As we approach the end of this academic year, I write with a few updates, some encouragement and considerable well wishes. It’s hard to believe that this academic year is nearly over and I know that those of you who are graduating are finding hard to believe that your undergraduate years are nearly complete. Having graduated myself in 1972, I can barely believe that I'll be celebrating my 40th year in Student Affairs! Every year has been special and fulfilling and this past year I've enjoyed many, many opportunities to be of support to all of you.
Among the updates I want to share is the latest information regarding the West Union renovation and the relocation of the centers and others currently housed in West Union. The Mary Lou Williams Center and LGBT Center Study Reports were invaluable in assisting us with identifying new homes for both centers and over the summer we'll begin detailed analysis of the Flowers and Bryan Center locations to see how we can best accommodate those moves. In the Fall, we'll begin working on more detailed planning, so there will be considerable opportunity for student and staff involvement in their design. The relocation of these centers will require several 'enabling' moves (including my own offices) so we'll also be reviewing the variety of changes necessary to get everyone affected into new homes with the goal of minimizing the number of moves necessary when West Union closes. We'll know more about the detailed timelines for the construction of the Event Pavilion and the closure of West Union in the next month or so and will post updated information on http://sites.duke.edu/westunion/
Our summer will be quite busy with many other projects. As noted in an earlier email to you, we plan to review further options for expanding our gender-neutral housing and will take some time over the summer to identify viable locations for doing so. We have many other housing projects planned for the summer including construction of several new common rooms for our new houses, several renovations projects throughout the campus and assorted replacement of furniture and furnishings. We'll be doing all this around a full slate of summer programs including those of you who will be here for summer sessions, various sports camps, the American Dance Festival and much more. But, if you're returning to campus residences in the fall, we hope you'll come back to pleasant surprises in our continuing efforts to enhance our residential communities. We'll also be making a few changes in several dining venues, but its just a bit too soon to say much about that. I expect to send another update email sometime over the summer and will have more to share about dining changes then.
I want to address another area of controversy that's gotten a fair amount of attention, the statute of limitation for student sexual assault cases. I want to point out that the topic of gender violence is among our highest concerns. I co-chair our Gender Violence Task force and that that group has been actively involved in policy and practice changes that have made us as exemplar of best practices among our peers. What the task force has done hardly reflects the extraordinary efforts of the Women's Center, the Gender Violation Prevention and Intervention Office and many others in Student Affairs and throughout the University. Much of this was documented in this Duke Today article: http://today.duke.edu/2011/11/sexualmisconduct
Why did we make that change? Among the numerous requirements imposed on us by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in their examination of our policies and practices was an expectation that there be common processes for students, staff, and faculty. The timeline for non-students has long been one year and developed in concert with various faculty governance processes. Thus, to meet our OCR obligations, we adjusted the student timelines to those of the broader university. Clearly, we must have options for support and intervention for victims of sexual assault and we will review our policies and practices over the summer and next fall. I would point out that even now, there are options for cases beyond the one-year timeline and would encourage anyone who has been a victim of any form of sexual misconduct to seek the support of the Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention staff. Further details can be found at: http://www.studentaffairs.duke.edu/wc/sexual-assault
I do want to point out many of our efforts in the last few years - the establishment of a mandatory reporting obligation, creation of an independent investigation process, and the launch of a Bystander Intervention Program (soon to be substantially expanded), among many others - and want to assure you of our continued attention to this very important issue.
Finally, I want to offer my congratulations to those of you graduating this year. I've met many of you and wish I could know all of you. Your achievements over the last four years have been amazing and we'll be watching with delight as your accomplishments grow in the years ahead.
Enjoy this final week of classes, have a great (and safe) LDOC and best of luck with papers and exams.
With best wishes,
Vice President for Student Affairs