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Duke case spurs US colleges to clean up campus culture

While the case is over for the former lacrosse players, it has prompted soul-searching at many colleges and refining of student policies.

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For three lacrosse players at Duke University, the year-long ordeal of defending themselves against incendiary sexual-assault charges is over, the case dropped Wednesday after North Carolina's attorney general declared the three "wrongly accused." But it's not over for the broader campus community.

Concern about the alcohol-fueled party that provided the backdrop to the case prompted Duke administrators and faculty to undertake an introspective examination of campus culture – a process that is outlasting the case itself. It's forced a closer look at everything from the unofficial school motto – changed from "Work Hard, Play Hard" to "Work Hard, Play Well" – to ideas for closer supervision of student drinking to why 44 percent of black students had complained of racial discrimination by their sophomore year.

The notoriety of the case forced Duke to the front of academe in this evaluation of student life and campus culture. But colleges across the US are also soul-searching and refining policies in the wake of the case, recognizing that Duke is not the only campus where the confluence of race, sex, privilege, and booze could spark a scandal.

"In part because of the Duke scandal, there's a trend in higher education towards increasing accountability for perpetrators, more and better support for victims, and ... more intensive prevention programs," says Alan Berkowitz, a social justice consultant in Trumansburg, N.Y.


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