Duke Reconsiders Approach to Student Behavior
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A pair of Duke University faculty committees say the school needs to do a better job setting expectations for student behavior. The committees were formed in response to the now notorious lacrosse team party in March.
Two players are charged with raping a female student from a nearby university who was hired to entertain at the party as an exotic dancer. In reports released last night, committee members said the lacrosse team has a history of serious misconduct.
NPR's Adam Hochberg reports.
ADAM HOCHBERG reporting:
Even before Duke lacrosse players held their raucous spring break party, the team had a disciplinary record that faculty leaders call deplorable. A month-long university investigation of the team found a pattern of misconduct dating back several years, involving property damage, theft, and other offenses, both on and around Duke's Durham, North Carolina, campus.
A faculty committee chaired by law professor James Coleman found more than a third of this year's lacrosse players committed violations.
Professor JAMES COLEMAN (Professor of law, Duke University): This was conduct that imposed upon students in the dormitories, it imposed upon people in the communities around Durham, and, obviously, it has done damage to the University. And I think that what was missing in the record that we see is any effort at all at responsibility.
HOCHBERG: Committee members looked at the last five years of lacrosse team behavior. Though they did not examine what happened the night of the party, choosing to leave those questions to the court system.
The committee noted that lacrosse players have been excellent students in the classroom and stellar athletes on the field. But it also found that while lacrosse players represent less than one percent of Duke student body, they were responsible for 11 percent of last year's misconduct cases. Coleman says most of those involved alcohol.
Professor COLEMAN: You know, one of the things that we learned about the lacrosse team is that they do things in packs. I mean, you know, they live in the same dormitory, a lot of them do, and when they have drinking games they all participate.
HOCHBERG: The committee said Duke Administrators did little to deter the athletes from misbehaving, and it concluded the University's approach to misconduct is casual, arbitrary, and often ineffective.
Meanwhile, a second faculty panel, also formed in response to the lacrosse party, found fault with Duke's effort to impart values upon the student body.
Professor Prasad Kasibhatla called on administrators to strengthen Duke's Honor Code with a special emphasis on raising expectations for student behavior out of the classroom.
Professor PRASAD KASIBHATLA (Professor of Environment & Earth Sciences, Duke University): A central tenet of the standard should be good citizenship, not only within Duke, but in the broader community. And that value needs to be communicated to students at all levels and throughout their tenure at Duke, and through all their different experiences at Duke.
HOCHBERG: The two committees submitted several recommendations to Duke's President, who says he'll work to implement them in time for the start of the next school year this fall. They include the establishment of a code of conduct for athletes, a stronger program to battle student alcohol abuse, and better communication to assure coaches are aware when team members misbehave.
But faculty members gave something of a vote of confidence to Duke's troubled lacrosse program. They said they saw no reason why the team can't take the field and play next season.
Adam Hochberg, NPR News.
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