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Alleged Rape by Duke Athletes Stuns N.C. Community
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Alleged Rape by Duke Athletes Stuns N.C. Community

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Alleged Rape by Duke Athletes Stuns N.C. Community

Alleged Rape by Duke Athletes Stuns N.C. Community
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Prosecutors in Durham, N.C., are investigating a woman's claim that several members of Duke's lacrosse team raped her. Duke has canceled its lacrosse season, and coach Mike Pressler has quit. Steve Inskeep talks to Bob Ashley, editor of the Herald-Sun in Durham.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next we'll talk about the aftermath of a scandal involving the men's lacrosse team at Duke University.

A woman claims that some members of the team assaulted her. The team's coach has resigned, a player has been suspended, and the District Attorney says he could file charges as soon as next week.

Duke's president has cancelled lacrosse season and promised a very serious self-study, as he calls it, of campus activities.

We're joined now by Bob Ashley, editor of the Herald-Sun, in Durham, North Carolina.

Mr. Ashley, good morning.

Mr. BOB ASHLEY (Editor, Herald-Sun, North Carolina): Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Where does the case stand right now?

Mr. ASHLEY: Well, I think as you just described it. We're sort of in a holding pattern right now, with folks I think probably awaiting the return of DNA evidence, and a decision by the District Attorney about where to go from there, which probably won't come until sometime next week.

INSKEEP: Now, I want to know how this has affected the community there, because most of the lacrosse team is white. The woman who said she was assaulted is black. How much are people pointing to race as an issue here?

Mr. ASHLEY: Well, race has certainly been part of the issue. I think overlaying that has been anger over a sense, perhaps, that athletes may have a sense of entitlement, and some concern among people in Durham about, that's always been there, about an elitism at Duke. And then you have the sexual aspect of it, sexual violence aspect of it too. I think it has different constituencies angry for different reasons.

INSKEEP: Now what was the relationship between Duke and the surrounding community before all this happened?

Mr. ASHLEY: Well, in many ways it has improved dramatically, probably even in the last decade. Duke has been deeply involved in a number of important projects in the community.

Some of the greatest concern has been with the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the east campus, one of the two campuses of Duke University. And it's that neighborhood particularly where the outrage, I think, probably surfaced first, because they had been complaining for years about the raucous and boisterous partying that sometimes goes on in off-campus apartments by students.

INSKEEP: What's that neighborhood like?

Mr. ASHLEY: Well, it's a fairly quiet neighborhood, lots of older homes. Many people there are affiliated with the University in some way or appreciate being close to it. But interspersed with those owner-occupied homes have been, you know, several dozen renter-occupied, traditionally student houses.

Ironically, Duke had just bought, I think the number is 31, of those houses, just a few weeks ago in an effort to convert them to owner-occupied dwellings and get rid of some of the student rental housing. And again, ironically, one of those houses was the house where the alleged attack occurred.

INSKEEP: Now this email rant, as it's described by the Associated Press, can not have helped things. A Duke University lacrosse player sent an email about killing and stripping women. Skinning women.

Mr. ASHELY: Right. Oh, absolutely. It was, you know, a major flashpoint. Tension was already fairly high in some areas, and it really inflamed it.

The City Council had a meeting yesterday in which several members really took advantage of this, took advantage is the wrong word, took the opportunity to tee off at the allegations of the email, and at the long-standing, what some of them said was the reputation of the lacrosse team. One City Council member who actually lives in that neighborhood said that, in our paper this morning, for years the team has been a ticking time bomb. So it's, I think the e-mail really brought that concern to a head.

INSKEEP: In just a couple of seconds, do people believe that Duke is sincere about trying to clean up?

Mr. ASHLEY: Some do, some don't, would be the honest answer to that. Some people will forever distrust Duke.

I think a number of folks yesterday maybe felt better than they had before that Duke was responding with dispatch and with seriousness.

INSKEEP: Mr. Ashley, thanks very much.

Mr. ASHLEY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Bob Ashley is editor of the Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina.

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