Like the president of Duke needs something else for people to laugh at him for

I mean, come on, his name is Brodhead, for lord's sake.

Seriously, though. The worst possible outcome of the Duke lacrosse rape case has come to pass:

DURHAM (WTVD) -- More than three dozen members of the 2006 Duke University men's lacrosse team and members of their families filed suit against Duke University, its President Richard Brodhead and other officials, Duke's medical center, and the City of Durham and city officials for emotional distress and other injuries in connection with false rape charges and a corrupt police investigation against team members in 2006. (more story here)
I'm frustrated, honestly, and I'm really sorry that this is happening. I went to a university where one did NOT mess with lacrosse. The students only cared about one sport (guess which one), the ROTC only drilled during the national anthem during one sport (c'mon, try harder) and the cheerleaders only cared about making it with one team (right, well, maybe not this cheerleader, but you know what I'm saying). Speaking of, did I ever show you this?

Heh. That's me, seven years and about a kajillion doughnuts ago.

Anyway. After graduation, I joined the adminstration of that university, albeit as a peon, and no one who made decisions like "Let's cancel the team's season because of this rape thing! Yeah!" But I still got to see some inner workings of the bureaucracy, and I know which side the school's bread is buttered on, so to speak in old-people-ese. And athletics is a big, big slab of that butter... especially lacrosse.

Lacrosse brings in money from ticket sales, merchandising, and concessions. Alumni who played, their wives who have to suffer through endless retellings of the 1965 championship or whatever, their kids who want to honor Dad's contribution to said championship season, even if he was the waterboy - these people give money, and lots of it. Cancelling an entire season - God, cancelling a single GAME - is a move that NO ONE at a major lacrosse institution wants to make. And now people are all pissy with Duke because that's what they had to do, cancel a season to protect themselves, the school, and even the team members who are now biting the hand that kept the big bad accuser away.

Of COURSE Duke had to investigate the accusations. Let's just use a little sense here - if someone accused your kid of rape, you'd want to know the truth, no matter how much it hurt and how vehemently you believed your kid's innocence. Of COURSE they worked with the police, even when the police investigation turned out to be seriously flawed. (And by "seriously flawed," I mean "this wouldn't even happen on the most ridiculous Law & Order ever, even the ones that start out with that 'the following is based on a true event, so it's totally ridiculous!' warning.") If the police came to your house and said, "Hey, your kid might be a rapist! Let's see what we can find out, shall we?" you'd go right along with their questions and their probing, if for no other reason than to prove that your kid didn't do it.

And of COURSE they cancelled the season.

People are saying that they did it to protect themselves, as if the provost and the president were somehow involved in the rape and wanted to save themselves from a DNA culture or something, and not letting the boys play their sport would break every cotton swab in the southeast. I wonder if those people ever stopped to think that the admins, in whatever way they could, were trying to protect THE BOYS. The story made Newsweek, every major network's evening broadcast, and who knows how many talk shows - did the men on the lacrosse team ever think that there were people all over the country who thought they did rape that girl? And those people live near other universities where lacrosse is played... and would likely show up at their games... and would begin by threatening them during visiting games and possibly end by hurting them in ways they can't imagine? What about the Duke students who went along to support the team at their away games - wouldn't the condemners go after them too, claiming that they were hiding rapists and supporting criminals?

Yes, it was a flawed investigation and a horrific story that I wouldn't wish on anyone, even the most Neanderthalish of jocks. Yes, those three boys who were actually indicted have had their lives flipped, trashed, and essentially ruined. However, I don't think they can blame Duke for acting in the way they thought would protect the majority of those involved, even on the periphery. And these 38 other team members, I have nothing to say about them. We all need someone to blame when things go horribly wrong, and I'm sure that having their season cancelled and the world's eyes on them (and consequently, the world's attention during their, shall we say, not-so-shining moments) was probably the least fun way to spend their college years.

But don't go after Duke. Why would a university exist if not for the good of its students? Why bother raising money, and growing a stellar reputation, and working incredibly long hours (okay, maybe that was just us peons) if the kids won't be all right? It was a volatile and confusing situation, and no one - except for the accuser, who created the whole mess, and those sneaky characters who wanted to gain from her messmaking - deserves to be condemned for being confused, and acting in the way they thought would protect those under their care.

Speech over. Now back to your regularly scheduled mommyblogging and discussion of really important things like throwing up, and the Backyardigans (you gotta love that neurotic little Pablo!)


  1. I like your blog and you make some interesting (and valid) points, but your contention that Duke canceled the season to protect the players is off base. Duke administrators sacrificed the lacrosse players in an attempt to protect themselves. Their actions (not just the canceling of the season but the very statements by Broadhead) presumed guilt.

    I'd encourage you to read the statement by Steve Henkelmen (the father of former lacrosse team member Erik Henkelmen) for a better idea of just how badly the players were treated by the school.

    Duke University allowed and even encouraged the harrassment of the players. The University was supposed to do what you outline in your post; protect the students. Instead they were cut loose. Thanks.

  2. I just noticed you are pregnant, wife gave birth to our daughter (our first child) on Monday. I am still walking on air, words can't describe it. Best of luck, thanks.


  3. Mike - First of all (and so much more importantly than my take on this Duke thing) congrats on the new baby! And good job, you, admitting how excited you are. Some guys would keep that in, although given how polite you were in commenting and how fairly you're debating with me, you don't seem like that kind of guy. :)

    Anyway. I think you're right - life on campus for those guys got really ugly really fast, and I'm sure that the admins could have done more to buoy up their situation. In a case like that, though, it would be easy for moral and emotional support to be sidelined by public opinion and politics - not because the admins didn't want to provide it, but because they had to give the appearance of being utterly objective until the truth was fully explored, even to the extent of being harsh in their public statements about the team members. The school is a private institution, yes, but it's still a public power, especially in Durham, where town/gown relations aren't ever all that good, from what I've heard. To survive the intense media scrutiny from interest groups (led most vocally by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton) Duke HAD to put on a balls-out, cop-cooperating front, and they couldn't publicly defend their men without first knowing absolutely everything, including that they were innocent.

    It sucks, I'm not arguing that. The professors who acted like assholes should be reprimanded in some way (public apology? head on a stick? whatever, I'm not picky) - but my feeling on it is that they're most likely feeling their assholishness rather strongly, now that the guys have been exonerated. It's easy to criticize and so much harder to have been wrong in that criticism, particularly when one is, in one's own opinion, a Formidable and Super-Intelligent Professor who's trying to get respect from his/her students. Embarrassment is a pretty powerful punishment in itself.

    On the other hand, does this then become a free speech issue? This is one of my biggest peeves: people hiding behind free speech while publicly being jerks to others for no reason other than their own self-righteousness. I'm not saying it's right, but do you think it could be a possible argument here? Duke, and most universities of their size and school of thought, probably has disclaimers about how the speech of their professors does not reflect the feeling of the university as a whole, blah blah blah. You see them in the beginnings of controversial movies all the time, so I can't imagine a university with an image to uphold wouldn't have one. So if the professors call it their right to being openly condemnatory-- I mean, their right to free speech, would it be fair to go after Duke as an institution, knowing that they publicly deny any responsibility for what their professors say out loud?

    I dunno, I think it's all a huge clusterf*ck. It seems like everyone lost, and the only really good thing would be to let the story die. My heart aches for the team members because of the backlash they all suffered, not just the accused three. Their parents have suffered too - it would be unimaginably hard to go through this, even if they believed their sons' claims of innocence, on the slim, teensy, off chance they were guilty. And I'm so sorry that all of these people had to go through this. It just seems like a lawsuit aimed at Duke is misguided at this late date - if it were me, I'd set my sights on the accuser and that Nifong creep. They're the ones who started it, really. (I honestly don't know - has anyone sued the girl yet? I haven't heard much about it. I wonder, if they haven't, why not...)

    Sometimes I talk too much - I just get all sensitive when it comes to university issues. And I don't even work there anymore - God, I'd be really unbearable if I did, I'm sure. Good luck with that baby!

  4. Hello? Why don't they sue that chick for starting it all? Maybe they have already, I don't know. They should sue her for slander, or filing a false police report, or being a tramp or something. Maybe it's because Duke has a basketball team that rocks (though not as much as Wake Forest!) that their bad reaction happened. John Hopskin would have handled it differently, I would imagine, since no one knows they have other sports besides lacrosse.

    And thanks for not dragging me into cheerleading as well as sorority life. :)