Last Wednesday, a superior court judge issued an injunction against Duke University allowing Ciaran McKenna, a men’s soccer player suspended six semesters for allegedly sexually assaulting a fellow student, to remain on campus as a student for the duration of his lawsuit against Duke and Dean of Student Conduct Stephen Bryan. This is the latest development in yet another case highlighting issues surrounding sexual assault on campus as well as the ethicality of private university student conduct policies.
But despite our disappointment with salacious content of McKenna’s case, our real ire is directed toward the Student Conduct procedures, with which we have previously taken issue. McKenna’s lawsuit hinges primarily on the claim that the Office of Student Conduct, due to procedural errors and muddled and shifting policy, violated his contractual rights to due process. The veracity of that allegation will be decided by the superior court, and thus we take no position on the question of the case, but the fact that the University has left itself open to such a lawsuit through its own inability to both establish a clear, incontestable policy and follow it are a mark of shame. In its error, Duke has harmed both the accuser and the accused.
We as students must fight the urge to give this case and others like it a superficial treatment. To pitch oneself into one camp or the other without considering the case in its complexity is to deny either of the students in question both due process in the court of public opinion. Both students have rights—rights that the University may have jeopardized through sloppy zeal.
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