You have likely heard of the many protests occurring on our nation’s campuses concerning issues of diversity, inclusion, and equal treatment. Duke is not immune to these discussions, nor should we be. Our outstanding students are challenging us to do better in these areas, their expectations pressing us to a higher standard.
As a stimulus for new ideas and creativity, diversity is at the core of a liberal arts education—and at the very core of our institutional values. Duke is now more diverse—in race, ethnicity, gender, economic standing, academic discipline and intellectual inquiry—than it has ever been. This is as it should be, because we learn the most from those who are different from ourselves. But we are by no means done, and never will be.
Growing more diverse--as we have across the faculty, staff and student body-- calls for us to continually develop new skills in relating, and to take in different perspectives with respect. We have not kept up with the changing needs of this growing diversity. Our growing pains were evident in forums held each of the past two Fridays. We heard from our students their experiences, their fears and angers, and their demands. Let me emphasize that: We heard them, and we share a common goal to continuously strive for an environment where diversity—in all its forms—will thrive. Where your sons and daughters will thrive, in a safe, supportive, intellectually challenging community.
We believe that to be truly educated people we should embrace and practice an appreciation for different disciplines, thought processes, modes of expression, and histories. We are dedicated to ensuring inclusion for every member of our community. And, we recognize intellectual freedom and the courage to hold, articulate, defend and debate ideas, whether popular or not, as an essential value of the university, and an ability all students should possess.
I chose to come to Duke in May as the new Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences because I believe in Duke’s enduring aspiration to academic excellence. We are dedicated to our students—your students--and we will continue to deepen and expand support for them, and provide the needed skill sets for the faculty and staff who serve them.
We look forward to working with students and all members of our community to make Duke a better place to learn, grow, and live, for all.
Valerie S. Ashby
Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences