With Spring Break (for those of you who get the time off) about a week away, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you well with the rest of the semester and offer a few thoughts about current events and their implications for many of you. It is not my intent to make this a political commentary, but I want to be sure to express my concerns for the many of you who might be feeling insecure or vulnerable right now as things rapidly change in the national scene. Here’s what I want to say:
To our LGBTQ+ community: Duke is and will always be your home and will be a place committed to supporting you. Here, you celebrate your gender identity and use whatever bathroom meets your needs. Transgender Duke students can expect no changes in Duke’s support and commitment. We will continue to expand the number of gender neutral bathrooms throughout the campus, provide health insurance that is affirming and inclusive of transgender students and offer the staff and support of our outstanding Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/csgd) to serve you and educate our community.
To our Jewish community: These awful incidents of anti-semitism being reported throughout the country are horrific and disgusting. As a child of Holocaust survivors myself, I’m deeply hurt and dismayed by these bomb threats and cemetery violations. Duke is also your home and we will work together to combat these abhorrent acts and to make Duke a place of warmth and light for all of us. Jewish Life at Duke (https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/jewishlife) is poised to address your fears and your ambitions and I urge you to connect with them in these troubling times.
To our Muslim and international students from affected countries: You, too, face many challenges as our nation struggles with respect for religious difference while imposing ‘bans’ and other travel restrictions. I’m sure many of you have changed travel plans for fear of re-entry concerns and worry about having your family visit for graduation and other important gathering. Yes, Duke is also your home and know that the Muslim Life at Duke (https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/muslimlife), International House (https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/ihouse), Duke Visa Services (https://visaservices.duke.edu/) and many others here at Duke are here to support you.
To our undocumented students: The Duke administration has made clear its commitment to supporting you and to ensuring your presence at Duke. We are in the process of creating a website with up to date information on DACA and any changes in national policies and practices that might affect you. Dr. Li-Chen Chin (firstname.lastname@example.org), Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, is available to you to address and questions you may have and to direct you to whatever services or support you may need.
And to all of you, conservative and liberal, gay and straight, graduate and undergraduate and from all faiths, identities and places in the USA and the world: Yes…this is your home and we are all the better for the diversity, the uniqueness and the varying perspectives you bring. I hope Duke is the place where we can express our differences with civility, respect and conviction, where data accompany opinion and where what we recognize that we have so much in common and more to gain than lose by working together.
Let’s care for each other, be safe in all we do here and away and come back together in a couple of weeks refreshed, eager to engage and inspired by the warmth of spring and the comfort of each other’s company. Have a great break!
Larry Moneta, Ed.D
Vice President for Student Affairs