The Price of Silence by William D. Cohan

When I was in college I remember hearing about the Duke Lacrosse scandal but I did not follow the case whatsoever. It did not affect me in any way then and I definitely was not thinking about how a rape case in Duke can affect higher education. By the time I started working in higher education, the news cycle had completely forgotten and abandoned the case. It was no longer the hot topic of the day.

I picked up this book simply because I wanted (and needed) to know more. I knew the basics of the case and the eventual dropping of charges, but I did not know anything besides that.

First, let’s look at the facts the book presents. No one comes out of this case looking good. The Duke Lacrosse players, although completely not guilty for rape, are not prime examples of purity and innocence. The dancers (including the accuser), although victims of unfortunate circumstances, are presented as shady and unreliable. Duke administrators are only concerned about public relations. Duke faculty, the Durham community, and other social organizations ask for blood in a case of guilty until proven innocent. The Durham police are careless with a chip on their shoulder against Duke students. And finally, Mike Nifong, the attorney general in the midst of an election, is cast as the main villain. 

As a college administrator, I had a lot of questions and a lot of thoughts while reading this book. At times I could not believe the audacity and stupidity of some people, and other times I totally understood why some people rushed to certain conclusions without the facts. 

Our judicial system deals with the idea of innocent until proven guilty, but the court of public opinion does not have the same standard. Often it is very difficult to balance these to unwieldy arenas. I think any college administrator or faculty member could learn something from this real life case study.

Now to the criticisms of this book. The book uses a massive amount of quotes from individuals involved in the case. Unless stated in the sentence, there are no citations given. At the end of the book, Cohan calls citing each source superfluous. I understand it can be time-consuming and redundant with modern technology, but not citing your sources is an error I cannot over look. No one from the case except the accuser spoke directly with the author for reasons I think are obvious. Most do not want to rehash this information or they are silenced due to an out-of-court settlement. The accuser is now in jail for murder.\

I think this book deserves a little more credit that it has received. Outside the problem of citing sources, I felt like it was a well compiled work. I think six hundred pages is too much, and it could be edited heavily to make it more accessible.