A Duke Alum’s Take on the Duke Lacrosse Scandal

Anyone who knows me or who has read my 100 things knows that I went to Duke University. And anyone who hasn’t lived under a rock in America for the past year has heard of the “Duke Lacrosse Rape Scandal” (cue ominous music).

I’ve been following this fiasco out of sheer curiosity, mostly because of the racial overtones of the situation. Racial relations have always intrigued me, and from my years at Duke, it’s clear that the university and surrounding Durham, North Carolina have never quite bridged the divide that must’ve started the day old Trinity College moved to Durham in the late 1800s. To say that even the student body is racially divided, or at least that it was when I was there between 1994 and 1998, is a gross understatement.

Back to the scandal, I’ve always thought the accuser’s story was a little off. But, then again, I was never what you’d call close with the Duke lacrosse team, so my heart didn’t exactly bleed for them either. I waited it out as the case developed.

As more facts and information have emerged, it seems highly unlikely that anything beyond racial slurs occurred that night–disgusting but not surprising to this former Dukie. Despite this, District Attorney Mike Nifong charged three players with rape, kidnapping, and sexual offense; now he has dropped the rape part, but is sticking with the other two charges. Right. Well those, too, should be gone soon enough, as should this guy’s law license. But that’s another issue.

To be clear, I’m not defending Duke’s actions either. The school promptly barred from the Gothic Wonderland two of the three accused players (the other graduated), but now President Richard Brodhead has invited them back. How sweet!

To paraphrase a fellow former Dukie friend of mine, I’d tell Duke to take a long walk off of a short Outer Banks’ pier. Then I’d go play lax at Chapel Hill. But that’s just me.

So what’s bugging me now? Today I read that a former lacrosse player, now graduated and never one of the accused, is suing the university, alleging that he unfairly received a failing grade because of his association with the team.

Well, to you, Kyle Dowd, I say, get over it. In a situation where it seems that no one was making well-informed, good, and rational decisions, it’s time for someone to start. Drop the suit.

And then count your lucky stars that you weren’t randomly picked out of the player pictures the accuser was given to choose her alleged attackers. Be thankful that you’re not biding your time as you await trial. And most of all, be grateful for the freaking Duke degree you’re holding in your hands. After all, you still graduated, right?

Appreciate all of the positive, unique experiences Duke has given you, not to mention the social, emotional, and employment connections that you’ve made that will help you throughout your life. Move on. And let the school move on. Take one for the team, if you will.

And, incidentally, if you’re really concerned about revamping the system so that athletes get the grades they deserve, maybe you should start looking at this from another angle.

Besides, we’ve got basketball season to worry about.

P.S. Happy happy birthday Ms. I’ve Never Seen It Spelled That Way. This post is dedicated to you!

10 Beans of Wisdom to “A Duke Alum’s Take on the Duke Lacrosse Scandal”
  1. Laura B.

    Get over it, indeed. I have to admit, despite my defense attorney background, my UNC background took over and my first thought when this case broke was OF COURSE they did it. F’ing Duke Lacrosse Players. But then of course, my rational mind took over and as every new article came out I became more and more appalled by what was going on. Nifong really screwed up here. I practiced in Durham when he was an ADA – I have negotiated plenty of traffic tickets with him! I always liked him, but damn. He’s screwed.

  2. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    My sister and I were just talking about this controversial case. I wonder if the DA would have even prosecuted the case if he were not up for re-election. There were so things that didn’t make sense (timing, no DNA etc). Also what if the players’ families were poor and not able to pay high priced attorneys to aggressively defend them? I would sue for legal expensives and the DA should be disbarred.

    Regarding the accuser, I can’t even comment. It’s tough enough for rape victims to be taken seriously and cases like this don’t help.

  3. Sharon

    I have followed this case as well. It seems that alot of these high profile cases are more about the attorney and prosecutor than the accused&accuser. Didn’t some witness come out of the woodwork at one time because it was to her advantage? What happened to the Joe Friday approach? Just the facts, ma’am. Everyone trying to make something off from a bad incident.

  4. Anonymous

    i’m so ignorant, have never even heard of Lacrosse let alone the scandal!! is it that sport like hockey with the little butterfly net rackets?
    have heard of Duke but onyl that it is an ivy league school and the sweatshirts with the big D on them. Lucky i have your blog to fill me in….

  5. sognatrice

    Laura, NYC, and Sharon, agree agree agree. This new lawsuit just really got to me. There are so many people who were actually injured in this; almost not graduating (but then graduating)? Please.

    And Vanessa, don’t worry; this whole thing is a weird American phenomenon. Be grateful you were spared. They tell me that it was all over everything there for a while.

    Anyway, Duke isn’t actually Ivy League, although they did sell a t-shirt that said “Harvard: The Duke of the North.” So witty. And they have just about any style of sweatshirt you can imagine–and I’ve probably folded it a hundred times as I worked in the bookstore through college. Anyway, glad I can keep you informed 🙂

  6. sognatrice

    Oh, and I think you’re thinking of the correct sport, Vanessa. It’s played on a field and they have to “cradle” the little ball in the net on the stick. Yeah that was eloquent. FWIW, I didn’t know very much about it before I went to college either. Then I met my lovely roomie (hello Kristin!) 🙂

  7. J.Doe

    And it was shameful how those 2 students were considered guilty by Duke University BEFORE any trial or any evidence was taken. Aren’t you supposed to be innocent until proven guilty?
    I feel sorry for them and any real rape victim whose story wil be less likely be believed.
    This case was definitely used for political purposed. The DA should be disbarred.

  8. Gil

    If I remember correctly a recent article mentioned that there are charges against Mike Nifong because of how he handled things?.?.

    Also, can’t understand how schools expel students before they are found guilty. In the US this starts in grade school.

  9. Gil

    Sorry I should have read the article tied to the link in your post.

  10. Anonymous

    101 Questions: same goes for me – #23. Ever heard of Storytown turned Great Escape in Lake George, NY? I sat perched high up at the controls of the fomidable “Rotor” – you know the one – floor drops down, centrifigal force makes people stick to the wall along with their newly won stupid little stuffed animals that, because they’re fly weight, slip down and get stuck between wall and upcoming floor. The puke clean-up detail was the worst in the whole park. Looked good on my resume. But, doesn’t beat when I substituted running “The Magical Mystery Tour” while the other ride operator was at lunch and a kid spit – we’re talking disgusting lueggy – landed right in my face. It was a short day at the races for him….

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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