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Jewish Life At Duke: From the archives

In honor of the upcoming Jewish Baccalaureate ceremony, we sat down with Dr. Robert Satloff  (T’83) who spearheaded the tradition here at Duke. In his interview , Dr. Satloff discussed his experiences as a Jew in the south. He noted that one of his most memorable experiences was when working as a journalist for the Chronicle brought him face to face with Glenn Miller, Grand Dragon the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Miller was arrested recently for the fatal shooting for three people outside of a Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas.

Jewish editor locked in car, guarded by armed Klansmen
[Originally published in the Chronicle on April 15, 1981 -- click on the images to enlarge]

On Saturday, April 4, two Chronicle - reporters journeyed to a farm in Johnston County, N.C, to interview Glenn Miller, Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Ten minutes into the interview, Editorial Page Editor Robert Satloff was expelled on "the suspicion that he was Jewish and locked   within   an   automobile for the duration of the afternoon. Associate News Editor Shep Moyle was permitted to stay,' continue the interview and take photographs.

Today's Aeolus features reports by Moyle and Satloff, plus an in-depth look at how local residents view the Klan in the" small towns of Angier and Benson.

When we set up the conditions for an interview, Glenn Miller, Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, made himself quite clear.

"We ain't no equal opportunity employer, you know. So don't bring down no blacks and no Jews."

Nevertheless, Shep Moyle, associate news editor, and I were resolved to interview this man who has made running this racist organization his sole purpose in life. I am Jewish. Moyle is not.

People had warned us not to go down to Angier. They said I was a dead giveaway, if you'll excuse the morose pun. Perhaps I didn't believe them. Perhaps I didn't think that such close-minded, violent, intolerant people still exist. Perhaps I am naive. I'm not any more.

I was certainly not beyond taking advice from my friends. Scott McCartney, Chronicle editor, forged a press pass for me. "Robert Statler Jr." would be my assumed name. As any good Klansman knows, no self- respecting Jewish boy would have a "Jr." following his name. And I was told that my hair and my beard epitomized the stereotypical Jew, so Friday I got a haircut and a shave that would have made a Marine recruiter proud.

"We ain't no equal opportunity employer, you know. So don't bring down no blacks and no Jews."

But still, I feared what could happen. Without suggestion from anyone, I searched for a cross to wear around my neck. I had never worn a cross before; I thought I never would have to. I thought I never would want to. But if there was one sure way to convince the Klan you're not a Jew, I thought, wear a cross.

It took us about an hour to drive to Angier. We took Moyle's car; it would have been too easy to trace a Rhode Island license plate and since I was going under an assumed name, I didn't want to arouse suspicion. We were instructed to call Miller to get directions out to his farm once we reached "downtown" Angier.

As could be expected of two city boys trying to find their way around in the country, we got lost. Very lost. After an hour and a half of searching through Johnston and Harnett counties for Route 1312, we landed up in Coats, N.C. We called Miller again; he had suspected we were lost, and within 15 minutes we were driving up 1312 and parking the car on the dirt lawn in front of the lone structure on Miller's 27-acre farm.

We didn't really know what to expect. There were*- rumors of a Klan rally to be held on the farm that afternoon. It was the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. We'd heard stories of a paramilitary camp that Miller was purported to have established. We'd read some of his speeches and tape- recorded messages; they were full of the typical anti- black, anti-Jewish, Klan-type sentiment. What we didn't know was how much of that was rhetoric and how much was reality.

Miller's greeting set us straight. The first words that came out of his mouth were, "Are you a Jew?" The press pass, the haricut, even the cross — it wasn't going to do any good. But there wasn't much that I could do. If I admitted being Jewish, I was free game. I didn't know what he would do to me. If I maintained my claim to Christianity, at least I had the chance of making it through this ordeal. It was my word against his, and at first, I won.

Twice more before the start of the interview Miller questioned my religion. "I don't let Jews on my land," he said, "so you'd better not be lying to me." Still, I By Robert Satloff maintained my position.

The interview began with I asking Miller for the usual background information: hometown, education, military experience, family, occupation. Immediately he got defensive, wondering why we were even asking such questions. But after explaining the need to give some "color" to the interview, he settled down. For the next 10 minutes, all went well. I thought we had pulled it off. There was some rumbling from the kitchen were several armed men seemed to be talking about Moyle and me. But there didn't seem to be any sign of trouble.

It happened all of a sudden. In the middle of a question, a medium-built man in a Nazi uniform, complete with a black kepie on his jet-black hair, motioned Miller over. After a short kitchen discussion, they had reached their decision.

"You're a Jew," Miller said. "Yup, you're a Jew." Once again I denied my ancestry.

Once again I showed him my press pass. I didn't know for sure whether or not he'd seen the cross.

"Mr. Miller, you told me no Jews and no blacks. I'm not Jewish," I said.

Miller asked an older man standing near the refrigerator if he thought I was Jewish. The man nodded.

"Where're you from?", Miller asked.

"I was born in Providence, R.I.," I answered.

To Miller that seemed to confirm my Judaism.

"Get out of here," he said. "Get the hell out of here right now, you spy. Get off my property or I will forcibly remove you. You hear?"

Miller gave me three alternatives. I had the choice to leave and forego the interview all together, stay and face the consequences or submit to incarceration for the remainder of the afternoon so that Moyle could finish the interview and take the photographs. My first impulse, I must confess, was to get as far away from that place as quickly as possible. These people had rifles, pistols, automatic weapons — they were not fooling around.

'We ain't no equal opportunity employer, you know. So don't bring down no blacks and no Jews.'

And the second option was definitely out.

It was when Miller repeated his offer to let Moyle continue the interview while I remain elsewhere that it finally dawned on me that that was what our contingency plan was in the first place. In addition to recruiting Moyle for his fine journalistic capabilities, there is one undeniable fact: Moyle does not look Jewish.

"OK, Shep, take care and finish up the interview. Try to take those photographs," I said.

I was then led outdoors and locked inside Moyle's car. For the next two and one-half hours I was under armed guard. Three men, sometimes four, vigilantly kept watch. Every half-hour, one of the men would come over to my side of the car and ask if everything was all right. He said he was checking to see if I was taking pictures or operating a tape-recorder.

Their faces were four I will never forget. Two were dressed in Army fatigues, complete with polished boots and military belts. The older one of the two, about 35 years old and a heavy smoker, wore wire frame glasses and had a slightly hunched back. A floppy fatigue hat fell over his brow. From what I could gather, he was a family man. His blond, pregnant wife and at least two of his children also were spending the afternoon at Miller's farm. His little boy played just 25 feet from the car I was in. His toy was a rifle.

The other man decked out in fatigues looked like one of those "few good men" Marine recruiters are always bragging about. He was young, no more than 19 or 20. He was strong, very muscular. His hair was in a crew cut, and he strode back and forth with the minaret strut of a military man. He seemed to be the messenger, ferrying messages from Miller to the guards outside. Moyle later told me Miller regularly ordered the changing of the guard from inside the house.

Another guard was tall and thin; he conjured up thoughts in my Yankee mind of the stereotypical Southern farm boy. It looked like he had never shaved in his life; he had a scraggly red beard but no mustache. He reminded me of a character out of James Dickey's Deliverance, the type of guy who would put a bullet through you for trespassing on his property. He arrived in the middle of my incarceration, and it seems that right after he showed up, the guards turned their attention from shooting the breeze to practicing rifle shooting.

The leader of the guard was the uniformed Nazi I had encountered inside the house, the instigator behind my expulsion from the interview. Looking at him was like reliving a nightmare. He was of medium height, with jet-black hair. He was dressed in Nazi regalia — white shirt, black shoulder belt, spit-black boots and the ever-present Nazi headpiece. An expensive-looking gold watch was conspicuous on his wrist. One could tell that he made an effort to appear the clean-cut, ail-American man.

His mustache made his visage all the more disconcerting. It was a short, finely cut line of hair that extended no further than the edge of his mouth and fell no lower than the top of his upper lip. Without meaning to sound melodramatic, his mustache had the air of Hitler's.

The Nazi had a strange aura about him. When he stood guard over me, I knew he was in charge. When he asked for a beer, a subordinate ran inside to fetch one. When he told a Jewish joke, everybody laughed. When he decided to show the rest of the guards how to handle an automatic rifle, they all listened intently.

For some reason, I felt safer when he was outside watching me than when he went inside. I could tell he was smart. He was intelligent enough to know not to harm me physically; if, by some chance, I wasn't Jewish, he could have gotten himself in deep trouble. He knew his job was to scare me, keep me in suspense as to what could possibly happen. But whenever he was there, I felt secure. I didn't trust the intelligence of the other guards. The only thing I could trust was the loyalty his subordinates felt towards him. They took orders well.

At first I didn't know what I could and couldn't do in the car. I had never been held under armed surveillance before, especially by men who hated me for no other reason than my religion. After several minutes of stifling heat, I ventured to open the window on the driver's side of the car. It may not sound like much, but for me it was quite a milestone. Once in a while I would turn on the radio to check the time, but not once did WQDR report it. The entire time spent locked in the car, I didn't know how long I had been there or what time it was.

When the conversation among the guards got loud Wednesday, April 15, 1981 or when one of them raised his voice, I was able to overhear what was said. This happened on just three occasions. The first bit of dialogue I heard was a joke told by the uniformed Nazi:

"If your grandmother was Jewish, you're still Jewish. If your great-grandmother was Jewish, you're half OK. What are you if your mother was Jewish?" The answer: "You're dead."
The second piece of conversation I heard had to do with the improbability of the Holocaust. The guards all expounded in the rhetoric of the great charade of the six million Jews claimed to have been killed in Nazi Europe. As the Nazi asked, "If six million people died, then what the hell did they do with the 30 million pounds of ash?"

Perhaps I didn't think that such close-minded, violent, intolerant people still exist. Perhaps I am naive. I'm not any more.

The only other time I could hear what the guards were talking about was when a black man walked down the road right in front of the house. He stood no more than 30 yards away from the guards. As if on command, a large, black dog began chasing after the black man. The dog seemed to have been trained to seek out and attack blacks.

The guards relished watching the black man defend himself against the dog, screaming loudly and kicking the animal. The guards laughed and jeered at the difficulty the black man was having with the dog. After a few moments, one of the guards called the dog off and it strolled back toward the house. The guards stroked the dog, congratulating the animal on its fine effort at humiliating the stranger.

I spent the remainder of the time in the car jotting down notes of what I had seen and heard. This in itself was no easy task. Never knowing when one of the guards might suddenly walk over to the car to check to see what I was doing, I was forced to write in the reporter's notebook keeping my eyes focused directly on my captors. I got the feeling that my incessant watching made them nervous; it was the only type of resistance I was able to offer.

Whenever a guard approached the car, I stuck the notebook underneath the driver's seat. If the radio was on, I quickly turned it off. There was no telling what would have happened if they found me taking notes, something I figured would not be taken with much approval. After all, Miller himself would periodically look out the window to check on the situation. And I certainly didn't want to lose the privilege of enjoying the open window.

The heat was unbearable. They felt it and I felt it. When the guards decided that it was time for a break, the young Marine was sent inside to fetch the drinks. He came out with a couple of Cokes and couple of beers, Miller Lite and Budweiser. One could sense the pleasure they enjoyed, gloating over the fact that I could not quench my thirst. It was only two hours before that Miller himself had offered us drinks. We had refused.

By this time, I realized it was getting quite late and the interview must have reached its end. I saw Moyle go out back with somebody — to take pictures, I hoped. Then, a few minutes later, I saw a man dressed in the traditional Klan outfit replete with headgear go outside, too.

It was at this time that I my fear really got the best of me. I was afraid for myself. I was afraid for Moyle. I could hear running through my mind all my friends saying, "I told you so." I wanted nothing more than for the interview and picture-taking session to finish and for Moyle and myself to get the hell out of there.

This was just about the time that the Nazi officer began instructing his comrades in the proper usage of some sort of automatic rifle. He would load and re-load the cartridge and practice the proper method of holding the gun. It's at times like these that you wonder how resistant a windshield is and you start to creep lower and lower into the seat.

Daylight was slowly slipping away and I had no intention of staying there in the dark. In frustration, I started to beat my fist against the seat of the car, hoping that soon Moyle would emerge from the house and we could finally leave Miller and his farm.

At about 5:30, Moyle came out. My heart sank with relief. The guards watched as I unlocked the door, slid over to passenger side of the seat and prepared to leave that nightmare. My last image was of the guards jeering at us as we drove down Route 1312 back towards Angier.


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Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Robert Satloff

Dr. Robert Satloff  (T’83) is one of America’s foremost experts on Arab and Islamic politics and U.S. Middle East policy.  Since 1993, he has served as Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a non-partisan “idea factory” focused on the political, security, military, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of the Middle East. In addition to his Duke B.A., Rob has a master’s in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University and a D.Phil. in modern Middle East history from St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.

Why did you choose to attend Duke?
Growing up in Rhode Island, I never heard of Duke, until the Blue Devils played URI in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament in 1978 – and won by just one point. I was intrigued about this excellent school in the South and the more I learned about it, the more interested I became. I was invited to visit the school as part of the competition process for an Angier B. Duke Scholarship, was blown away with the beauty of the campus and had a great time. When I was fortunate enough to receive the Scholarship, the choice was clear.

What did you study, and what organizations were you involved with on campus?
Like most students, I bounced around from major to major until I found my special interest in defining my own major via the Comparative Area Studies program. I combined Middle Eastern and South Asian studies into what essentially was a major in Islamic history and Arabic language – knowledge that I still draw on every day in my professional life, more than three decades later.

Truth be told, I learned as much outside of class – through my work with The Chronicle and its remarkable band of student-journalists – as I did in class. I served as managing editor and editorial page editor but more than the positions, I still marvel at the fact that we kids published a 16-32 page newspaper every single weekday of the school year. Some of the stories were memorable, from the fight over the Nixon Presidential Library to a gang rape scandal to my own face-off with the Ku Klux Klan. But in that pre-iPad/pre-iPhone era, my fondest and most lasting memories were mocking up columns of text at the print shop at 4 a.m. a couple of nights a week with my friends. The lesson from that experience – ‘if we didn’t do it, it didn’t get done’ – has been with me ever since.

What was Jewish life on campus like in the late 70s and early 80s?
My recollection was that, in those days, Duke had a substantial Jewish population – the number in my mind is 15 percent of undergraduates, though that may be wrong -- but a very small number of active, engaged Jewish students. For a while, Hillel was based in an out-of-the-way house on East Campus and then we moved into the basement of Duke Chapel, in a sort of condominium arrangement with other religious groups, each of us having a room or two. We were led by a wonderful, caring and committed chaplain, Rabbi Frank Fischer, but he had few resources, little institutional support and was also tasked with being chaplain at UNC-Chapel Hill, which meant that he could only have a part-time presence at either school. The result was that there were very few of us at Shabbat services or Sunday bagel brunches. I recall High Holidays were split – one day in Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus, one day in an auditorium in Chapel Hill.

But we still rose to the occasion with special events. Two of my most cherished days at Duke were days spent hosting two great Jewish writers – Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Potok. And in a different vein, the night I took Abbie Hoffman to the campus bar and listened to his stories while supplying him with beer after beer was a memorable Jewish experience, of sorts.

You conceived and organized the very first Jewish Baccalaureate ceremony at Duke back in 1983.  Tell us how that happened.
Flash back to spring 1983, my senior year. The previous May, I had attended the university baccalaureate service and was shocked that it included specific prayers consecrating every student’s education in the name of Jesus Christ. Like all Dukies, I knew of and respected Duke’s Methodist origins and connections, but I also knew Duke to be a place that celebrated, thrived, even boasted about its diversity. I could not fathom that it would require all students who wanted to enjoy the grandeur and fullness of their graduation weekend to pay homage to Jesus, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).

So, I wrote an op-ed for The Chronicle that outlined the problem and proposed two alternatives: either re-name the Chapel event as the “Christian baccalaureate service” or make the service more universal and ecumenical by encouraging members of all faiths to share equally in the celebration. “Graduation is an event that happens only once,” I wrote. “Why shouldn’t my family be permitted to enjoy it, too?”

I remember the op-ed caused quite a storm, prompting numerous supportive notes from Jewish and non-Jewish classmates alike. But the University administration was not amused. Its response was a firm “no.”

The battle was now joined. Rabbi Fischer continually reminded me of the importance of being constructive, not destructive. After all, I had no desire to tarnish Duke’s graduation festivities, just to expand them to be truly inclusive of all Duke graduates. Together, we devised a plan.

On the day of the baccalaureate service, I joined hundreds of other graduates and our families in the wondrous surroundings of Duke Chapel. A few of us promised each other that at the moment we were asked to consecrate our education to Jesus, we would all stand and silently walk out. We also promised each other that we would have our families join in. I had images of a vast parade marching down the center aisle of the Chapel in a powerful, yet respectful statement of protest.

In the end, we never quite achieved “vast parade” status. When the moment came, I stood up with my family as well as a couple of friends and their families, then we made our way to the aisle and marched out of the Chapel into the brilliant sunlight. The size of the procession didn’t matter. It was an exhilarating moment.

Later that afternoon – or was it the following day, I don’t recall – in a mid-sized lecture room on East Campus, Rabbi Fischer officiated at what Allen Building termed the “Jewish graduation ceremony” but what everyone at the lively and festive event called Duke’s first-ever Jewish Baccalaureate Service. I recall having had the privilege of telling everyone the story of how we got there.

Over time, the University realized it was wiser to embrace our “protest baccalaureate” rather than fight it. But Jewish students today shouldn’t take for granted a wonderful event in their collegiate lives for which my classmates and I had to fight. When I see that the Jewish Baccalaureate Service has gone from a being a renegade event to a celebrated moment on the university’s graduation calendar, nothing made me prouder of being Jewish at Duke than my role in making that a reality.

You had some memorable moments as a student at Duke.  Are there one or two that stand out?
I had a great Duke experience but two moments stand out, both of which are “Jewish moments.”

In April 1981, my sophomore year, I went “undercover” to interview Glenn Miller, the Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. I say “undercover” because the terms of the interview were “no blacks and no Jews allowed.” But I was so eager to do the interview that I got a crew-cut, put a crucifix around my neck, and made a fake press pass; I also took a wonderfully talented tall, blond, blue-eyed photographer with me (future Duke body president Shep Moyle).

The following Saturday morning, Shep and I drove to Miller’s “paramilitary training camp” on his 27-acre farm.  A bunch of guys, mostly in combat gear, were milling about, many holding guns. When I met Miller, his first words were “Are you a Jew?” No, I said. He went on: “I don’t let Jews on my land, so you had better not be lying to me.” I held my ground and we started the interview.

Suddenly, after about ten minutes, a man wearing a Nazi uniform motioned to Miller and they went off for a brief discussion in the kitchen. When Miller returned, he began to sniff. “I smell a Jew,” he said. The gig was up.

For the next 2½ hours, I was kept under armed guard, locked in a steaming car in the blazing sun, as Shep continued the interview. Three men, sometimes four, vigilantly watched me, led by the uniformed Nazi. Every half-hour one of them would come near the car to wave a pistol at me. Eventually, Shep came out of the one-story wooden house – they had tried to recruit him into the fold – and we were told to leave.

The stories we wrote about our experience at the KKK camp less than an hour from our ivory tower electrified the campus; years later, many of my classmates still tell me that reading about our Klan experience remains one of their most vivid memories of Duke. Bringing that sordid reality into our privileged existence was one of the most exhilarating moments of my undergraduate years.

Sadly, the story didn’t end in rural North Carolina. That same Glenn Miller I interviewed 34 years ago was the man who brutally murdered four innocent bystanders at a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home near Kansas City last year. I was shocked. His hatred, especially toward Jews, had only grown with time.

*Click here to read the full article Satloff wrote for the Chronicle in 1981*

But my most cherished and lasting memory is a very different story. The time is early December 1982. Every year, my fraternity – Phi Kappa Psi – held a celebrity auction to raise money for kids at Duke Hospital and then hosted a Christmas party in the children’s ward for those kids. My happy task was to be Santa Claus at the party. Rentals were for 24 hours so after the party, I had a free night to roam campus bars dressed as St. Nicholas. This is in the era when students not only could drink freely on campus but could even buy beer with dining hall “points,” so being Santa one of the final weekends before winter break was quite an attraction.

In the Cambridge Inn that night, I met a cute, curly haired sophmore from Montreal with a killer smile named Jennie Litvack. Later that night, I phoned her in her dorm room at House A and, as I expected, she couldn’t refuse going on a date with a guy who said on the phone, “It’s Santa Claus calling.” Nine years, several continents, three universities and a few jobs later, we were married. And as we are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary, our oldest son is getting read to enter Duke’s freshman class.  Meeting the nice Jewish girl of my dreams while wearing a Santa suit is the storybook ending to my Duke experience.

Tell us about your work today.
I am lucky to wear three hats. First, I am the director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where -- for the past 23 years – I have led a remarkable team of Middle East experts, scholars and policy practitioners at Washington’s premier “think tank” on Middle East issues. Our mission is to provide non-partisan analysis and ideas that improve the quality of U.S. policy in that volatile region. Regrettably, with so much chaos and uncertainty in the Middle East, it often seems like we have lifetime employment!

Second, I am an historian, with a special focus on the experience of Arab countries and societies during the Holocaust. My last book, Among the Righteous, recounted the various roles that Arabs played during the persecution of Jews in Arab lands. This included little known stories of Arabs as perpetrators, bystanders, and – most importantly -- as rescuers of Jews. I was especially proud to have worked with PBS and Macneil-Lehrer Productions to produce an hour-long documentary based on the book, which aired nationally on Yom Hashoah in 2010 and in French, German and Arabic around the world. Building on new research I am undertaking on aspects of the Holocaust in Arab and Muslim societies, I serve as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s inaugural Director’s Fellow.

And third, I am a TV host. For nearly ten years, I have hosted a weekly news and public affairs talk show on al-Hurra, the U.S. government’s Arabic satellite television channel. The show is called “Dakhil Washington” (Inside Washington) and it is designed to explain to Arab viewers how Washington works – or doesn’t work, as the case may be. In that capacity, I am the only non-Arab to host a talk show on Arabic satellite TV.

So, I have a full professional life. Add to it parenting three boys – aged 18, 15 and 7 – and it’s a full, busy and rewarding life, too.

How have your years at Duke shaped your life and career?
It is no exaggeration to say I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone to Duke. I wouldn’t have found my wife. I wouldn’t have found my vocation. And I probably wouldn’t have found the inner voice that has guided me to pose questions whose search for answers has given me so much satisfaction over the years. Getting any one of these gifts from an undergraduate education is wonderful. Getting all three is truly amazing.

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CAPS Pledge of Support

In response to recent actions of racism that have been coming to the surface on campus, and in recognition that such unacceptable behavior is not isolated to this instance or this campus, CAPS would like to re-iterate our pledge of support to our students and the campus community.

CAPS Pledge of Support

When our community is shaken by tragic or abhorrent events on campus or beyond, CAPS’ staff wants to acknowledge the impact of these events on the students we serve.  As believers in every human being’s potential for healing and growth, we hold firm to the values of inclusion, multicultural diversity and social justice. We believe in empowering all people – including those who are marginalized and oppressed – to act together to challenge injustice, to condemn discrimination, and to promote a common humanity of equitable treatment and social cooperation.

We seek to foster a community that is safe for all students.  Just as reactions to controversial events vary across campus, they also vary among the CAPS staff.   We are each uniquely affected and respond with an array of complex emotions and viewpoints. At the same time, we strive to understand and respect perspectives that may be different from our own. Therefore, we join voices in making this pledge to all Duke students: your perspectives, values, and experiences will be welcome at CAPS, you will be safe, you will be respected, and you will be heard. 

We want to remind you that you are not alone and that there are a variety of services available to support you through arduous times.  We applaud the tireless efforts of campus organizations, student groups, and committed individuals who provide spaces for discussion of all forms of inequality at our university and in our world.  We invite students to access these many resources.  We also invite you to reach out to CAPS as needed for emergency walk-in appointments, individual or group counseling, or tailored outreach programs by request.  We can be reached by phone at 919-660-1000.  To learn more about us, please visit http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/caps/about-us.

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cowardly acts of bias and hatred

Dear students,

I was awakened early this morning with the news that a noose was found hung on the Bryan Center plaza. I can’t begin to describe the disgust and anger I felt, and still feel. Though it has since been removed, the photos are everywhere and its hateful message will sadly pervade and persist for a long time.

To whomever committed this hateful and stupid act, I just want to say that if your intent was to create fear, it will have the opposite effect. Today, fear will be among the reactions students, and especially, students of color, will have. Be assured that the Duke community will provide all the support necessary to help us all get through this. In time, each of these cowardly acts of bias and hatred will strengthen our resolve to love and support each other.

Appropriate investigations are underway and if we’re able to identify any responsible for committing this act of intimidation, they will be held fully accountable.

To anyone struggling with this news and needing support, or who has information about the incident, please contact any of our support staff: CAPS at 919-660-1000; DukeReach at 919-681-2455; or Duke Police at 919-684-2444

Larry Moneta
Vice President for Student Affairs

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Delta Sigma Phi News!

The Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity hosted their annual DeltaSig Open Doubles Tournament benefitting the American Red Cross. This year the event ran in conjunction with their Dad’s Weekend!

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Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Amy Wechsler, T'91

Dermatologist & author of The Mind-Beauty Connection

Where are you from originally? What made you decide to attend Duke?
I am from Queens, NY and Rockland County, NY.  I decide to attend Duke for a number of reasons - I already knew that I wanted to go to medical school and I knew Duke had a strong pre-med program and a first-class hospital; I wanted to leave my comfort zone of the Northeast and try someplace new; I visited Duke with my family and fell in love with the school and the environment; I love college basketball; - the list goes on and on!
If you had to describe your Duke experience briefly, what would you say about it?
I loved every minute of my time at Duke.  I was struck by the fact that no one on the faculty said no to me - if I was interested in pursuing an activity, there was always someone who was willing to help me turn my interests into reality.  I had a great mix of academics and extracurricular activities and social time.  I made life-long friends, had inspiring professors, and did unique things like spending a lot of time at the Lemur Center.  

You graduated before the Freeman Center was built. Were you active in Jewish life on campus when you were a student? What groups or activities were you involved with as a student?
I was active around holidays - services were in the Chapel and my mom encouraged me to attend.  I was in a sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta), I babysat for faculty members, I volunteered at Duke hospital (most notably in a pediatric AIDS clinic) and at the Lemur Center, I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon starting in my sophomore year (I was actually in the operating room), I was a Big Sister to a young boy in Durham, and I played on the Club Volleyball team.

Talk about your career and life now.
I have a private practice in NYC - I own my office and I set my own schedule, which is great because I am a single mom of 2 awesome kids.  I work hard, I feel privileged to take care of people for a living, and I plan my schedule around my kids' events and activities.  I also consult with Chanel on their skin care products.

You are one of only two dermatologists in the country who is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry.  How did you decide to focus on psychology AND dermatology? And how do the two disciplines relate to each other in your daily practice? 
I first became a psychiatrist (and child psychiatrist), but in practicing psychiatry I missed taking care of the physical ailments of my patients.  It took me a few months to figure out which specialty I wanted to combine with psychiatry, but when I discovered dermatology it made perfect sense to me.  The mind and skin have myriad connections and affect each other in innumerable ways.  I spend a lot of time with my patients and I look at them holistically, since what's going on in their lives can impact their skin and vice versa.  

You published a book, The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin. You’ve been on TV programs such as the Dr. Oz Show, and featured in many publications such as The New York Times and O Magazine.  What has been the most exciting experience so far in your career? 
I don't have just one "most exciting" experience... in the office I love clearing up severe acne and watching each of those patients blossom as their self-esteem and confidence improves; I loved being on Tyra [Banks] for the first time because that was my first national TV appearance; I loved publishing my book because I worked hard on it and was proud of it; I love working with Chanel because it's a company of extraordinary people who do incredible work; I love finding skin cancers in their early stage; I loved being in the NY Times the first time because I am a New Yorker and my grandpa read it from cover to cover every day. 

Passover is coming up. What traditional Passover foods are worst for your skin? Which ones are best?
There are no Passover foods that are necessarily bad for skin!  Foods high in antioxidants are good for the skin - dark chocolate covered matzah is my favorite and dark chocolate has antioxidants in it - just eat it in moderation!

Any advice for us stress-prone Dukies?
Try hard to get enough sleep!  We heal and lay down new memory during sleep.  Without enough sleep, most people become irritable, cannot deal with stressors as well, don't perform as well on exams, and get sick much more easily.  I never pulled an all-nighter at Duke because I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate well the next day.  It's important to have a good balance of work and leisure time.  Take care of yourself - connect with friends, take a walk outside, exercise, wear sunscreen, and don't smoke!


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IHouse 50th Anniversary - World Music Night

I hesitated at the threshold wondering, ‘Is this the right place?’ Then a group of smiling faces greeted me and I was welcomed into the Duke International House family. That was four years ago, at the IHouse Intl Spouse / Partner Orientation. As I was reminiscing thus, SangHee’s voice brought me to the present with a ‘Hello everyone, Good evening!’ It was World Music Night, part of the 50th anniversary celebration of IHouse, where we were treated to eight wonderful performances and (you guessed it!) a quiz.

‘To me, music is like breathing’ – Huda Asfour, (postdoc, Biomedical Engineering department) got the show started with an Arabic song accompanied by the rich notes of the Oud (Arabic instrument) that she played. Next performance was her own composition that conveyed the feeling of ‘being unsettled’. You can listen to more of her songs here.











‘To me, music is a means of expressing my thoughts and emotions’ – Bryan Somaiah, (undergraduate, Trinity College) got the attention of the audience with his sweet voice, simple lyrics and soft notes of the acoustic guitar.
‘Music is energy for life’ – Duke Dhoom (dance team of undergrads and grads) took to the dance floor with a spring in their step. Their performance was so energetic and lively that we had to grip our seats to stop ourselves from getting up and dancing.

World Music Quiz – Lisa Giragosian (IHouse) tested the audience on their knowledge (in my case, ignorance) of world music by playing songs from different countries. Needless to say, the closest I got was identifying the continent from which the music came. So, no prizes for me.

‘To me, music is happiness’ – Pratiksha Sharma (Undergraduate ’18) sang a Nepalese song about unrequited love, in her soothing voice.

IHouse Divas – Annette Moore, Li-Chen Chin held the audience spellbound with their mellifluous rendering of ‘The Round of Leprechauns’ and ‘Tap Dancer’ on the flute and clarinet.

‘To me, music is the Food for Soul’ – Rimli Sengupta (spouse of Duke postdoc), in keeping with the season, harmonized a melody about the onset of spring, followed by an emotional English song ‘Leaving on a jet plane’. Her voice touched us gently like a breath of fresh air.

‘Music is happiness and passion’ - Devil’s Reject (undergraduates) had the audience clapping to their A Capella singing of popular songs like ‘Are you coming to the tree’ and ‘I’m Yours’.

Racemates – Duke Indie Rock and Progressive Folk band played some great music for us. Check out their facebook page for more info. Special thanks are due to them for managing the sound system, the entire evening.

Thank you IHouse, for the musical jamboree and for reminding us that: ‘Music is the universal language of mankind’ – H W Longfellow.


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Happy (almost) Passover! In honor of the Passover tradition, we’re tacking on a fifth question: what makes JLD’s Passover so special?

Well for starters, Jewish Life at Duke will be offering free Seders at the Freeman Center on both the first and second night of Passover. Many students who are looking for a traditional Passover experience attend these Seders with the larger Duke community. Throughout the holiday, the Duke community can go to the Freeman Center for kosher-for-Passover meals. Other locations on campus have kosher- for-Passover dining options for those Dukies who can’t make it over to Freeman during the week.

But for students who might want to embrace the holiday in their own way, JLD offers the opportunity to host their own Passover Seders. Providing funding, food, haggadahs, supplies, and training, JLD prepares students to bring the Passover tradition to their own campus homes. In recent years, over 650 students took part in at least 17 Seders on campus!

Students get super creative, hosting Seders with themes such as a ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Freedom’, or ‘Rainbow (LBTQ)’. Students sometimes even cook their Passover dinners from scratch in their dorm kitchens; the commitment it takes to make tzimmes over a communal hot plate is impressive!

Other students join with their friends, sororities and selective living groups to have a small Seder within their own Duke families. The past couple of years, I myself co-hosted Seders for my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha. We picked food up from Freeman, then brought it back to Central Campus where we all set up together in the dorm. Having my sisters gathered around the common room, celebrating the holiday with me, quelled any homesickness I might get around the holidays because I realized: I was home!

The first time I decided that I wanted to help lead a Seder, I was nervous – what if I got the prayers wrong? What if I told guests to eat the Charoset before they dipped the Karpas in salt water? Luckily, Jewish Life at Duke helped me to feel comfortable and competent. We upheld many of the traditions and parts of the Seder I grew up doing, from pouring a glass for Elijah to searching for the afikomen. It was also an awesome way for the non-Jewish members to experience a Seder. It may not have been a flawless Seder, but everyone was together in celebration and made it all work.


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Speaking Up for Yourself - IHouse CLG workshop

“What does it mean?” asked one of the participants at the CLG Workshop on Speaking Up for Yourself hosted by Seun Bello Olamosu, IHouse where Dr. Gary Glass and Brandon Knettel, Intern, from CAPS made a presentation about communication strategies.

When somebody ‘steps on your toes’ do you just grin and bear it?

Why do you hesitate to speak up?
Cultural Differences and Gender Influences
In American culture, the concept of “self” is valued. People like to talk about their accomplishments, express their emotions and they may not hesitate to challenge authority or just ask for what they need. But other cultures may place more value on humility, being less expressive and respect for authority. Further, lack of clarity about gender roles can make it more complicated.

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Sometimes, people may treat you differently because of your racial or ethnic background. Is it “discrimination” based on bias or because they respect differences and want to put you at ease.

If speaking up is difficult, writing could be more so because there are so many things to think of like grammar, spelling mistakes and striking the right balance between sounding passive and assertive.

How can you overcome your inhibitions and speak up?
Understanding Conflict
Conflict can be “A Tool used to improve Relationships”. There is a saying in my country – “Fire can be used to light a lamp or burn down the house”. This is true of conflict too. If it is not used the right way, it can end up hurting everybody.

“The enjoyment of what you KNOW to be TRUE about YOU”. And, using that knowledge about you, to manage different situations at work and home.

How Do You Speak Up for Yourself – Effectively / Respectfully?
1.    Assess whether to assert yourself: Evaluate the situation - Is this the right time? What would be the consequences of speaking up or not speaking up?
2.    Identify what you want to assert: Figure out what is wrong with the situation and what is to be done to change it.
3.    Confidence Cycle: Rehearse, Implement, Evaluate, Correct or Adjust as Needed.

Communicate Your Needs
Express your needs using “I” statements like, “I would like it if you” rather than blaming the other person like, “You never do”.

Conflict is a Tool
Use conflict effectively to understand the other person and to help them understand you better.

Coming back to the question asked at the beginning of the workshop, I realized that Dr. Glass had not only answered it but in the process, he had given us a practice lesson in speaking up for ourselves.

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Black Love

“Black Love”

On the night of February 11, #BlackDuke all joined for the annual “Black Love” event. Well known in the black community, “Black Love” is endeared by many as an opportunity to discuss the perils of finding a “bae” in the Duke community. Discussed topics ranged from the hook-up culture, interracial dating, off-campus cuffetry, and how academic stresses can stifle a dating culture. For me, though, the narrative I fully expected was lacking from the discussion. Given that I can count approximately 3.5 couples in the entire black community, all heterosexual, in a community as rich with attractive individuals and diversity of sexuality as Duke’s black community, it is absolutely astonishing to me that so few people are “cuffed,” or even remotely considering the pursuit of cuffetry. Literally no one has a Valentine; it’s ridiculous. And since loneliness seems to characterize our community’s bae relations so accurately, I expected someone to cogitate the reasoning for this fascinating phenomenon, or at least bring it up as having been their experience in on-campus boo searches at “Black Love.” I misjudged.

On one hand, when I hear “black love,” I’m reminded of a shackling and oppressive history of black enslavement, and I think what besides a supreme love for a Divine Creator and community support could have helped our ancestors come to terms with the plight they had been subjected to against their wills? More contemporarily, “black love” makes me think of George and Wheezy. Florida and James. Raven and Eddie. (I’m deliberately leaving out the couple that had been my locus of understanding what black love could look like and be, because I’m sick of the husband telling me where on my gluteus maximus I’m allowed to wear my pants AND because that marriage was annulled in my consciousness the moment I discovered that the freakin’ obstetrician had “a thing” for violating women). Juxtaposed with those flowery and arguably unrealistic depictions of black love on television, however, is the seeming reality, both in the Duke community and in the black community in general—nobody is freaking cuffed! Why?

If I may venture a guess, I think that there are quite a few contributing factors to the phenomenon of general baelessness in our black community. For starters, you have to consider the type of black kids who are coming to Duke—mostly middle to upper-middle class; very respectable; having, for the most part, been to the best high schools and preparatory programs in the country. In effect, you have put 800 black valedictorians in an overwhelmingly white space, all of which have been convinced by their parents that exceptional negritude is fundamental to black success and is ideologically unproblematic. Some of us are a bit nerdy or socially awkward, but just about all of us have been told that we are “hot stuff,” contributions to the race—“uplifters”—for as long as we can remember. And yet, many of us have had difficulty navigating race relations, since our respectability made us “too white” for black spaces, and our melanin always made us stand out in white ones. I’d like to posit that that complex scaffolds an environment controlled by pride, formed out of black students’ scorn for their racial pasts. An environment of pride makes genuine, authentic interactions with other black students difficult to come by (to say the very
least). Pride stifles trust and vulnerability, the undeniable building blocks of any successful relationship (platonic or otherwise).

The same phenomenon doesn’t exist in our interactions with whites, I’d imagine, because they landlord the spaces we’re being allowed to rent, like the college environment—the spaces were not made for us, and no has blueprinted a re-model to accommodate our needs and preferences. And yet, we know how valuable the real estate is, and can’t forget how long the waitlist of exceptional negros is behind us; but, I digress. My interest is in deconstructing the environment of pride, such that we facilitate the kinds of loving interactions we’d like to see… (To be continued)​

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