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Duke's moral hazard

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The facts are still bubbling to the surface for Duke University since its lacrosse team went wild one night last March. Even with what little is known, Duke hasn't shied away from relearning a key lesson: No education is complete without character education.

The North Carolina school is hardly alone among colleges and universities in being forced back to the task of shaping a student's personal behavior, both on and off campus, after suffering a disturbing incident - especially one involving the hiring of strippers for a spring-break party, underage drinking, and possibly racial slurs and rape.

As money pressures have risen in higher education to cater mainly to career preparation or sports entertainment, moral training has too often been left behind. The educator's role of shaping a young person's conscience slips away. At Duke, the public shame brought about by the boorish, "Animal House" antics of one men's athletic team may bring it back to teaching the basis for all other learning.

Last Monday, the first reports recommending changes at the school were delivered to Duke's president, Richard H. Brodhead, who had set up five different investigations after the incident. One report found that university administrators knew since 2004 of the team's "extensive disciplinary record" - the lacrosse players, who represent less than 1 percent of students, were responsible for 11 percent of misconduct cases. The school's attitude toward misconduct was judged "casual, arbitrary, and often ineffective."

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