I hope everyone has read last week's New York Times coverage of the current state of climate change. Climate change is the most important crisis facing our world, with greatest consequences for the disadvantaged. As an alum, I believe Duke must lead to alleviate the crisis. This includes vigorous support for the Durham-Orange light rail line.
Working on The Chronicle from 1967-1971, I witnessed first-hand the University's lumbering efforts to shake off its Jim Crow past. I arrived just a few years after the first black undergraduates were admitted. Racism still marked practices and results in admissions, curriculum, hiring, and work assignments. I witnessed the exploitation of black non-academic employees, which since the founding of Duke and Trinity contributed to the accumulated wealth of the institution. Decision-makers engaged in passive resistance and delay. Reasons aplenty were offered for not moving with all deliberate speed when it came to race at Duke. Duke’s racial history remains Duke's eternal shame.
Responding to light rail, President Price and the administration argue that the severity of problems Duke sees makes it impossible for the University currently to offer its support. But since the Duke administration has effective veto power, its arguments once again sound like indefinite postponement.
I urge everyone who cares about Duke and climate change to write, to petition, and to speak out until Duke becomes part of the solution for light rail in Durham. Ask President Price to take the problems in hand and untie the knots so that DOLRT can begin its journey.
Future generations will ask, "Where was Duke as climate catastrophe approached?" Climate change may be planetary, but let’s do what we can so that in Durham at least, future generations will note that Duke did what it could when it was needed.
Clay Steinman is a Duke alum, Trinity '71.