilt in anything from petty crimes to plain old meatheadedness? Are you not treating the accusor with the same type of biases that you argue against in defense of the accused?

  3. As a woman and a professional one at that, i am deeply offended by false accustations of rape. This felon and stripper will make it more difficult for any women who has actually been raped to ever claim rape again. For shame Chad, you seem to have had a difficult time fitting in at duke and perhaps were jealous of athletes and seem to be allowing your unpopularity at school affect your feelings here. Svae your feelings of the horribleness of rape for a honest women who has been raped not a stripper whore in a red lace bodysuit

  4. Just because only 42% of the student body received need-based aid, that doesn’t mean that the other 58% paid full tuition. Any student that received an academic or athletic scholarship would not have been included in the 42%, yet they also would not have paid full tuition.

  5. Chad,

    i stumbled across this site. how did you manage to type this article while simultaneously patting yourself on the back? this article isn’t so much about the duke lacrosse alleged rape scandal as it is about you telling us how great and sensitive you are with a smattering of some rather naive social commentary on the culture of privilege at Duke. in fact, you only mention the alleged rape scandal at the very beginning and end of your article. my friend, let me do a little ‘splaining and a little not-so-subtle backpatting too. my brothers and i were fortunate to go to some very nice schools too, and let me tell you, the ‘safety school’ chants at sports games, the derogatory comments about the local state school, and all that other BS snobbery weren’t invented at Duke. they happen at elite schools everywhere. and trust me, at Harvard, Duke was their safety school–and by your logic, they should be raping like mad over in Cambridge. my point is, you spent the whole article knocking down the proverbial strawman (and stroking your ego into full climax, don’t forget that). you know as well as i do that there is a culture of privelege at colleges like Duke, these schools have plenty of rich kids who could buy and sell you and me a million times over, and they let us know it by emblazoning their social digs on t-shirts, and deriding our blue collar ways while we mow lawns to pay for college, but that does NOT mean that these lacrosse kids raped anyone. this alleged rape is no more believable because it allegedly happenend at Duke, than it would be if it allegedly happened at some shitty (oops!) state school. oh yeah, my parents were poor immigrants, and like yours, they worked their asses off to send my brothers and me to good schools, so i have just as much of a ‘right’ to disliking these rich, white kids, as you do. but that doesn’t mean they raped anyone. let’s wait and see, pal. oh yeah, see you next week on the squash courts!

  6. When we think of a single mother, we picture a woman struggling to support herself and her children. Laura Grissim [Letters; April 14] plays on this stereotype to portray the Durham rape accuser/stripper as a stereotypical working single mom.

    It’s amazing how just by claiming a person to be a “mother” puts a “halo” on her head. Ms. Grissom claims that some women have no other option to provide for herself and her children which paints a picture of a selfless martyr, but this is misleading especially regarding this particular “single mom”. This single mom and her children live with their grandfather so the threat of being homeless or hungry is unlikely. This single mom has been arrested in for larceny and evading police, which doesn’t fit the mold of “martyr”. This single mom arrived at the party inebriated and was found drunk and disorderly in a parking lot, but looking at this woman as an individual instead of a sexist stereotype reveals a more realistic picture of this single mom which dims her halo.

    Ms. Grissom goes on to rants that criticizing this woman “hinges on blaming the victim”. This single mom is not a victim. This single mom is an “accuser”. There’s enough evidence to question her integrity and whether a crime actually occurred. I find it hypocritical that Ms. Grissom so easily gives this “single mom” the benefit of the doubt while condemning a group of boys who happen to be on a sports team. People should avoid stereotypes and focus on each individual, including the “accuser”, as a person.

    The actions of District Attorney Mike Nifong have been reckless and irresponsible in playing out this case before the national media. This has inflamed racial stereotypes throughout Durham which makes it more important that everyone take a step back and let the police do their job. If this woman lied; thus exposing Nifong as a fool, then she should be prosecuted for this crime, which have destroyed these young boys’ lives and reputations. Being a “single mom” shouldn’t be an excuse to condone this type of behavior.

    Rape shields were created in the 1970s to protect the alleged “victim” from having her reputation ruined by baseless assumptions, unfair judgments, public humiliation, and character assassinations, but any of this could describe what’s happening to every member of the lacrosse team.

    Irresponsible “special interest groups” have held protests everyday holding the name and pictures of anyone on the lacrosse team, to having their pictures and hate slogans pasted all over school. The actions of these groups against these men are nothing short of harassment and unfair character assassination.

    Media hungry District Attorney Mike Nifong stated he is positive a rape has occurred, but he isn’t sure if it’s by the members of the lacrosse team, yet he obtained an order to get DNA samples from only the members of the team, then he stated on a national news program that the lacrosse team has a “rowdy” reputation on campus – obviously playing up to sexist stereotyping of jocks to further play his case for the media. As Nifong continues to publicly massacre the characters out his case for public consumption, he claims that the team is “stonewalling the investigation” because they claim not to have any knowledge of what transpired, but is Nifong now believing the men to be telling the truth as he recently changed his tune stating that even if the DNA evidence clears these boys that he’ll have other evidence.

    Opportunistic political groups have descended on Duke’s campus using unscrupulous methods to get media attention at the expense of innocent young men who happen to be on the lacrosse team. Young men who were too recently, only boys not yet ready to handle this ugly side of the world. In today’s climate, we need the rape shield laws extended to protect all the innocent, including those who just happen to get in the way of media hungry district attorneys and opportunistic political groups.

    District Attorney Mike Nifong’s should be held accountable for the irresponsible actions he’s taken in this rape investigation.

    The boys are being tried in the national media before there is any charge are made. Nifong stated that someone else could have assaulted the 27 year old stripper, yet he publicly damned the men’s lacrosse team and only the men’s lacrosse team as gang rapist, and still not knowing whether or not the “alleged victim” was telling the truth, or if the three men sought are on the team, Nifong claims the team is stonewalling to protect its own.

    In response, daily protest are held with hate comments made directly to the lacrosse teammates, pictures of the teammates with rape slogans are plastered all over Duke’s campus, and now gang members are driving by the east campus threatening students.

    Nifong’s circus-like antics to perform for the national media has put the whole campus in danger.

    Nifong proclaimed in the national media that the DNA sweep of 46 boys would find the guilty and clear the innocent. DNA tests prove that the boys of the lacrosse team were telling the truth, but Nifong wants to go ahead with the case only weeks before his election against a woman and a black man. There should be laws in place to prevent unscrupulous politician like District Attorney Mike Nifong from bulldozing over 47 innocent boys just to bask in the international media spot-light.

  7. Yes, what nice lovely young boys those Duke lacrosse players are. One of them has a prior arrest for an assault that included taunting the victim with homophobic slurs. The team as a whole thought it was a great idea to hire a stripper for their party. This says a lot to me about how those nice young Duke lacrosse players value and respect their fellow human beings. Of course they would never do something like rape a black woman. How could we even imagine that privileged white gay-bashing stripper-hiring boys could even conceiveably be involved in a sexual assault?

    Tamika, I suggest you show your support for the good qualities of the unfairly persecuted innocent young men by volunteering to do a striptease for them at their next Friday night get-together. You’d have nothing to be afraid of, right?

    All the rest of you – how very boring, how very predictable, your rush to tar and feather the woman who reports a rape. How very pedestrian. Don’t you realize you are doing what the mob commonly does every time a woman is raped? Unless, of course, she is a “nice” young lady who is raped by a stranger. Because we all know, whores can’t be raped, right? Is that what you are saying? If a woman is a stripper, then by that very fact she cannot be raped, she cannot be believed if she says she is raped? You all make me want to barf. I hope none of you ever have a sister or a daughter or a girlfriend who is sexually assaulted at party. Because then you’ll get to see just what it’s like when nobody believes the woman, because she was “asking for it”.

    Chad, I can only say that your post completely resonates with my experience as a daughter of the working class at Duke. As much as I find the comments of John, Random, Tamika, Anthony and Nice Guy to be barf-inducing, they are certainly illustrative of how deeply ingrained white male privilege is in this society.

  8. Rape is tough to prove. But as far as being jerks, sounds like the evidence is ample on all sides, the accuser(s) and accused.

    I have to say the Duke president has displayed some tremendous leadership in reaction to this ordeal.

  9. Zuska,

    i didn’t realize that “rich, white, male, and hiring a stripper” = rape. did you learn that in your feminist algebra class?

    now before you get all bent out of shape, please read the following very slowly to aid your comprehension.

    i think most reasonable people believe that most of these lacrosse players stink in the character department, but that doesn’t mean they raped anyone!

    personally, though, i think the woman’s story is bogus–she doesn’t sound like an angel either! if i had to guess (and it’s just a guess!), the guys were disappointed with the stripping/dancing, got rowdy, insulting, and maybe refused to pay (do you pay before or after the performance? i don’t know–i’ve never hired a stripper). she wanted to get back, made up the rape story and it got way the hell out of control.

    now read this next sentence very carefully.

    but for all i know, it could have happened. let’s wait and see Zuska.

  10. Chad

    Just found your BLOG today – would be interesting to get your thoughts as of today given how the Nifong Facts have been evolving. I strongly disagree that you hold the belief that any family who has the $44k to send a child to Duke should be ashamed of themselves. The shame should be on yourself.
    Please face the facts – the inital allegations were/are very serious assuming they were/are true. However, the players appear to be victims given what facts have started to appear. Nifong will do anything to make this conviction including fabrication of facts and outright lies. The Lacrosse Team may indeed have been over the top in their behavior for years – it does not mean they are rapists because of that behavior. Wake up and stop being pro-Nifong and anti-Duke.

  11. This whole procees stinks. “Alleged” “Indicted” “Suspected” “Suspect”… does anyone know the English definitions of those words? None of these students are guilty until proven to be guilty, nor is the Coach, why did he resign? Let me guess, the “new” black panthers will judge the case? Those pussies are even less human than their 1960’s “brothers”, get a life and get off welfare from the “man” you hypocrites.

    This entire PC process must have been dreamt up by Johnny Cochran’s ghost and sista-soldia. What a load.

    Last word, “student” female, stripper, call-girl and you have no responsibility for the environment you place yourself in? Get a grip and go cry rape in a convent, not as a stripper at a Lacrosee team party, what a dumbass and what a waste of time this all is. Play Lacrosee and go graduate you guys, let the lo-lifes be proved wrong and then sue their ass till it turns white.

    Go Duke Lacrosse!

  12. This entire proceeding is a joke. This student-crakho-stripper has had over 6 run-ins with the law, either being busted or making false, non-supported allegations. Check her background, I’ll give you her name and SSN if you want: Larceny, fraude, filing a false ploice report, drunk and disorderly, possession of a controlled substance. Does this background (as well as unwed, single ho-mother) make her a viable and credible accuser? You have to be joking right?

    She should stick to bl0# jobs in the back seat for $20 and appearances on Jerry Springer for $38.50 per episode, what a stupid, retarded and slutty human being this maggot is.

    Adam

  13. I am not a snob, I’m just a much better, smarter and more civilized person than the so-called accuser, stripper, whore.

    I don’t smoke crack, make false police reports, drink 2 bottles of vodka in 3 hours and lie to the police.

    The Lax players simply forgot to score a goal with the butt end of their sticks, she would have been able to identify that stick going in and out, even with 2 bottles of vodka insisde her diseased and worthless body.

    Another sista trying to get over on the white man, aint gonna work this time, and Nifong will be washing floors in the Judges restrooms after he fucks this one up. Serves him right, he’s been waiting to ambush Duke and Duke Lax players for years. What a weasel he’s turned out to be, again, still.

  14. You know who the real bad guys are in this whole thing?

    -Mike Nifong.
    -the media.

    Both of these have ensured that this process becomes symbolic of race relations and not a cut-and-dry criminal case, which is forcing certain populations to take sides. This is looking like Tawana-frickin-Brawley all over again.

    About the only real lessons that can be learned from this are:

    -taking off your clothes in front of horny adolescent males is basically prostitution and nothing good can come of it

    -soliciting women to take off their clothes in front of you and your drunk friends is asking for trouble

    -to some people, race is everything, and trumps even justice

  15. The side of America that is shocked that the Duke players were drinking at a party, and think that is bad enough, need to come back to the “Real World” and realized their kids in college are going to parties in college with not only drinking, but severe drug use. Most kids party in college, get over it. The real crime in this case is how every member of the Duke Lacrosse program will never be looked at in the same light as they once were, even if they were not even present at the party. That is a crime. Also, it clearly looks like a similar situation to Tawana Bradley and she will NEVER face consequences if she is lying! EVER! If it turns out she made the whole thing up, she will still be receiving financial support and scholarship money from several African American groups, and will not go to jail. Making false accusations of rape is JUST as big of crime as doing it and it only hurts real rape victims in the future. If it turns out she is lying, when there is a similar case the woman, even if telling the truth, will lack serious credibility. Did Tawana Bradley ever go to jail? NO. Should she have? Yes, she should be in jail RIGHT NOW and have about twenty years left on her sentence. Who can the Duke lacrosse players sue when this is all said and done? They can’t sue the victim because she doesn’t have a dime; she actually made money if she is lying thanks to good old Jesse Jackson. I hope these kids are proven innocent and file a suit against the State of North Carolina and Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong for their severe errors in handling this case. Nifong should be stripped of all rights to practice law in the state and hopefully everywhere in the United States. Even if she is not lying, which at this point seems near impossible, his actions are means for dismissal of the case and should cause him to lose his job anyway. Using a case for political reasons in any circumstance, let alone in the fashion that Nifong did, should be a crime. Will every one in the media write articles to the Duke students when it comes out they are innocent after the harsh articles written earlier in the year that labeled them as 100 percent guilty and “rich criminals and hooligans”. I would like to see an apology. The only “hooligan” in this case is Mike Nifong!

  16. Mr. Nifong may be in more trouble than it seems. Why would the “victim” press charges knowing the allegations to be false, especially since casual sex didn’t seem to bother her (as evidenced by the DNA found in her and on her underwear from three other men, not from Duke). She also at no time apparently tried to squeeze the players for money.
    Rather I believe that when it all comes out, we will learn that it was a set-up by Mr. Nifong from the beginning. He needed a high profile case to win election to DA in a majority black town. What better way than to have the rich, white boys rape a poor local black girl and he be rhe hero prosecutor?
    I believe Mr. Nifong researched to find the group at Duke who had the raunchiest parties, had the “victim” solicit them to hire her as a stripper, lure them into sexual acts and then cry, “rape”.
    Problem is the boys didn’t take the bait. Nifong, believing the rapes had occurred, was fully confident when he ordered the DNA tests. Seems the “victim” hadn’t gotten around to telling him it didn’t actually happen. And so, it fell apart.
    I believe Mr. Nifong tired to pull off a massive fraud to win his election. It worked… until now. I hope the full truth of this fiasco finally comes out, and Mr. Nifong gets what he fully deserves.

  17. One thing I can’t get past, is that everyone is going after Nifong. What I want to know is why isn’t anyone going after Jackson and Sharpen, after all they were rabid when they thought the Lacrosse players were not going to be charged. Where are their appolagize to the Duke Lacrosse players? Why don’t we see the tapes of Jessie and Al having their tirade during the whole fiasco I feel that if it wasn’t for their foaming at the mouth rants it would not have gone as far as it did……….or wouldn’t that be PC. I hope the 3 innocent lacrosse players go after Al and Jessie too they have VERY deep pockets

    Dick Hertz

  18. I hope all of you that judged the 3 innocent lacrosse players send the apologies. I also hope that you ask Rev. Al and Jessie to send apologies too!!!!!!!!!

    I HOPE THE LACROSE PLAYERS SUE THERE ASSES TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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