Tensions between law enforcement and communities of color have been hotly debated recently, and a March forum hosted by Provost Sally Kornbluth aims to further address the issue.
The 2017 Provost's Forum will be held March 3 in Penn Pavilion and will bring together experts and scholars to discuss the themes of race, community, justice and how to police communities of color. Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, announced the forum in an email to students last Friday—which included a reminder to register for the forum by Feb. 28. to be able to participate.
Kornbluth told The Chronicle that Guy-Uriel Charles, who is the founding director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics, came up with the idea and is planning the event.
“The Provost wanted Duke to address important questions that mattered to the Duke community, in particular to Duke undergraduates,” Charles wrote in an email. “ The problem of race and policing is one issue that is troubling to us as a society and one that the students care about very much.”
He explained that Kornbluth wanted to create a space where the community can address the problems of race and policing through an interdisciplinary lens.
The day-long forum will include five sessions on topics such as police and civilian interactions and how videos of police shootings affect society, said Ajenai Clemmons, a Ph.D. student on the planning committee. In addition, she said myths about policing and the power dynamic between officers and the community will be on the agenda. Law enforcement officials will be present to share their perspectives as well.
“We want to incorporate real people with stories and make sure we’re relating to one another as people,” Clemmons said.
A key aspect of the forum will be coming up with solutions to these problems, explained Taylor Jones, a Law School student and member of the planning committee. Jones noted that events at Duke can often focus so much on the problem that they fail to actually address potential solutions.
“We hope the audience can understand that no matter what career they choose, they can play a role in improving relationship between law enforcement and people of color,” said Shajuti Hossain, a Law School student and co-head of the event's publicity team.
Audience participation will be extremely important to the organizers, Jones said, and will be facilitated by break-out sessions and question-and-answer time. Instead of having one speaker lead the entire program, Jones said the planning committee thought it better to include multiple, separate sessions with short, TED talk-like speeches.
Although there have been previous Provost's forums at Duke, Charles noted that none have taken the format of a one-day symposium. Last year’s, for instance, focused on health topics and took place during the course of the academic year.
Clemmons said she hopes that attendees will gain a “more accurate and humanized perspective of the issue” and will become empowered to contribute to healing strained relationships between law enforcement and minority communities.
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“I appreciate Duke administration hosting this kind of event because I’ve never seen anything like it here,” Hossain said. “I know that Duke has a very strong influence in the Durham community so it's important for Duke to host this forum where students can come learn about ways to understand and work on these problems.”