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Is Our Moral Compass Broken?

Long Island lacrosse is a powerhouse for Division One college lacrosse around the country. In our community, a number of high schools support many Division One, Ivy League college lacrosse programs.
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Long Island lacrosse is a powerhouse for Division One college lacrosse around the country. In our community, a number of high schools support many Division One, Ivy League college lacrosse programs.

The latest scandal in college athletics hits close to home. Many of our promising scholar lacrosse athletes desire the opportunity to play for schools like Duke University.

The recent events surrounding the Duke Lacrosse team are tragic and sickening. The allegations that three players raped and sexually abused a woman are reprehensible.

What is further disturbing is the allegation by a woman who was hired to dance at a lacrosse team party that she was raped, assaulted and racially demeaned. To date, no criminal charges have been filed, but DNA samples have been taken from forty-six of the forty-seven team players.

Witnesses at the party allege that they saw drunken members of the team shout racial slurs at the African-American woman as she passed by.

The victim alleges that three white players raped and attacked her.

Many people have criticized the University's entire handling of this unfortunate circumstance. Duke University's President, Richard Brodhead, took a few days before issuing a public statement.

Thus far, the season has cancelled and the head lacrosse coach has resigned. Many of the players have admitted to excessive drinking, but to date, no player has been sanctioned, except for a player who wrote a very troubled e-mail in the early hours of March 14th.

The victimized woman called 911 and told the police that she had been raped and beaten by three lacrosse players, while others did nothing to stop it.

Since that tragic night, people of all ages and walks of life have shared their perspectives on this tragic happening. In my social work and sociology classes on three different college campuses, we have discussed the facts of this case so far.

All the students I've conferred with agree that the rapists should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, there was great diversity in opinion regarding the drinking, the party, the hiring of exotic dancers and the vow of silence.

Every Division One athlete signs a contract promising not to engage in any illegal behavior, especially around drugs and alcohol. Every lacrosse player signed that contract. Most have violated it on more than one occasion.

The attitude of most students I talked with was, "what's the big deal?" Every college has underage students who drink, athletes are no different. Some said it was a "dumb rule." No one seemed concerned that it was a contract with some binding force that should not have been taken lightly.

As a matter of fact, many students commented that drinking among college athletes is part of who they are. If the real truth be told, everyone knows it as well.

There really seems to be a double standard around the issue. Underage college drinking is out of control. Will the events among the lacrosse players at Duke University cause college athletes around the country to take pause and reflect on their social behavior?

Many people feel that the drinking age should be amended. Then work to amend it. To arbitrarily choose the rules you wish to follow is reckless and irresponsible, especially among the athletic community who are expected to be leaders on our college campuses.

College administrators and college coaches have become too lax in the area of social responsibility. By their silence and indifference, they have said that underage drinking is okay!

That attitude has trickled down to our high school community. Underage drinking among high school athletes is epidemic. Many parents dismiss it as a phase or a rite of American passage. They feel powerless and content that "they are going to do it anyway, so tolerate it." Until someone's son or daughter is killed senselessly by this mayhem.

High school coaches need to demand so much more and hold their athletes more socially accountable, so when our high school athletes go off to college they will be better prepared to do the right thing.

Duke is a school of privilege. The subtle presence of racism and discrimination is most disheartening. Hopefully, it won't be swept under the carpet, but will be appropriately addressed, not just in a crisis context, but also by the entire college community on an on-going basis.

There is no "I" in team. Their code of silence, especially around rape and violence, is reprehensible. Someone out of those forty-eight players had to have seen and heard something. The fact that no one tried to intervene and stop the alleged events is very frightening.

Do we train athletes to be above the law? Do we instruct them to become deaf and blind to what their fellow teammates do, even if it is immoral and wrong?

Or do we empower athletes to be for others, to be positive role models within our community?

Our moral compass seems to be broken. Few seem interested in repairing it. The social indifference that recently emerged at Duke is not just at Duke, but is infecting college campuses around the country.

Hopefully, the Duke tragedy will be a wake up call to all young people that we must act responsibly and respectfully.

A wonderful opportunity to play the great game of lacrosse at Duke University has been lost because of people's selfishness. Hopefully, the victimized woman will recover and the team of silence will reclaim its' dignity and integrity and apologize for their demeaning recklessness.