Duke’s first “Faculty Night” ignited controversy online when students complained that the only professors attending were white men. 

The event at Devil’s Krafthouse was led by Duke University Union and Duke Student Government as an attempt to allow students to interact with professors outside of the classroom. Students engaged in debate on Facebook about the importance of diversity after the attendees were announced. 

“The criticisms of this event were extremely valid. It was an oversight on my part, and I apologize for that,” said sophomore Taylor Panzer, a senator for academic affairs who helped organize the event. “We want to work to make it better in the future and more inclusive.”

Last Wednesday, several students posted on the event’s Facebook page noting the fact that the invited professors were exclusively white and male. Other students responded and argued, eventually eliciting a response from DUU President Christina Oliver, a junior, thanking commenters for their feedback and saying the organization would examine how faculty are chosen.

“I would like to say that the feedback on the lack of diversity in this even twas entirely merited and productive,” she wrote on the Facebook page.

Junior Paul Cajamarca, who attended the event, noted that while he did not feel affected by the controversy, he believes the complaints are legitimate.

“I understand the need for diversity at events like this, especially when the average student doesn’t see that much diversity in their own professors,” he said. “It means something to have people from your background studying what you find interesting.”

Freshman Haley Sink noted that she cared about the event’s capacity to allow students to talk with top professors.

“Each of the professors are very high up in their respective departments, and I think that whenever you give people the opportunity to meet people who are at the top of their field, people shouldn’t see the race part of it,” Sink said. “I think it should be by what they’ve accomplished.”

About 30 students attended the event along with four professors—Peter Feaver, professor of political science and public policy; Bill Adair, Knight professor of the practice of journalism and public policy; Lewis Blake, associate professor of the practice of mathematics; and Christopher Roy, associate professor of the practice of chemistry.

The event will be part of a lineup of programming sponsored by Downtown Duke, a DUU committee working to create programs for the new West Campus Union space. Thursday evenings are trivia nights at the Krafthouse, and karaoke nights take place Fridays.

The organizers explained that there are still some issues to work out but that they surveyed attendees to plan for future events next semester. Panzer noted that students can submit suggestions for invitations to certain faculty members. 

“We’re hoping that Monday [Faculty Night events] will be where students can engage with faculty members in a really laid back setting that doesn’t take as much manpower as Flunching or Finvite might take,” Panzer said.