We are willing to bet that after last week’s whirlwind of negative publicity, the Blue Devils in Durham, N.C., aren’t feeling anything like No. 1.
Amid boiling controversy over news of members of its men’s lacrosse team allegedly participating in a rape of a North Carolina Central University student at an off-campus party, Duke University’s president suspended them Wednesday. His decision came only 15 days after the alleged incident occurred. In a couple of words: too late.
Weeks after its occurrence, the alleged incident has proven to have broad implications about athletic culture, race and class at the North Carolina school.
The victim, who was at the party as an exotic dancer, alleged that some members of the team gang raped her while calling her racial slurs. The 27-year-old student is a black woman.
Instead of taking immediate action against the team, the university waited until students and community members began to protest on campus before offering its stern reprimand. Meanwhile, the team is still being allowed to practice – for a season they’re not going to have?
While no one involved in the case has been convicted or exonerated, by waiting two weeks after the alleged incident to make a decision against the team, the school’s administration sent a message alluding that a different kind of justice system is applied to athletes.
Within the last three years, about one third of the team has faced charges that include underage possession of alcohol, loud noise and public urination, according to an investigative report from the Raleigh News & Observer. All charges were dropped against the 15 players charged.
If this incident involved an ordinary student, would he or she have been treated the same?
Yet, it is only fair to acknowledge the scrutiny the team faces because of its status at a high profile university. But that does not excuse the administration’s tardiness. Perhaps it may have to do with maintaining its image, or maybe it shows the university’s dedication to its sports teams.
Duke should be in the business of making sure its students conduct themselves accordingly to the school’s desired image – athletes or not.
In these cases, students should be reprimanded as needed. A school its age has built a reputation for more than 100 years and should not allow this foul incident to reduce that to shambles. Perhaps they’ll learn a lesson from this.
Students are the customers, but, contrary to popular belief, the customer is not always right.