Alumni visiting campus this weekend were greeted by several changes—the renovated West Union, a new Student Health and Wellness Center and a new president-elect.
Vincent Price, who will succeed President Richard Brodhead in July, addressed the Class of 1967 at the Washington Duke Inn Saturday. Alums had the opportunity to ask hard-hitting questions about the future of the University under his leadership.
More than 150 alumni from the Class of 1967 attended the event, which was sponsored by Jack Bovender—Trinity ’67, Graduate School ’69 and vice chair of the Board of Trustees—along with his wife Barbara.
“What is it that draws us to Duke?” Price asked the group. “What drew you to this campus 54 years ago? And, most of all, what brought us all together here this morning? Let me suggest an answer, a single word—community. Duke is a very special place.”
He described Duke students as "a collection of dreamers and doers," adding that the people on campus make the University so successful.
Duke is currently in a perfect position to ensure its curriculum addresses today's global challenges, Price said. He cited Duke Kunshan University's innovative liberal arts model as an example of this.
He also pledged to revitalize residential life at Duke and to "develop the finest college housing in the land."
The remainder of Price’s address was dedicated to taking questions from the floor.
Price offered his stance on potential sources of funding for the University in response to a question about the Koch Foundation controversy at Wake Forest University. The Koch Foundation, a conservative political organization, wanted to fund a center at Wake Forest. But the Faculty Senate argued that accepting the money would allow the foundation to influence academic decisions and thus compromise academic freedom.
"It's a question of ensuring that we are open minded," Price said. "If funding comes with strings attached, we will walk away if necessary."
Price also discussed the recent failed attempt by graduate students to unionize, reiterating a position Brodhead has emphasized while also stressing the importance of listening to graduate students. Graduate students' relationship to the University, Price said, is like that of students to faculty, not employees to an employer.
"One indication of that is that we often spend very substantial sums of money supporting their activities," Price said. "This is an investment in academic talent, and we value that relationship."
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Responding to a question about how to integrate diverse demographics on campus, Price said residential communities offer opportunities for students to meet people unlike themselves.
Creating a low-stress environment through residential housing allows people to "see the human being before they encounter the ideas," he explained.
"I think what we have to do is to ensure that opportunity, because there are very few places in our lives where we have that opportunity to directly encounter that much variety, that much difference, to run into people who are so unlike us, who don't look like us, who don't think like us," Price said.
He emphasized the importance of engaging with diversity as well as asking students to step outside their comfort zones.
"As educators, we're in the business of causing confusion," Price said. "We ask people to get out of their comfort zones and think differently. And if we're doing that in our intellectual work, we have a responsibility to do that in our social lives as well."