DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – The president of Duke University met Wednesday with students who feel his suspension of the lacrosse team during a rape investigation was not enough, urging them to be patient while police look into the matter.
“I don’t want to say I’m satisfied, but I will say that what happened in there makes me feel like we’re moving in a good direction,” sophomore Bridgette Howard said after the roughly hour long session.
The meeting between President Richard Brodhead and a few dozen students was closed to all media except Duke’s student newspaper.
Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team from play until the school learns more about accusations that team members attacked an exotic dancer hired to perform at an off-campus party. The alleged victim, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, has told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men at a March 13 party, where she and another dancer were hired to perform.
Police collected DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 members of the lacrosse team last week; the 47th player, the only black member, wasn’t tested because the victim said her attackers were white.
No one has been charged and the team’s captains have said the tests will clear players.
Police said three players who live at the house where the party took place spoke with investigators and voluntarily provided samples March 16.
A scheduled meeting between detectives and the rest of the team was later canceled by the players’ attorney, and District Attorney Mike Nifong said Wednesday the players still refuse to speak with investigators.
News of the attack has sparked days of protest at Duke and in Durham, culminating Tuesday in Brodhead’s decision to suspend the team.
He stressed the suspension was not a punishment but a response to the inappropriate nature of playing while the investigation is ongoing. Those comments led about 100 students to approach Brodhead after Tuesday night’s announcement and demand his administration deliver a stronger response.
“We understand that the legal system is that you are innocent until proven guilty,” said sophomore Kristin High. “But people are nervous and afraid that these people are going to get away with what they did because of a wealthy privilege, or male privilege or a white privilege.”
Their protests led to Wednesday’s meeting inside the campus’ black cultural center, where participants said Brodhead urged patience as police continue to investigate.
Graduate student Michelle Christian complained Duke is continuing to downplay the alleged attack.
“They need presidents, they need administrators, they need faculty, to tell them that it was wrong behavior and that they are not going to be coddled because they are athletes, because they come from privileged backgrounds, because they have money,” Christian told Durham’s WTVD-TV.
Later in the day, sophomore Jeff Shaw wore a Duke lacrosse t-shirt on campus in support of his friends on the team.
“Even if it’s true, it’s three guys and unfortunately, this is going to be a label the team is going to carry,” Shaw said.
The incident was expected to heighten interest in an annual campus rally against sexual violence planned for Wednesday night.
Also Wednesday, Brodhead apologized for language used by those at the party. A woman calling 911 on the night of the party told police that men outside of the house called out to her and another woman using a racial slur.
“It’s disgusting,” Brodhead said in a statement. “Racism and its hateful language have no place in this community.”