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In 5th year, Baldwin wins praise

"Section" usually connotes images of fraternity parties and boorish male behavior, but the residents of an all-female section in Crowell Quadrangle have more ambitious pursuits in mind.

Participants in the Baldwin Scholars program, which is in its fifth year of existence, said they are brainstorming ways to make a positive impact on campus culture. The program is achieving most of its goals and should be continued with the possibility of expanding in the future, according to a December report that was presented to President Richard Brodhead Monday.

A five-person review committee, convened by Brodhead, worked on the report from September to December last year. Their findings were based on various data as well as interviews and surveys conducted with Baldwin scholars and staff.

"In the course of conducting this review, we became convinced of the program's efficacy for its own students and for the campus. The question shifted from, 'Can we afford to do it?' to 'Can we afford not to do it?'" the report reads.

The committee-which was composed entirely of University faculty and staff, and also including one member of the Baldwin Scholars Advisory Board-gave a glowing endorsement of the program and its directors.

Dr. Robert Cook-Deegan, director of the Duke Institute for Genome Science and Policy's Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy and a member of the review committee, said he personally believed that the Baldwin Scholars program was a good idea, but he said the committee understood the economic pressures facing the University in its evaluation.

"We actually thought that in the current budget climate, any program that's costing any money is going to be under serious consideration," he said.

He noted the objective measures the committee used to demonstrate that Baldwin scholars are more academically engaged and experience higher levels of self esteem relative to other students. For instance, survey data showed that the program produces strong positive benefits for the individual scholars.

One of the largest questions raised by the report, however, was the impact that the Baldwin program has on the wider campus culture, and whether the selectivity and limited size of the program-18 female students per year-benefits the entire Duke community.

The program's broader impact is especially important because it is the most visible effect of the 2003 Women's Initiative report on undergraduates, said Donna Lisker, associate dean for undergraduate education and co-director of the Baldwin Scholars program.

"There has been a lot of pressure on the Baldwins to change things on campus and be this huge revolutionary force," said the Baldwins' Presiding Officer Roshen Sethna, a senior. "We are really involved in a sort of grassroots movement."

Baldwins have had impact on campus culture by teaching house courses and becoming involved in their sororities, she said.

The scholars can also help foster discussion on campus, said Baldwin Secretary Ryan Ingram, a sophomore. She said she would like to see the Baldwins collaborate further with the Women's Center.

Ingram added that Baldwins would use the report to debate and discuss ways to impact campus culture, noting that they hoped to create a positive dialogue about cultural alternatives.

"We all feel very good about the effects that the program has had on the individual scholars. One of the things that we are thinking about and struggling with is how do you quantify the effects on the larger campus," Lisker said. "One of our Baldwins-[senior Meredith Estren, Last Day of Classes Committee chair]-is leading LDOC this year, but what does it mean that she's a Baldwin?"

The report included suggestions for the Baldwin program itself and a list of 11 recommendations for Nowicki and other Duke administrators. One proposal is to explore the possibility of expanding the program and creating a second Baldwin section.

But the program will not grow beyond its current enrollment of 18 women per class in the near future, primarily due to financial constraints, Co-director Emily Klein said. Sethna and Ingram said they had conflicting feelings about possible future expansion.

The survey questions about the high selectivity features of the program produced the most hesitant responses, according to the report. Some respondents wondered if a randomly selected or larger group would have a more positive impact on campus culture.

"I personally find that the exclusivity of it allows us to build a community among ourselves and that it is one of the best aspects of the program for us scholars," Ingram said. "I've come to think of these girls as my family."

Another concern raised in the report was the predominance of males that currently exists among selective living groups on campus. Baldwin scholars are the only all-female SLG, and Ingram said she thought the gender imbalance among SLGs was the source of many of the cultural difficulties that women face at Duke.

"I do acknowledge that there are issues with housing, but I think we need to take an integrative approach," said Steve Nowicki, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, who reviewed the report in the meeting with Brodhead. "This is part of our thinking over time.... The Baldwin section itself is a step in the right direction."

Another recommendation from the report was to develop a similar program for men to address campus gender roles.

Nowicki noted that the Women's Center intends to hire someone who specializes in gender issues relating to men.

"It's not that we need to remediate men and make them good," he said. "There are gender issues that men can contribute to in ways that are... deeper and broader than that."

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