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Duke Honor Council tries to bolster positivity with #DukeEncourage

The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium
The Devils took down the Florida State Seminoles, previously undefeated in the ACC, Saturday at Indoor Cameron Stadium

Honor Council’s newest hashtag campaign works to remind all students of their worth, potential and individuality—#DukeEncourage.

The ongoing initiative, which is run by the Honor Council, began last semester with Post-it notes containing supportive messages posted in public locations like the Bryan Center, Perkins Library and residence halls. DukeEncourage has expanded this semester to include a conversation series designed to examine the ways in which identity and social mobility are shaped by Duke culture, said Honor Council chair Michael Habashi, a senior.

“Honor Council is charged with promoting the community standard, which is really a difficult task,” Habashi said. “With DukeEncourage, we hope that we’re helping people respect and appreciate themselves and everyone else. If you can find genuine love and mutual respect for one another, you can start holding each other accountable for your actions.”

Sophomore Honor Council member Jennifer Margono came up with the idea for DukeEncourage. The Council’s most recent campaign­, YBTT—short for You’re Better Than That—was met with some criticism. Margono said she felt the next campaign should be more uplifting.

“I wanted to find a way to spread positivity around campus,” she said. “Some people thought [YBTT] was a bit off-putting and thought that Honor Council was calling people out.”

The Post-it notes have ranged from thoughtful—“Life, what a wonderful thing”—to tongue-in-cheek—“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things”—to simply reassuring—“It will all be okay.” They are all signed, #DukeEncourage.

This past Friday, the Honor Council invited students to treat the wall on Bryan Center plaza—a temporary barricade between the Plaza and Events Pavilion construction—as its own sort of “massive grey, Post-it note” and cover it with their own inspiring statements.

“DukeEncourage is a great way for us to remember that even though we all go through struggles, we are all supportive of each other,” freshman Allie Parisien said. “It makes my day brighter.”

DukeEncourage’s second component, the weekly conversation series, began at the end of January. “The goal is to create candid campus conversations,” Habashi said. “There’s this sense that when you come to Duke, you join groups—greek organizations, SLGs, sports teams—and maybe start to lose your original identity.”

He added that losing their “original identity” makes people avoid interacting with other groups. The conversations are held Monday evenings in the Marketplace, with a different student group hosting each one, Habashi added. This will allow students to view issues of identity and mobility through the lens of different organization. Honor Council hosted the first conversation Jan. 28, and Duke University Union followed by hosting the conversation this Monday. Duke Student Government, the Center for Race Relations, the First-Year Advisory Council and the Duke Partnership for Service are also scheduled to host in coming weeks.

“The point of the conversations is to connect experienced, engaged upperclassman to first years,” said senior Ashley Alman, DUU vice president of external affairs and DUU’s liaison to DukeEncourage.

Even as the initiative has grown in scope and popularity, Margono said the small, personal victories are still important to her.

“If it makes even one person’s day, that’s good enough for me,” Margono said.


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