Local News

Duke student paper column blasts NCCU's academic standards

Posted May 23, 2008 3:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2008 8:12 p.m. EDT

— A Duke University spokesman said Friday the university neither stands behind nor supports an opinion piece that its student-run newspaper published last week and that blasts the academic standards of nearby North Carolina Central University.

In the May 15 piece, "Summa cum loony," guest columnist Kristin Butler, who graduated this year, criticizes NCCU for awarding a diploma to Crystal Mangum, the woman who accused three former Duke lacrosse players of raping and sexually assaulting her in March 2006. She began by noting that NCCU graduated a man last year who had been convicted of armed robbery of two Duke students a decade earlier.

Butler, a Duke student, says Mangum's actions were "flagrant violations" of NCCU's honor code. At the time of the alleged assault, Mangum, who worked as an exotic dancer, was enrolled at NCCU.

Among the violations, Butler writes: lewd, indecent or obscene conduct, violation of the alcohol policy and "the real doozie, 'knowingly making in public a false [oral or] written or printed statement with the intent to deceive and/or mislead or injure the character or reputation of another.'"

"Because of the university's blatant refusal to enforce its own rules, I will never again take an NCCU degree seriously," she writes, because it "no longer guarantees good character, and it's just too hard to tell the thugs and liars apart from the high-performing majority."

The Chronicle's editor, Chelsea Allison, said she supported the decision to run the column, but that the opinions expressed in it are the author's alone and do not reflect that of the paper or its staff.

"At The Chronicle, we value the right to free speech, and I don't think that whether I agree with the views in a column is necessarily relevant to making editorial decisions," she said in a statement.

"'Summa cum loony' has sparked a very passionate dialogue, and we have published and plan to continue to publish responses from NCCU alums and others with interest in the issue," Allison added.

The two universities have had a fragile relationship since Mangum's allegations surfaced more than two years ago, raising the issue of race and class in Durham.

Keith Lawrence, Duke's director of media relations, said The Chronicle is editorially independent of the university, which has no control over what is printed.

The university did reach out to NCCU following the column's publication to express its concern, however.

Lawrence said the two schools have worked hard to maintain a solid relationship and added that he hopes the column not jeopardize it.

NCCU had no comment. Some students on Monday said they were offended, but many said they paid little attention to it.

A column in an April 18, 2007, edition of NCCU's student newspaper, The Campus Echo, referred to Duke lacrosse case and called for physical violence. The reaction from then-Chancellor James Ammons was much like Duke's reaction to Butler's column.

In "Death to All Rapists," guest columnist Solomon Burnette wrote that black people cannot expect justice from the legal system and said "retributive correction," "whether intellectually, artistically or physically," was needed.

Ammons said the inflammatory views were Burnette's and that the university did not advocate violence as a means to seek justice.