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Andrew Gerst on the Lacrosse Situation

Andrew Gerst is a current student at Duke, and current managing editor of Towerview. The opinions expressed here are his own.


I just wanted to take a few moments to respond to the outrageous
tone ESPN
has adopted in covering the Duke lacrosse scandal.

Judging from Greg Garber's "Turbulent times for Duke and Durham"
(April 1,
2006), it seems clear that ESPN has a single goal: to paint a very
complicated criminal allegation into a cartoonish war between a
greedy
university and a suffering town. This caricature is unfair and
untrue.

Rather than repeat the preponderance of jaded, almost delusional,
theories
on Duke-Durham relations which Garber passes along as "reasonable"
quotes, I
would like instead to offer a more complete picture of the
relationship.

  • On February 22, Duke pledged $925,000 to assist Durham Public
    Schools
    through scholarships to Duke's master of arts in teaching degree
    program for
    current DPS teachers.
  • On February 18, the Emily Krzyzewski Family Life Center-founded
    by Duke
    men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski-had its grand opening,
    offering a
    29,000-square-foot community center for at-risk Durham youth.
  • On October 7, 2005, Cynthia Brodhead, wife of Duke president
    Richard
    Brodhead, was named a co-chair of the "8 Bonds for a Better
    Durham"
    campaign, a group advocating for passage of Durham's $110 million
    bond
    referendum.
  • Since its inception in 1996, the Duke-Durham Neighborhood
    Partnership-founded by former Duke president Nan Keohane-has
    raised $10
    million to improve partner neighborhoods in Durham.
  • Meanwhile, in fiscal year 2005, the Duke University Health
    System had
    62,395 admissions and 1,297,618 outpatient visits. Duke doctors
    save
    thousands of these patients' lives, performing 74,777 surgical
    procedures
    during that time. Many of these people-perhaps most-live in
    Durham, and
    many of them do not have full insurance or complete immigration
    documentation.
  • The Duke Community Service Center works in partnership with 31
    student-run
    organizations which, among many other things, help teach English
    to Durham's
    Hispanic immigrants, build new homes for poor Durham citizens, aid
    Durham
    food shelters, mentor African-American girls living in Durham, and
    support
    children with serious illnesses in Durham's Ronald McDonald House.
    In
    addition, all fraternities and other living groups at Duke must
    perform
    community service (almost always in Durham) to receive university
    approval.
  • The Chronicle, Duke's daily student newspaper, retains an entire
    department devoted to issues in Durham and North Carolina. This
    department
    provides articles almost every week generating awareness on Duke's
    relationship with the surrounding community.

The list just goes on and on-and this isn't even taking into
consideration
the hundreds of professors who order textbooks at local stores
rather than
through the campus book store; the professors and graduate
students in local
activism groups like the Durham Congregations, Associations and
Neighborhoods; the Halloween carnival Duke puts on for Durham
residents. I
still remember from my freshman year, when a terrible ice storm
brought down
the power across the city, Duke (which ran on backup power at its
own
expense) opened its doors to Durham residents, who flooded into
the main
East Campus cafeteria.

What the lacrosse players are accused of-actions which have so far
drawn no
criminal charges and which the team captains vehemently deny-are
terrible,
despicable actions. But they are also the actions of three
people, actions
despised and reviled by the rest of the community, which includes
about
27,000 employees, 12,000 students, and 2,500 professors.

My fellow classmates and I-along with administrators, professors,
and
employees- have worked hard to help bring happiness, safety, and
health to
our Durham neighbors. It is personally painful for me to read
Garber
failing to provide a greater context and casually passing off
truly
outlandish quotations from people who cannot, or will not, realize
that the
vast majority of people at this university care deeply about
Durham.