In light of the recent polarizing election and the climate this has instilled at Duke and in other communities, we, the current and previous fellows of the Duke Teaching for Equity/Teaching for Racial Justice initiative, invite faculty to engage in both big and small conversations about what it means to belong at Duke. Currently there is a disconnection between stated institutional values and lived everyday social realities. As university members, we occupy a privileged space, where we can freely circulate ideas, construct debates and transform discourses.
We currently co-exist in a contradictory space of possibilities and frustrations. To move forward, we must first acknowledge that systemic and institutional structures collude to impede progress. We need to simultaneously dismantle these oppressive structures and build new nurturing communities. A transformed Duke would thrive on the bases of a common understanding of human rights, dignity and belonging, independent of one’s race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status or gender identity.
Instead of chasing after the coattails of our “peer institutions” in the Northeast, let’s recognize and cultivate what sets us apart and address our current weaknesses. Let’s acknowledge that multiple realities exist on Duke’s campus in terms of inclusion and equity. We also must recognize our regional history and how this affects Durham as a whole. Many at Duke are probably unaware that some in the Durham community still identify Duke as “The Plantation.” But let’s also remember our distinctive history as a southern regional university was transfigured during the Civil Rights movement. Evidence of Duke’s global presence today is our welcoming a first-year class of 51 percent people of color.
Considering the increased divisiveness our nation faces, we urge Duke faculty to continue to lead difficult conversations. To initiate new connections across disciplines, we the Fellows, ask faculty to save the date for an event about the 2017-2018 program on the afternoon of Friday, April 28. We look forward to sharing with our colleagues our reasons for joining the fellows program, which include growing a supportive learning community for faculty that is committed to inclusive and critical pedagogy. We hope you will join us for this conversation because to address equity issues and cultivate openness among and respect for all disciplines, we need perspectives from the entire Duke faculty community. We encourage you to check out the website and look for faces you know among us.
Could the new Duke be the real Duke? Let’s reimagine Duke together.
Written by members of the Teaching for Equity/Racial Justice Fellows Program.
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