Duke University isn’t helping anyone, including itself, by refusing to comment on whether the dismissal of basketball player Rasheed Sulaimon was connected to allegations of sexual assault.
Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, reported Monday that Sulaimon’s dismissal was “clouded by allegations of sexual assault” made by two female students who spoke out at separate campus retreats in October of 2013 and February of 2014. Neither of the women filed a complaint through Duke’s Office of Student Conduct nor did they go to campus or Durham police.
Duke announced Jan. 29 that Sulaimon, a junior and former Duke starter, had been kicked off the team, the first Duke player ever dismissed by Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program,” Krzyzewski said in a release.
But on Monday during a regularly scheduled conference call with sportswriters, Krzyzewski was saying nothing about the circumstances behind Sulaimon’s leaving except several “no comments.”
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Duke University spokesman Michael Schoenfeld also weighed in Monday with a vaporous: “Duke is prohibited by law from disclosing publicly any particular student’s confidential education records.” Then he gave the basic protocol for responding to reports of sexual misconduct.
Duke Athletics Director Kevin White added to the information deficit Tuesday saying, “As specified by federal law and university policy, all Duke officials, including Coach Krzyzewski, are prohibited from commenting publicly on any specific individual or situation.”
The federal law presumably is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It was passed to protect the confidentiality of student academic records, but universities routinely use it as a shield against inquiries into athlete behavior.
In this case, the allegations involve sexual assault, not grades. If Sulaimon was dismissed for reasons unrelated to the allegations, Duke owes it to him to say so. If his removal was related, then there needs to be an explanation of why more than a year passed between the time of the first allegation and his dismissal.
There are a lot of unknowns in this case, but Sulaimon’s name is known, and he deserves to have it cleared, or the university should explain why it can’t do so.