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Administrators open discussions about changes to hate and bias policy

In light of the recent racial incidents on Duke’s campus, the administration is opening up conversations about clarifications to the hate and bias policy.

The People’s State of the University collected more than 600 signatures on a petition demanding a standardized hate and bias policy and taped the signatures and petition to the front doors of the Allen Building April 28. Provost Sally Kornbluth and Richard Riddell, senior vice president and secretary to the Board of Trustees, responded to PSOTU’s petition in a May 4 email obtained by The Chronicle.

"Despite concerted work by the Hate and Bias Task Force over several years, recent events have demonstrated that we have more work to do to clarify what we as members of the Duke community expect of others when acts and expressions of hate and bias occur," Kornbluth and Riddell wrote in the email to PSOTU.

Kornbluth and Riddell added in their email to PSOTU that the University can improve the way it addresses these hate and bias issues.

“When the fall semester begins, we will re-engage with interested students with the goal of further clarifying our hate and bias policies and articulating their relationship to the Duke Community standard,” Kornbluth and Riddell wrote. “We fully understand the urgency of these issues but also feel that careful consultation is imperative so that we, as a community, can understand the ramifications of any such policies.” 

Riddell told The Chronicle Thursday that the email did not signify a change in the University's stance toward a hate and bias policy. Rather, it indicated that there must be a conversation among students, faculty and administrators to examine the problem further, he explained.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten it completely right yet," Riddell said. "Clearly, there are still some questions about how we handle instances when they come up, so we’re going to keep working on it.”

PSOTU wrote in an email May 7 to The Chronicle that they were "pleased to hear that the Administration will take the recent hate & bias incidents seriously."

"We plan to hold them accountable to their promise to work with us," the students wrote. "Students will begin to connect with administrators over the summer and we will renew formal conversations with Provost Kornbluth and Vice-President Riddell this coming fall.” 

Academic Council leadership will continue to discuss hate and bias issues with other faculty members during the summer, Kornbluth and Riddell wrote, adding that "interested students are most welcome and encouraged to join these discussions." 

At the May 10 Academic Council meeting, Chair Don Taylor announced that there would be four listening sessions held over the summer for members of the Duke community to share their thoughts and opinions about the University, according to a Duke Today release. Taylor also said that he would also make himself available for those who are unable to make the four time slots.

Regarding the issue that most students are away from campus for the summer, Riddell noted that he is in touch with the students who raised issues in the Spring and junior Kristina Smith, Duke Student Government president, and that the summer talks will help facilitate organizing their actions going into the Fall.

"So it's a little more preparation this summer, rather than substantive conversations about the topics themselves. Also, if we find there is some research that needs to be done, we can do some of that over the summer," Riddell said Thursday. "But absolutely, sitting around the table with the right people will happen in the Fall."

An analysis by The Chronicle revealed that there is no formal reference to hate speech in the Duke Community Standard. Yet, the Standard does mention that the Office of Student Conduct is responsible for responding to hate and bias-related offenses.

The discussion of changes to the hate and bias policy was preceded by multiple recent racially charged incidents on Duke's campus. Two pictures from a student's Snapchat story—both of which contained the slur "n*****" in the caption—were posted on the Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens Facebook page April 26.That night, sophomore Cara Kim found the door to her room in the 300 Swift apartment complex defaced with the word "n***** lover."

Bre Bradham contributed reporting.


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