Duke University is conducting a regular periodic review of University President Richard H. Brodhead. As most of you will be aware, President Brodhead has had some pretty tough crises to deal with already in his first 3-4 years in office. The following is the text of a letter that I sent to the Presidential Review Committee:
Dear Mr. Blue and Members of the Presidential Review Committee:
As both an alumnus (Trinity ’05) and current student (Law ’08) of Duke University, I take very seriously this opportunity to submit my thoughts on the leadership of President Richard Brodhead over the last three years.
I remember the great excitement that permeated this campus when President Brodhead’s appointment to the presidency was announced in late 2003. I remember very little, if any, doubt or skepticism about his potential efficacy as President of this University. I believe that the members of the Duke community, including myself, believed that the future of this institution was in capable and talented hands. From what President Brodhead has been able to achieve during his three-year tenure at Duke, it appears that our hopes were confirmed. President Brodhead has provided crucial leadership in such projects as increasing financial aid and opportunities for Duke students, elevating the status and presence of the arts on campus, and emphasizing service and global health as part of Duke’s core mission. As an alumnus and one who dearly loves Duke, it has been my honor to be associated with an effective leader with the vision of President Brodhead. From a personal encounter with him in his office, I know that President Brodhead takes the obligations and duties of his office very seriously, as well as its limitations and his position as a figurehead and spokesman for the university.
Of course, the issue which I imagine will most concern this Committee is President Brodhead’s acts or omissions during the recent lacrosse incident and its aftermath. Having been a close observer of these events since the time when the alleged rape was only a rumor, I stand behind the decisions that President Brodhead took at that time. Having known members of the lacrosse team during my years on campus, my own opinion at the time was that the events could have easily occurred as the accuser described them, especially considering the presence of alcohol. I believe that I was not alone in my assessment of the case. The decisions that President Brodhead made were not out of any desire to harm the players or because he and the faculty of the University harbor some secret agenda to destroy athletics. One of a University President’s most important duties, aside from protecting individual students, is to protect the reputation and integrity of Duke as a place of learning and honor. I believe that the decisions he took were calculated to do exactly that. Whatever ridicule and criticism Duke may have faced in those months, I believe it would have been far worse for Duke to be known as a safe haven for hooligans, or worse, criminals and rapists, and a place where privileged whites and athletes acted with complete impunity. That being said, I believe that Duke has emerged from the recent crisis in as good a condition as could be expected. No lasting damage has been done to the prestige of the University or the education that it offers. If I am not mistaken in my facts, there has been no perceived drop in alumni giving or applications for admission.
Furthermore, President Brodhead has recently issued an apology where he acknowledged that he made certain mistakes in his handling of the crisis and showed public remorse for how those events might have harmed the accused players, their teammates, friends, and family. I believe that President Brodhead’s apology was sincere and I hope that it will ultimately lay to rest the animosity that has surrounded these events on all sides.
After all that has occurred, I retain my confidence in President Brodhead. I firmly believe that he is the right person to guide Duke in the coming years. I feel fortunate and proud to be an alumnus of this University and I will continue to support President Brodhead and Duke as we move forward.
Trinity ’05, Law ’08