Richard Brodhead, president of Duke University, must be feeling lucky.
“I know I’m gambling,” Brodhead said Monday in announcing that the Duke men’s lacrosse team would return to the field next season with an expanded code of conduct and stricter oversight. “The reinstatement is inevitably probationary,” Brodhead added.
Brodhead canceled the lacrosse team’s season on April 5, after an exotic dancer told police that she was raped by team members at a March 13 party in an off-campus house.
An investigation by a faculty panel determined that Duke lacrosse players did well in the classroom, and exhibited no evidence of sexist or racist behavior, but the committee found widespread violations of the university’s alcohol policies, including under-age drinking.
The report said that Duke must confront its “tolerance of egregious violations of its own policies.”
After suspending the team, Brodhead said Duke would restore the men’s lacrosse squad only if it made a commitment to living by a clear code of conduct.
“Student-athletes are required to notify the head coach and athletic director of any violation of the code of conduct within 24 hours,” the standards read, “even when the violation occurs during a vacation period and/or outside of Durham, N.C. Failure to notify will result in immediate suspension.”
Brodhead said that he was most heartened by the next part of the standards. “While these guidelines stand as a deterrent,” the letter continues, “we recognize that the most productive changes we can make to our social culture are to root out the very actions that would precipitate a penalty.”
“I didn’t tell them what I wanted the standards to be,” Brodhead said. “We’re looking for a system where people take responsibility for their own behavior.”
Brodhead said that when the Durham district attorney indicted a third member of the lacrosse team last month in the March 13 incident, the D.A. also said that there were no more indictments to come. That essentially “exonerated the other 44 players,” Brodhead said.
Brodhead cast the decision to reinstate the team as part of Duke’s educational mission.
If “we did not allow these players the chance to take responsibility for creating a new history for their sport at Duke,” he said, “we would be denying another very fundamental value: the belief in the possibility of learning from experience, the belief in education itself.”
Even Ryan McFadden, Duke lacross player and author of a lewd e-mail following the party where the alleged rape occurred, may get a second chance. McFadden’s e-mail, announcing another party with exotic dancers, announced that he planned “on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.”
Brodhead said that the e-mail was taken out of context, and that McFadden, who is on interim suspension, will be eligible for a hearing to decide his fate, just like any student would be.
Duke athletics as a whole will be in for a few changes as a result of this spring’s lacrosse controversy.
Brodhead said that he hoped that a system for better communication between Duke and community police and the athletics department would be in place by the end of next fall, so that Duke police, and subsequently the athletics department, will be aware of behavior problems even when they occur off campus.
Also, Brodhead will now take responsibility for overseeing university athletics. “I will take responsibility for overseeing the wholeness of athletics,” Brodhead said, “to make sure it interfaces in the right fashion” with other parts of the university.
“I am taking something of a risk,” he added.