Local News

Survey: Lacrosse Case Has Minimal Impact On Duke's Image

Posted September 27, 2006 7:22 a.m. EDT
Updated December 9, 2006 3:25 p.m. EST

— Duke University leaders have been tracking media coverage since rape allegations involving members of the Duke lacrosse team surfaced in March.

John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs, said 75,000 stories were printed or aired about the university and the case during the four months following the rape allegations in March.

"I think you have to be worried," said Burness, "We really wanted to understand how (alumni and the general public) interpreted this and if they thought we were doing the right kinds of things."

Those worries about how people perceive the prestigious university led to a nationwide survey.

A New York firm conducted a survey in late April, after the first two players were indicted and President Richard Brodhead canceled the lacrosse season. A second survey was done in mid-June, after Brodhead reinstated the lacrosse program and set up several committees to look into campus culture. About 1,600 people, including alumni, Durham residents and the general public were surveyed.

"What we found was that it is not having a significant impact on the perception or quality of the university," said Burness.

Burness said the June survey found 86 percent of the people polled in Durham had a favorable view of the university. Many neighbors said that while the lacrosse case sparked numerous neighborhood protests and consumed the community for months, it doesn't define Duke.

"Duke will maintain its reputation," said Anne Culton, who lives in nearby Trinity Park.

However, there are still some questions about the school's timing in its response.

"Apparently they reacted a little slowly, dealing with it," said Culton. "But, I don't know what else they could do."

Burness said that despite encouraging results, the school will continue to work toward improving university-community relations.

"Ultimately, Duke will be judged in this situation, not by the incident itself, but how the university responded to it," said Burness.

Opinions could change, and Burness said there may be another survey in the future.

Burness said the majority of the 450 alumni surveyed have a "very favorable" view of the university and how it handled the situation. However, a representative for the group Friends of Duke said, "The closer you are to the situation, the worse Duke's response looks."