Local News

Duke Report Calls for Changes in Housing, Athletics

Posted February 27, 2007 2:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 27, 2007 8:10 p.m. EST

— A report released Tuesday said Duke University could become a more “inclusive academic community” by changing its curriculum, housing system, alcohol policies and other key aspects.

The report was the final product of the university’s Campus Culture Initiative Steering Committee, which Duke President Richard Brodhead appointed last spring following the arrests of three Duke lacrosse players after an alleged incident at an off-campus party.

He asked the committee to assess and report on a variety of on-campus issues. In its report, the group praised Duke for “its institutional courage not to shy away from tough issues” and proposed recommendations ranging from enhanced faculty ties with undergraduates to a clearer university policy on underage student drinking.

The report also calls for changes in areas such as dining and residential housing, including an end to the practice of assigning West Campus housing to selective living groups such as fraternities.

According to the report, the social life of Duke students is too often organized around drinking, and “the risk of another alcohol-related death in the Duke community is very real.”

The report calls on Duke officials to “re-orient social life on campus to reduce the centrality of alcohol and enable more non-alcohol events and venues.”

"Students understand a certain way of being, and we're asking them to imagine a different way of being on campus," said committee chair Robert Thompson.

Moreover, while the committee praised the record of Duke student-athletes in both competition and the classroom, they said “strong and persistent forces” nationally make it more difficult to balance academics and athletics.

The report recommends that Duke officials should decrease practice and travel time demands on its student-athletes and calls for stronger ties between athletic programs and other parts of the university. The committee also recommends higher admission standards for Duke athletes.

"It's really important that the administration has processes that allow us to recruit athletes that can take advantage of academic opportunities here and who come equipped to manage the difficult academic expectations we have," said committee vice-chair Larry Moneta.

Broadhead said in a statement that none of the proposed changes are a “done deal,” nor are any of them off the table as university officials begin to debate their implementation.

“The important thing now is to have the conversation the report is meant to launch,” Broadhead said.

On Duke's campus Tuesday, students turned serious when asked about the report.

"Culture is not going to change with a piece of paper," said Duke student Michael Blake. "It's something that won't happen for a long period of time. Students have to be behind it to make it happen."

"I think it's definitely a great initiative," said Duke student Jun Wu. "I appreciate the administration taking the step to do that in the wake of the lacrosse incident."

Broadhead said he has asked university provost Peter Lange to orchestrate campus discussions and establish appropriate timetables for each set of issues. He requested a report on the results of Lange’s efforts by the middle of the fall term.