Teacher Support for the Duke Players

  • Share
  • Read Later
Now the teachers are going at each other. Shortly after members of the Duke University Lacrosse team were accused of rape last March, 88 faculty members signed an open letter that appeared in the student newspaper sympathizing with the accuser. Now, after the case against the students appears to be falling apart, 17 members of the economics department faculty have sent a letter to the student newspaper expressing their support for the players, and stating in part, "We regret that the Duke faculty is now seen as prejudiced against certain of its own students."

The latest open letter comes after a lacrosse team member filed a lawsuit against the university alleging that the school and his political science professor intentionally failed him after rape case was made public. The student, Kyle Dowd, was not charged in the case but had to take time out from class for meetings with his attorney. His teacher, Kim Curtis, a visiting associate professor who specializes in political and feminist theory, was one of the faculty members who signed the Group of 88 letter.

Until now, no faculty member at Duke had come out to support the players. Roy Weintraub, an economics professor at Duke, drafted this week's letter. "It was something that had been bothering me for a while, that the Duke faculty was being characterized as being hostile to its own students, especially statements by faculty members that have been construed that way," Weintraub told TIME. "I wanted to make sure that there was some expression that students are welcomed in our class, including lacrosse players, students in good standing."

The university this week reinstated in good standing two of the players — Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann — after rape charges were dropped. They are still charged with sexual assault and kidnapping. One player — David Evans — has already graduated.

As for Kyle Dowd's lawsuit, it alleges that Curtis purposely failed the student after the rape case was made public. Curtis told her students they would be graded on three class papers and class participation, with each counting 25% of the final grade. Dowd received a C-plus and C-minus on two papers before the case came to light. He received an F in class participation for missing the last month of class, according to an email Curtis sent to Dowd. Dowd says he had to miss five classes because he was meeting with attorneys in the case. Another lacrosse player in the class also received an F. They were the only two students to fail Curtis's class. Duke University has now accepted credits Dowd had earned at another university and allowed him to graduate; the school also changed his F in Curtis's class to a D, citing a "calculation error." Dowd and his family want the university to change the D to a P, for passed.

Dowd's younger brother Craig was expected to enroll at Duke last fall on a lacrosse scholarship, but he turned it down and will enroll at Georgetown University this spring. "We didn't feel like we could send him to Duke with everything that was going on," Tricia Dowd, his mother, told a local newspaper. "We love Duke ... but we didn't know what the professors would do."