I have now received the report of the Campus Culture Initiative Steering Committee. It is the result of 10 months of intensive work by faculty, students, alumni and administrators led by Vice Provost and Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson (chair) and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta (vice-chair). I am grateful to the committee, as well as to the President's Council chaired by former trustees Roy Bostock and Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, for providing advice on the report's recommendations.
The committee and I hope that this document will launch a conversation, one in which all members of the Duke family are invited to participate. The questions for this conversation are deeply important: how can we create a Duke where every student will get the richest development of his or her personal powers while contributing to and benefiting from the larger community? How can we strengthen the values of inclusion, respect and mutual engagement? How can we build on what's already excellent to make the best Duke we can imagine? Not everyone will agree on the details of every answer, but we need to recognize the value of the questions and have the courage to ask them. In so doing, we continue a healthy Duke tradition of being willing to face up to hard questions in candid ways.
The report focuses on undergraduate culture since that is our principal residential population. Many of the issues the report highlights are challenges on every campus. That does not mean we should ignore them here. Other issues are more Duke-specific.
In some areas, we have already begun to make progress on issues raised in the report. The DukeEngage initiative announced two weeks ago will make major opportunities for civic engagement available to every undergraduate. Plans are already in hand to increase faculty-student interaction by adding faculty residences to West Campus. Athletics is a proud Duke tradition, and I look forward (as the report does) to our strong continuing participation in Division I competition, and to striving jointly for athletic and academic achievement. Getting the balance right requires fine tuning and knowledgeable faculty advice to the administration and trustees, who have final oversight of athletics policy. A major revision of the Athletic Council that has been vetted by ECAC and approved by the trustees will make its deliberations more substantive.
In other areas, processes already exist to deliberate and act on the report's recommendations. For example, the suggestions regarding curriculum, admissions and faculty culture will be referred to appropriate standing committees for their consideration.
Yet other recommendations will require new or modified facilities before they can be implemented. The report underlines how much campus interaction depends on the availability of social and community spaces the renovation of key sites on East and West campuses and the building of Central Campus are already high on our agenda. Through these efforts, Duke will have the opportunity to address many spatial needs for dining and social life.
Finally, there are recommendations that will require far more detailed study and discussion. There is nothing magic about the status quo system of housing assignment. It is only one logistical choice among many, and we should be willing to be imaginative. At the same time, Duke's selective housing system is quite varied, with a complex array of benefits and challenges. We must consider how to support all the strengths of our residential community as we review the assignment of housing.
I have asked Provost Peter Lange to lead the process of considering the report and the issues it raises. Working with others, he will orchestrate campus discussions and establish appropriate timetables for each set of issues. I have asked him to keep me informed and to deliver a full report by the middle of next term. At its meeting last weekend, the Board of Trustees discussed the report and supported this approach to broadening the conversation, involving more students, as we resolve these issues.
The important thing now is to have the conversation the report is meant to launch. None of its recommendations is a "done deal." Nor should any of its suggestions be off the table. This is a time for vigorous debate, which is a healthy thing in a university. The core values the report advocates are the promotion of active, independent thinking and education through engagement with those who think differently from ourselves.
I welcome this occasion to reach for the best that Duke can be.
Richard Brodhead is president of Duke University.
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