Why Duke's Response Was So Slow

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Duke University officials were slow to respond to the rape allegations against members of the lacrosse team because Durham police officials doubted the accuser and grossly underestimated the seriousness of the allegations, according to a report released on Monday by a special committee formed to examine the administration's role in the incident.

The report is the latest development in an unfolding story that has seen two members of the lacrosse team indicted on rape charges, stemming from a party held on March 13 in which members of the team hired two exotic dancers to perform and in which one of the women alleges members of the team raped her.

According to the new report, members of the Durham police initially made comments to Duke police officers and others to the effect that the accuser "kept changing her story and was not credible" and that if charges were brought, "they would be no more than misdemeanors" and that this would "blow over." The report suggests that the comments by Durham police officers were one reason Duke officials were so slow to respond to the incident. It found no cover-up by Duke officials but did find a communication gap among Duke administrators.

On March 14, the day after the alleged rape occurred, Duke Police Director Robert Dean told Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek about the previous night's incident and the Durham police's comments. Dean did not mention that the woman was African American. The committee found it "extraordinary" that no one in a senior position at Duke, including President Richard Brodhead, knew the racial aspects involved in the incident until March 24. Duke Police also did not pass along information about a 911 phone call in which a woman complained of racial slurs coming from the house where the party occurred, or about an e-mail message in which a lacrosse player proposed to kill and "skin" strippers.

The report found that it was a "major mistake" by Duke police, Wasiolek and others to take at face value the comments of Durham police officers that the accuser was "not credible." That assessment affected not only senior administrators' perception of the incident but also that of the players who "may have been lulled into a false sense of security."

Much like the findings in the two previous reports on the lacrosse team, the new report found long-standing problems of campus discipline and said that the team "was seen by at least some part of the Duke/Durham community as a manifestation of a white, elitist, arrogant sub-culture that was both indulged and self-indulgent."

Up next is a discovery hearing that could produce additional DNA testing results on the lacrosse team members, hospital reports, and other evidence, and perhaps another grand jury impaneled to consider a third indictment.