Duke grad raps NCCU; furor erupts

Accuser's degree faulted in column

Staff WriterMay 28, 2008 

— A recent opinion piece in the Duke University student newspaper has renewed some of the animosity that bubbled between that institution and N.C. Central University as the Duke lacrosse saga played out.

The May 15 column, written by Kristin Butler, who recently graduated, takes NCCU to task for allowing Crystal Mangum to graduate.

Mangum, the NCCU student whose false claims of rape and sexual assault in 2006 led to the arrests of three Duke lacrosse players, graduated in early May. The players were eventually declared innocent.

Butler, who is from Cary and will work as an intern at The News & Observer this summer, began her column by declaring, "It seems anyone can get a college degree these days -- especially if they go to North Carolina Central University."

She posited that Mangum had violated NCCU's student conduct code with her false allegations and wondered why the university allowed her to graduate. The column spread rapidly across cyberspace; as of Tuesday afternoon, it had attracted more than 400 comments on the Duke Chronicle Web site. Some support Butler's stance; others are harshly critical.

"People think I'm antagonizing NCCU, when, in fact, I'm critiquing something NCCU did," Butler said Tuesday. "The fact that we can't have a lucid, temperate conversation illustrates that we can't move on."

It isn't clear whether Mangum faced any disciplinary hearings on campus; a campus spokeswoman could not be reached Tuesday.

At NCCU, student leaders have heard from their constituency and are crafting a response.

"Students are angry," said Kent Williams Jr., NCCU's student body president. "But instead of writing back with negative stuff, they're asking the university to be unified and not let stuff like this divide the two campuses."

Williams said he plans to talk with his counterpart in Duke's student government and hopes to address the issue soon in a joint statement.

Since the lacrosse saga began in 2006, student leaders at the two universities have worked quietly to find common ground with efforts like a joint student leadership dinner that has been held the past two years and will occur again during the 2008-09 school year.

eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com or (919) 956-2415.

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