Dear Duke Families,
As I look out my office window, I have the privilege of seeing our students walking (and rushing) by between classes, meals, meetings and study venues. So many things are apparent on the rare occasion that I get to just pause and admire the passersby. I notice that many seem either immune to the winter chill or in denial about the need to wear warmer clothes! I notice that rarely is anyone walking alone. Students travel in pairs, groups and masses! I notice that some kind of technological device is apparently welded to their ears or their palms (hopefully talking or texting with you). But, I also notice how remarkably different they are, reflecting the substantial and wonderful diversity within the Duke student body.
It’s always such a joy to acknowledge and celebrate Duke’s successful efforts to recruit students from the various racial, ethnic and international communities we strive to represent. But, events of this past year – both on and off campus – have challenged us to examine the Duke culture and experiences that foster and inhibit the development of a truly inclusive and supportive campus community. As most of you know, we’ve experienced incidents that have called into question Duke’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and have stimulated, in concert with national attention to incidents and issues, reflection on what policies, practices and educational efforts might minimize the victimization of members of our community and support the development of an ideal culture and environment…one where every student feels safe, supported and respected.
Over the rest of the spring semester, the President’s Task Force on Bias and Hate will work to find best practices that might address these concerns. Additionally, meetings are being held with students who represent the various demands that you’ve undoubtedly read or heard about. There’s work to be done, and I assure you that the Duke community is up for the challenge. I encourage you to read more about this ongoing work.
Let me close on a personal note. Our students are just terrific. Overall, what they ask for is reasonable and responsible and supported by compelling arguments and passionate pleas. Lest you think I or my administrative colleagues are troubled by this ‘activism’, I remind you that many of us are ‘children of the 60’s” (ok…and some 70’s and 80’s) and eager to support student voices and initiatives. The Duke campus is lively and energetic, as it should be and, though we have much work to do, it is truly a labor of love.
Vice President for Student Affairs