DURHAM, North Carolina
Duke University President Richard Brodhead apologized Saturday for not better supporting the men’s lacrosse team and players’ families after three players were falsely accused in last year’s highly publicized rape scandal.
Dr. Brodhead, speaking at the university’s law school, said he regretted Duke’s “failure to reach out” in a “time of extraordinary peril” after a Black woman accused three White players of raping her at a March 2006 party thrown by the team.
“Given the complexities of this case, getting the communication right would never have been easy,” Brodhead said. “But the fact is that we did not get it right, causing the families to feel abandoned when they were most in need of support. This was a mistake. I take responsibility for it and I apologize for it.”
Brodhead spoke at a school-sponsored forum on legal and ethical issues common to high-profile cases, and he received a standing ovation.
As authorities began to investigate the allegations, Brodhead and the university initially suspended the highly ranked team from play. He later canceled the remainder of its season and ousted longtime coach Mike Pressler. Meanwhile, Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong labeled the team “hooligans” as he searched for suspects.
But even as Nifong won indictments against players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans, it became clear the allegations had no merit.
State prosecutors determined in April the accuser’s story was a lie. Nifong was disbarred in June for more than two dozen violations of the state bar’s rules of professional conduct, including withholding results of critical DNA tests, and resigned.
In the early days of the case, Brodhead was generally cautious in his comments, saying the players should be presumed innocent while also insisting the crimes alleged had no place at the elite private university.
Brodhead said Saturday he worried that making numerous public comments could be interpreted as an attempt by Duke to “influence the judicial process,” especially since Nifong was insisting a crime had occurred.
That may have created an impression that Duke did not care about the accused students, Brodhead said, which he said was untrue but still something he regrets.
Duke has reached private settlements with Pressler, as well as the three cleared players.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com