Press Release No. 2
Friends of Duke University
Date: July 26, 2006
Subject: Our open letter to the President and Trustees of Duke receives a response
Our Group and Its Mission
The Friends of Duke University consists of alumni, parents and friends of Duke who are deeply concerned about the University’s response to the lacrosse controversy. We want to ensure fair and equitable treatment for both the University and the lacrosse team in every public forum and feel that the University itself has not done enough to pursue it. On July 19, we published an open letter to the President and Board of Trustees of Duke in the University’s newspaper, The Chronicle. The open letter asked Duke to do four things: (i) speak up for its students; (ii) be fair to the lacrosse team and encourage others to do so as well; (iii) speak up for Duke; and (iv) accept the challenges presented by the lacrosse controversy.
Our Letter Receives a Response
We are pleased to announce that Duke University President Richard Brodhead responded to the open letter from Friends of Duke University. A copy of that letter is attached to this release. Whatever our disagreements, we believe it speaks highly of the university that the President would respond in this form and we are grateful for his willingness to work with us to move forward to “a just and speedy resolution of the court case, to a proud new future for the men's lacrosse team, and to an era of increased responsibility and respect among Duke students in general.” We agree with President Brodhead that Duke should “require the legal system to proceed in a fair-minded, even-handed, and speedy fashion.” We also share the sentiment that “we are eager for our students to be proved innocent.” We will issue a further response regarding steps we feel the University should take to advance the goals President Brodhead espouses. As stated in our open letter, we do not feel that the accused lacrosse players have thus far been treated by the judicial system "in a fair-minded, even-handed, and speedy fashion," and we believe that the University has a positive obligation to ensure that local authorities follow lawful, just and regular procedures when dealing with Duke students. We are willing to work with President Brodhead and the rest of Duke University to help achieve these goals.
On the Web:
Friends of Duke University
President Richard H. Brodhead's Response to our Open Letter
July 25, 2006
Friends of Duke University
I thank you for sending me a copy of the open letter that you published in the Duke Chronicle. You say that you write not to criticize, but to offer support. I take you at your word for that, and I thank you. I well understand that in raising questions of such seriousness, you are demonstrating your concern for the University and the desire to make it better.
In a situation as complex as the one we've been grappling with, where powerful passions have coexisted with rapidly changing "facts" and where action has been required in the face of deep uncertainty, it was virtually inevitable that the University response would be open to question. It won't surprise you to learn that I have received critical comments from a great variety of points of view, including diametrically opposite ones. I accept that, and would only say that those of us in positions of responsibility have acted as best we could to make two points: that what the players were accused of was, if true, a heinous act; and that it would be equally unjust to prejudge their guilt in the absence of proof and certainty. This dual message has been at the heart of virtually every public statement I have made on the case.
I won't respond point by point to your message but do want to speak to two issues that you raise. You say that "at this point, no fair-minded person could any longer believe that a rape occurred" and, accordingly, you chide the University for not supporting the players more aggressively. But as you yourself recognize, "the university can express no opinion about the ultimate outcome of pending legal matters.” I am well aware that, after many weeks of media stories that made it seem almost self-evidently true that a rape had occurred, recent stories have offered extensive evidence exonerating the indicted students and questioning the legitimacy of the case. But the University does not have direct access to the full truth of the case now any more than we did earlier, and we can't speak with certainty of matters that only the criminal justice system can resolve.
We are eager for our students to be proved innocent. We share the wish for a speedy resolution of all the matters that are now in doubt. In my June 5 community statement I spoke of the ordeal our team members have lived through – a painful, costly experience for themselves, their families, and the community as a whole. I also reiterated that if the indicted students are the objects of a false accusation, they are the objects of an injustice as grave as the one they have been accused of. But as you recognize, the University can't go the further step and proclaim our certainty of their innocence. That requires resolution through the legal system – which is all the more reason why we require the legal system to proceed in a fair-minded, even-handed, and speedy fashion.
You also voice the perception that the University has been complicit in scapegoating members of the lacrosse team. I recognize the gravity of the charge, but I do not agree with it. It was the party that the men’s lacrosse team held on the night of March 13 that precipitated the subsequent avalanche of publicity and notoriety. In our statements, the University has been consistently critical of the team's conduct on that night (while taking scrupulous pains to distinguish between the acknowledged conduct and the felony charges, which have not been established). But we have not confined our censure to this one team. The Campus Culture Initiative outlined in my April 5 statement recognizes that the underlying issues are pervasive in undergraduate culture, and not just at Duke. In coming weeks we'll be working to promote responsible conduct among all students: on the men’s lacrosse team to be sure, but also throughout the Duke student body. Meanwhile, it was a report the administration commissioned, the Coleman Report, that gave testimony to the positive dimensions of the lacrosse team's history.
I recognize the anguish in your letter. I am not surprised by it: we are living through an unusually painful and challenging situation. But in my view, the way to heal this anguish is not to go back and endlessly debate things people should have done in the past. It's to move forward – to a just and speedy resolution of the court case, to a proud new future for the men’s lacrosse team, and to an era of increased responsibility and respect among Duke students in general. I look forward to working with you and all other friends of Duke to achieve these goals.
Richard H. Brodhead
cc: Board of Trustees
Editor of Chronicle