Every year, the Duke Alumni Association holds send-off parties in cities around the world to welcome incoming students and sends emails to invite students and alumni. 

This year, sophomore Cartier Robinson—a black student—noticed something off about a photo in a DAA email. He was the only student cropped out.


Following Robinson’s tweet about the incident June 18, many students questioned DAA's intention in leaving Robinson out. The tweet has gotten more than 13,000 retweets and 37,000 favorites as of July 1.

Christina Holder, senior director of marketing and communications at DAA and M. Div. '13, noted that the organization created a customized email template to promote its send-off parties. Because the template resizes photos that don’t fit certain dimensions, a staff member cropped several images to fit the template and pre-empt the automatic resizing, she explained.

“For the original photo that included Duke student Cartier Robinson: The staffer chose to crop the right side of the photo, which resulted in leaving Robinson out, instead of cropping on the left side, which would have left another student’s arm floating across the photo,” Holder wrote in an email. “Cropping photos is a regular part of our work in DAA communications, but that process can create all kinds of conundrums—especially with group photos—and in this case, both crops were awkward ones.”

Robinson declined to comment in time for publication. Holder, who called the cropping an “unfortunate incident,” added that DAA has reached out to Robinson to apologize and wants to be more intentional with its photo process. 

DAA has already changed its email template and plans to send reminder emails about its Texas send-off parties with the original group photo that includes Robinson. In addition, Holder explained that DAA will refrain from cropping individuals out of group photos in the future. 

“As an organization committed to building the Duke family as students journey through the university and into the alumni network, DAA does not want anyone to think it is intentionally leaving out a student of color," Holder wrote. "That certainly was not our aim, and we’re committed to making sure this does not happen again."