Saturday, September 29, 2007
Today Duke President Brodhead gave a presentation at the Duke School of Law conference, "The Court of Public Opinion: The Practice & Ethics of Trying Cases in the Media." In it he apologized.
As president, I had responsibility for the statements the university made and the actions the university took in a virtually unprecedented situation, and I take responsibility for them now. But I didn’t come here to retell the story or explain the logic of our acts. We are now in the aftermath of this extraordinary case, and the aftermath, we have to hope, is a time for learning. Having spent my life in the cause of teaching and learning, I am not at all unwilling to learn lessons of my own. I am happy for this chance to share some of those lessons.
"First and foremost, I regret our failure to reach out to the lacrosse players and their families in this time of extraordinary peril. Given the complexities of the case, getting this communication right would never have been easy. But the fact is that we did not get it right, causing the families to feel abandoned when they most needed support. This was a mistake. I take responsibility for it, and I apologize.
Second, some of those who were quick to speak as if the charges were true were on this campus, and some faculty made statements that were ill-judged and divisive. They had the right to express their views. But the public as well as the accused students and their families could have thought that those were expressions of the university as a whole. They were not, and we could have done more to underscore that.
Third, I understand that by deferring to the criminal justice system to the extent we did and not repeating the need for the presumption of innocence equally vigorously at all the key moments, we may have helped create the impression that we did not care about our students. This was not the case, and I regret it as well.
Fourth, this episode has taught me a hard lesson about the criminal justice system and what it means to rely on it. Given the media circus and the public reactions it fed, I thought it essential to insist that the matter be resolved within the legal system, not in the court of public opinion. As far as it went, this was right. But what this case reminds us is that our justice system -- the best in the world -- is only as good as the men and women who administer it. In this case, it was an officer of this system itself who presented false allegations as true, suppressed contrary evidence, and subverted the process he was sworn to uphold."...excerpt of his presentation