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Nona Farahnik

Standing Up

By Mary Johnson

Fall 2010

In 2006, a young African-American woman accused several Duke University lacrosse players of sexual assault. The media seized on the story, captivating the country with a tale of privileged boys gone bad. Everyone, it seemed, rushed to the victim’s side.

But not Nona Farahnik ’12, then a sophomore at Duke. She was shocked when news organizations and government officials criminalized the players before a trial had even begun. In protest, she hung a sign outside her dorm room window that read: “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Farahnik’s point about the importance of due process wasn’t a popular one, and she soon became the subject of hateful flyers circulating campus. But she remained stoically undeterred. “I made people angry,” she says. “But for me, [the issue] was obvious. It was: Innocent until proven guilty.”

The North Carolina attorney general ultimately dropped all charges against the players, but the scandal helped inspire Farahnik to attend Columbia Law School—the only law school to which she applied. “Columbia is the best school in the best city in the world,” she says earnestly.

Since arriving on campus last year, Farahnik has been busy. She serves as vice president of the Student Senate and co-president of the Jewish Law Students Association. This past summer, she worked at the Los Angeles Superior Court because she wanted to experience law at the trial level, where it most directly impacts people’s lives. “I want to have many careers and be open to many options,” Farahnik explains. “But I want to keep my feet on the street.”