Duke Chapel's statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has been removed.
President Vincent Price announced the removal Saturday morning via an email to all students, faculty, staff and alumni.
“After hearing from and consulting with a number of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and with the strong support of the Board of Trustees, I authorized the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from the entrance of Duke Chapel early this morning,” Price said. “I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.”
The removal comes after the statue of the former Confederate general was vandalized Thursday.
Price’s statement recognized the vandalism.
“Wednesday night’s act of vandalism made clear that the turmoil and turbulence of recent months do not stop at Duke’s gates. We have a responsibility to come together as a community to determine how we can respond to this unrest in a way that demonstrates our firm commitment to justice, not discrimination; to civil protest, not violence; to authentic dialogue, not rhetoric; and to empathy, not hatred,” he said.
Earlier this week, several hundred alumni signed a petition calling for the statue's removal.
In his statement, Price added that he is creating a commission of students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Durham community to review other buildings and sculptures on campus that memorialize people. It will create a set of guiding principles "to guide us when questions arise."
The administration will also use the next year to explore various aspects of Duke's history, he said. There will be a conversation about controversy and injustice in Duke’s history as well as a forum to explore academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The University also announced yesterday that it had been selected to host one of ten centers focused on racial healing and transformation nationwide.
Correction: This article has been updated to note that several hundred alumni signed the petition, not several thousand.