It seems anyone can get a college degree these days-especially if they go to North Carolina Central University.
Standards of integrity there have long been dismal: This is, after all, the school that gave violent felon Solomon Burnette a diploma in 2007. Burnette, you may recall, robbed two Duke students at gunpoint in 1997.
After finishing a 13-month prison sentence, he had the audacity not only to enroll in Arabic classes on our campus in April 2007; Burnette also penned a column I and many others interpreted as inciting physical violence against white Dukies in his student newspaper.
Unfortunately, however, 2008 marks a new low... even for NCCU.
Just this month, the university graduated Crystal Mangum, the drug-addled, mentally unstable prostitute who falsely accused three lacrosse players of raping her two years ago.
Mangum is an accomplished liar and criminal, and a credible school shouldn't have allowed her within 50 miles of its graduation ceremony.
Indeed, this is a woman who has maintained for more than two years that 20, five, and finally three Duke lacrosse players violated her orally, vaginally and anally in a bathroom the size of a broom closet. In her final version of the "assault," Mangum claimed this was possible because she was magically suspended in midair (by hooks and pulleys, perhaps?) as the three men attacked her.
In reality, Mangum-who arrived at the lacrosse players' party so drunk and high she could barely stand-may have feared another psychiatric commitment the morning of March 14, 2006, and so she accused three men of rape to garner sympathy.
As an aside, if anyone at NCCU still believes her story, I would invite them to review court records indicating Mangum had DNA from two unidentified men in her rectum; two more in her pubic region; one man in her vagina; and four to five men on her panties-none of whom were lacrosse players (a physical impossibility because Mangum said her attackers wore no condoms during the "rape").
And although her bold-faced lies ruined three young men's lives, they were a jackpot for Mangum: Within days, she was already using the "assault" to hustle pain meds from emergency room doctors, claiming "excruciating pain from the... beating." Sensing a lucrative civil settlement on the horizon, Mangum even bragged to a security guard at her strip club that she was "going to get paid by the white boys."
Unsurprisingly, those actions constitute flagrant violations of NCCU's honor code, which prohibits: "lewd, indecent or obscene conduct (whether public or private)"; "violation of the alcohol policy, including binge drinking, use or personal possession of alcoholic beverages by undergraduate students;" and the real doozie, "knowingly making in public a false [oral or] written or printed statement with the intent to deceive and/or mislead or injure the character or reputation of another."
NCCU also touts itself as a "drug-free academic community," a claim that's hard to take seriously when one of the college's own students admits to turning tricks and getting high four or five nights per week. In fact, Mangum had overdosed on flexeril and booze when she was first picked up by police the night of March 14.
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And that's what makes Mangum's latest milestone so infuriating: It demeans the accomplishments of thousands of hard-working, law-abiding Eagles who also graduated this May.
A Duke student committing even a fraction of those crimes would have been summarily expelled; being accused of them would be enough for an emergency suspension.
Because of the university's blatant refusal to enforce its own rules, I will never again take an NCCU degree seriously, and neither should any other self-respecting Dukie. NCCU's "seal of approval" no longer guarantees good character, and it's just too hard to tell the thugs and liars (like Burnette and Mangum) apart from the high-performing majority.
Now to be fair, NCCU is hardly the first public institution to give Mangum a pass. Durham police, prosecutors and even Attorney General Roy Cooper all opted not to indict her for filing false police reports, reasoning that she was too crazy to stand trial. (No word yet on how many legally insane people maintain a 3.0 GPA at a nationally accredited university.)
Still, NCCU's actions are morally bankrupt and far eneath the dignity of a nationally recognzed university. The damage that NCCU has done to its reputation is very serious, and it insults thousands of upstanding alumni.
With three kids, a nasty drug habit and psychiatric and criminal histories longer than my arm, Crystal Mangum probably needs all the good fortune she can get. But until she owns up to her malicious lies, she deserves no special favors-least of all from a publicly funded university.
Crystal Mangum is not a victim, and her actions meant two other former members of the Class of 2008 (their names are Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, for the record) didn't graduate last weekend. Mangum's lies stole a year of their college careers, and it makes me sick to think of her celebrating her achievement while they (along with millions of legitimate rape victims harmed by her dishonesty) struggle to piece their lives back together.
Crystal Mangum may now have a signed and sealed police psychology degree, but she'll always be Public Enemy No. 1 in my book.
Kristin Butler, Trinity '08, is a former Chronicle columnist.