In the wake of allegations that members of the men's lacrosse team raped a black woman, increased demands from students and administrators contributed to a challenging semester for many black faculty at Duke.

In addition, concerns about the administration's response to the situation have led to calls for renewed efforts in the hiring and retention of black professors.

"Black faculty in particular [have been affected] because of the very racial dimensions of some aspects of the incident," said Paula McClain, a professor of political science who is black. "The substantial number of faculty people that I have talked to have all felt the same way-that the University failed to recognize the racial dimensions of this and failed to address it quickly."

Six black faculty members are leaving their positions at the University this summer, five from the School of Arts and Sciences and one from the Fuqua School of Business.

Many of their decisions to leave were made before the lacrosse incident surfaced, and in most cases the scandal had very minimal, if any, effect, Provost Peter Lange said.

McClain, however, said the consensus among many black professors that the University responded too slowly to the racial aspects of the case is "depressing and demoralizing for faculty." No top administrator has met with members of the black faculty to explicitly address the issues broached by the lacrosse incident, she added.

"There is a danger, I think, that both students and faculty may somehow interpret the environment at Duke as hostile toward blacks," said Lee Baker, a professor of cultural anthropology who is also black. "Whether that's the case or not, even if there is a perception, there could be a snowball effect."

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He stressed the importance of overcoming these perceptions, noting that they could be damaging to both student and faculty recruitment.

It is crucial for administrators to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for black faculty, McClain said, adding that this goal is not reflected in drafts of the University's strategic plan.

"Black faculty that are here may consider leaving, and it may be far more difficult when black faculty are leaving to recruit others," she said.

Between 1993 and 2003, the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative doubled the number of black professors on campus-from 44 to 88. But as of January 2005, blacks still only comprised 3.9 percent of the University's more than 2,500 faculty members.

After the completion of the BFSI, administrators and faculty both acknowledged a shift in focus from recruiting black faculty to increasing diversity in other forms, such as hiring more women and other minorities.

"I think they stopped paying attention to black faculty," McClain said.

Lange disputed this sentiment, and said strides have been made to create a sense of community for black faculty.

"There's a perception out there that our commitment has been waning to the hiring and retention of black faculty," he said. "There's a lot of things that have happened which have not been consistent with that."

He added that 10 black professors were hired this year.

"That's a very high number, one of the highest numbers we've had in the last decade," he said.

Throughout the spring semester students have sought out black professors to discuss the rape allegations, Lange said.

In addition, professors were asked to serve on the committees formed to address the broader issues raised by the scandal, compounding teaching and research responsibilities.

"[The lacrosse scandal] made teaching the spring semester very challenging, but also rewarding," Baker said. "[The demands] have frankly sucked our energy-I'm hoping in a positive way-but it's really been quite taxing."

Lange acknowledged that administrators often burden a relatively restricted number of black faculty when forming committees-a problem he called a "difficult dilemma."

"If we're not at the table then there's not going to be a voice," McClain said of her own experience. "But then because there's so few of us we're just kind of worked to death."

Lange added that this speaks to the need to increase the number of black faculty and to expand the pool from which committee members are drawn.