Yesterday’s editorial cautioned against being too quick to judge, especially in the shadow of the 2006 lacrosse case that continues to permeate Duke’s reputation today. The court of public opinion, however, has done so anyhow. Today, we assess the current culture, its failings and the measures needed to provide both the respondent and claimant with the respect and privacy deserved.

The circuit of public discourse that has arisen from the present sexual assault allegations proves to be one that further perpetuates a culture where claimants do not feel safe coming forward. The reasons for not reporting a claim to the Office of Student Conduct are many: on one hand is the fear of public backlash. Duke’s culture is one in which certain institutions—in particular its basketball team, which is integral to the University’s image—wield significant socio-cultural clout among students and administrators alike. Against such monoliths, a victim may well be intimidated into silence in fear of the backlash he or she may receive for accusing so glorified a campus figure. While cases are supposed to be held under strict rules of confidentiality, past experiences like the ongoing Lewis McLeod case breed the right perception that such privacy and protection from public backlash is too often a foregone luxury. Even more, the immensely traumatic nature of sexual assault must not be underestimated. For an experience so sensitive and deeply personal, victims may understandably prefer not to enter so vitriolic a perceived court of public scrutiny and scandal.

The hesitancy to report to the University’s formal judicial process further, and most problematically, indicates, a conduct system without the students’ full trust. The system is rife with flaws, as noted in a previous editorial, which discusses the problematic irregularities in the case of a student accused of sexual misconduct. Given such precedence and perception, the system is shrouded by questions of whether the process pays justice to both the accuser and accused. Thus, it is crucial to reconsider how sexual assault is handled as it has been considered to be an “arbitrary, subjective decision.” If both sides feel wronged in the process, our judicial system is in great need of amending in order to keep our campus safe and provide both the respondent and claimant with control in the process.

We must foster a conduct system and culture in which students feel comfortable coming forward. The first step is reviving students’ faith in the integrity of the process. Yet, creating a safe environment will also require greater emphasis on preventive measures rather than the fallout. In the case of the current allegations of sexual assault against former Duke basketball player Rasheed Sulaimon, there is incomplete information and questions that have yet to be answered. Yet, these allegations remind us to be aware of the culture we embody and the part we take in the discovery of further information. Our students determine the content and palpable qualities of Duke’s campus culture. Our day-to-day conversations and the sentiments we permit to be expressed around us with the air that we breathe create the atmosphere we live in. Safety, acceptance and kindness should dominate our Duke community and saturate every sub-community founded on a premise of acceptance and inclusion. We encourage the students to cultivate an environment that withholds judgment and encourages a safe space for students to come forward with any fears or concerning matters without the fear of fallout.