Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Here's a Clue

This is for anyone who is wondering "Where did Duke go so horribly wrong?"

Today Duke released another report from one of Brodhead's committees, this one specifically to address the administration's role in the fiasco to date. The Raleigh News & Observer has covered the report, as has The New York Times at this posting. Both papers are emphasizing a key finding: that the University did not take seriously the allegations of rape because of alleged comments from Durham police that doubted the credibility of the witness. Supposedly the Durham police told the Duke police that the victim "kept changing her story and wasn't credible" and that "if any charges were brought, they would be no more than misdemeanors".

A police report was made. A victim was taken to the ER. You damn well better take that seriously. You better assume all witnesses are credible until proved otherwise.

Let me be clear, if redundant. Sexual assault is the most common violent crime against college women. Of an undergraduate population of 6,534 students, Duke has approximately 3,136 females. By the best estimates, that means 87 sexual assaults against women per academic year. [I only leave out sexual assaults of men because it's so hard to find anything resembling a good estimate. You think women under-report rape, try finding the number of men.]

Eighty-seven sexual assaults per academic year. Duke reported 8 for 2004.

A second major failing--apart from communications failures but related to them--was that Duke administrators (especially Duke police, Dean Wasiolek, and Vice President Moneta) seriously underestimated the seriousness of the allegations.
In real terms that means they did nothing except notify the Athletics department, and the lacrosse coach.

All assault reports should be viewed as credible and investigated. All of them. Coaches should not be responsible for investigating or disciplining criminal complaints.

Durham City Manager Patrick Baker disputes that the city police questioned the report or the victim in today's Durham Herald, writing that "the Durham Police Department immediately launched a full investigation into these allegations". Brodhead's administrative committee did not actually interview anyone from the Durham Police Department. On the other hand, Baker is still trying to defend the police, who didn't interview the NCCU student for 36 hours, and didn't execute a search warrent at the scene of the crime for another day after that.

The comittee's report is very clear that there was no effort at a cover up. This is gross incompetence more than active malice. No one in the administration thought a rape report was a big deal. No one thought accusations of racial epithets coming from the house were a big deal. No one thought the race of the victim was a big deal. No one thought, is pretty much what it comes down to.

Duke of course has a policy on sexual misconduct:

Duke University is committed to providing an environment free of personal affronts against individuals and will not tolerate sexual misconduct in its community.

Here's another clue: not bothering to investigate reports of sexual misconduct is actually demonstrating an awful lot of tolerance. Deranged indifference, wanton disregard, even.

Penalties attached to a finding of "responsibility" by the Undergraduate Judicial Board

include, but are not limited to, expulsion, suspension, disciplinary probation, recommended counseling, and/or other educational sanctions deemed appropriate by the hearing body

The administration's indifference to a rape report is a personal affront to me. It should be an affront to every person who isn't actually a rapist.

I recommend counseling for the administration. They need a little course on violence and rape, because clearly, they don't get it.

At this point, it isn't the credibility of the NCCU student that is being questioned, but the credibility of a university who knew about a gang rape and did absolutely nothing. If I were paying $43,115 a year, I'd expect a little better.

Update: the Raleigh News & Observer follows up on the "lack of credibility" issue.

City Manager Patrick Baker said Tuesday that the Duke police report is based on what a campus police officer overheard a low-ranking Durham officer say on a cell phone early that morning outside Duke Hospital. The criminal investigation has been handled by Durham police.

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