Something Shady Is Going On At Duke

Again, we’re at the intersection of college athletics and campuses’ woeful inability to handle sexual assault allegations against one of their own. Yesterday, it was revealed that Duke junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon was allegedly dismissed from the Blue Devils squad on Jan. 29 over two separate sexual assault allegations against him. Neither the university nor coach Mike Kryzewski have gone into specifics as to why Sulaimon was cut but its a safe bet that it was serious enough to warrant him having been the first Duke player ever sent packing by Coach K.

Sexual assault is exactly the kind of thing that would be too serious for even a legendary coach of young men to tolerate from one of his charges, and rightfully so. But like anyone accused of a crime, and especially someone accused of something so heinous, Sulaimon is owed the opportunity to explain his side of the situation; at least he would be if hed ever been formally accused and if any investigation of the reported accusations against him had been handled by the proper authorities. That may never happen, and that last fact — that there may never likely be a hearing of charges, an airing of facts, a day in court for anyone involved — is a result of the tragic fact that colleges remain horrifically unequipped to deal with allegations of sexual assaults on their campuses. The result is justice for no one, and safety of co-eds continues to be jeopardized and sacrificed to lesser interests.

This has to stop.

Sulaimon’s predicament bears this out and is the latest example of the systemic failures currently residing on college campuses. His alleged accusers never reported their assaults to police or campus authorities because they feared they couldn’t be protected from the zealous Blue Devils fan base. Sexual assault victims often avoid prosecuting their assailants, but this particular revelation is breathtakingly troubling. The chilling effect here grows from fears about random fans not associated with Sulaimon or the basketball team. Not about reprisals from the accused or those close to him. That such a fear can effectively circumvent justice is unacceptable.

Universities aren’t responsible for their fans actions but they are responsible for protecting their students and creating environments where students who’ve been assaulted can be assured of a thorough investigation. Something failed at Duke in the same way it failed at Florida State, at U. Va., and continues to fail at countless other universities.

In a statement issued Monday, the university cited student confidentiality law in response to questions about the allegations and about reports that Coach K knew about the situation involving Sulaimon a year ago.

“Duke is prohibited by law from disclosing publicly any particular student’s confidential education records,” the statement said. “The university takes immediate action when it receives reports of alleged sexual misconduct or other violations of the student conduct code, which includes investigation and referral to the Student Conduct Office for review in a timely manner as required by law. Duke also takes every possible action internally to ensure anyone who raises a complaint of sexual misconduct is supported and the campus community is safe.”

Sulaimon is still at Duke, in good standing academically but without the athletic scholarship that brought him there, and now publicly tied to a serious crime with which he may never be officially charged. That, too, is unacceptable. If theres a sliver of evidence that he did what hes accused of, the incidents should be fully investigated — by law enforcement, not by Duke — and Sulaimon should be criminally prosecuted. He should have his day in court and the opportunity to defend himself and clear his name if he is innocent. Thats an impossibility unless hes unwilling to jump into the media fray, which would be a very stupid thing to do. He should be punished with much more than being kicked off the team if hes guilty.

None of these things have happened and its unlikely they will because Duke, like most other colleges, still have yet to figure out how to protect victims and investigate the accused on their campuses.

Its way past time to do better.