Press "Enter" to skip to content

Duke lacrosse scandal ignites racial debate across the country

Gender, racial and class tension flared at Duke University recently amid allegations that members of the men's lacrosse team participated in a sexual assault.

The alleged victim told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the off-campus party on March 13. According to police reports, the woman, who is a both a single mother and a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, was assaulted by three men at the party who restrained and choked her as she struggled to free herself from a bathroom.

The scandal has stressed race relations across both the Duke campus and the greater surrounding community, and exposed hostility between privileged students at the university and the poorer people of Durham.

The alleged victim is black and all of the lacrosse players except for one are white. Investigators and witnesses have said the lacrosse players also taunted the alleged victim with racial slurs and insults.

As a result of this ongoing scandal, school administrators cancelled the rest of the lacrosse season on April 5. The same day, the team's coach, Mike Pressler resigned. Coach Pressler spent 16 seasons at Duke and won three Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Last year, the team appeared in the national championship game. In response to Pressler's resignation, Duke athletic director Joe Alleva said, "I believe this is in the best interests of the program, the department of athletics and the university."

Here at Mills, many students find the fact that the controversy has ignited racial tensions unsurprising.

Senior and International Relations major Robin Eber stated, "I think there is justification for it to have ignited racial feelings because I think that it's the nature of it. There were three white boys allegedly who attacked this girl, who was a black woman."

Other students are not surprised that this scandal is focused around Duke University.

Freshwoman Carmen Aiken said, "There is so much bad classic, racial, gender stuff that goes on there. There's this book called I am Charlotte Simmons that came out last year, and it's all basically about Duke. It's so intensely disturbing that these people can get away with it. And they shouldn't get away with it. Who cares if you go to private school in North Carolina? Put them in jail, I don't care. They deserve everything they get for that. They deserve to be punished."

Several people share the opinion that some punitive action should be taken against students involved in the scandal. Sophomore and Music major Stephanie Hartono feels that students involved should face some disciplinary action.

"I hope that they will be punished more. Suspension, if not expulsion, from the school seems appropriate if you are going to do a crime like that," said Hartono.

As of yet, no charges have been filed against any of the players. The latest DNA tests have not linked any of the players to the victim, however, District Attorney Mike Nifong, who is heading the investigation, remains convinced that an assault occurred, so new tests have been ordered.

"We're still waiting for the results of DNA tests that have not been done," he said. "Any time you have an accuser who can identify their assailant, what you have is a case that a judge must let go to a jury," Nifong stated at a forum held at the alleged victim's school on April 11.

"Everyone is waiting to find out the results of these new DNA tests, and I think somebody should be held responsible. I mean, this girl suffered. So it's outrageous," said Eber.

Many feel that the culture of big-school athletics is partly to blame for the scandal. Senior and Environmental Science major Cameron Holly said, "I think it's the way they've constructed their social system, that they have a reputation and they have the solidarity of the team, that leads them to believe that they can do this."

Here at Mills, however, the culture of athletics greatly differs from that of Duke, according to Mills College athletic director Themy Adachi

"I don't see us getting in those kinds of situations, because we're so clear on expecting a much higher level of not just conduct, but the whole purpose of our athletic program is about growth, instructing yourself, and being the best you can be. So to be in that kind of situation as a team is so unlikely I can't imagine our coaches even having to deal with that. I would be shocked if anything like that came even close to happening at Mills College," Adachi said.