The Class of 2020's first year at Duke featured participation in local and national elections, the announcement of a new University president and an ACC tournament championship for the men’s basketball team.
With the excitement of a presidential election, many Duke students participated in civic activity for the first time. Both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump visited nearby cities in North Carolina.
The Chronicle anonymously polled a representative sample of 920 Duke undergraduates and asked them about their views on the elections. In the poll, Duke students showed a liberal tendency. Almost 76% of the 920 students planned to vote for Clinton, compared to 6.4% for Trump.
When Trump emerged as the winner, many students were upset and in disbelief. Thereafter, both students and surrounding community members protested Trump’s inauguration. Trump’s executive orders banning immigration from Muslim-majority countries also incited protest. Additionally, several faculty members expressed concern about Trump's proposed budget, which cut funding from the National Institutes of Health and other research organizations.
Students were also engaged in the gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper. McCrory is most famous for signing into law the highly controversial House Bill 2, which disallowed transgender people from using restrooms aligned with their gender identity. After a close voter margin that led to a contentious legal battle, Cooper won the governorship. He was able to compromise with state Republican leadership on limiting HB2.
Just as Trump and Cooper entered their respective offices, President Richard Brodhead served his last year as president of Duke. The Board of Trustees announced Vincent Price, the provost of the University of Pennsylvania, as the 10th president of Duke University. As part of his transition, Price visited campus several times after the announcement.
In addition to Brodhead, David Rubenstein, Trinity ‘70 and chair of the Board of Trustees, stepped down from his role at the end of his term July 1, 2017. In his last year, Rubenstein donated $20 million to endow the scholarship program for first-generation, low-income students formerly known as the Washington Duke Scholars Program. It was renamed to the David M. Rubenstein Scholars Program.
The student body elected a female President of Duke Student Government for the sixth year in a row. Junior Riyanka Ganguly, formerly vice president for equity and outreach, spoke of the importance of activism and advocacy in her campaign. DSG elections this year faced low voter turnout compared to previous years, but not necessarily compared to student government elections at peer institutions.
The year also saw the reopening of West Union—later renamed to the Richard H. Brodhead Center for Campus Life—after more than two years of construction. Containing 13 new eateries, it presented a financial threat to the food trucks, some of which left campus altogether. Still, Duke Dining was named best in the nation for college food. Additionally, the new Student Health and Wellness Center opened in January. However, some students had issues with accessibility.
That year, faculty considered a new undergraduate curriculum, which would have removed the foreign language requirement and not counted Advanced Placement courses for credit. Many departments—especially in foreign languages—had issues with the new curriculum. In April, Valerie Ashby, dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, explained that the Arts and Sciences Council would take a pause on the curriculum to evaluate the next steps to revamp the Trinity curriculum.
The University also faced its fair share of scandals, primarily involving lawsuits. A former lab analyst at Duke accused faculty and administrators of mishandling allegations of research misconduct, which could have lead the University to pay close to $600 million in fines. The University brought forth a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which a federal judge rejected.
A men’s soccer player filed a lawsuit against Duke and Stephen Bryan, associate dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct, for a violation of his due process rights. OSC and Duke’s student conduct process also came under fire from legal experts, as well as former and current students.
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The football team took a step back in the fall, winning just four games and failing to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2011. But the up-and-down season did have a couple high points, with wins at Notre Dame and at home against North Carolina.
Victories against the Tar Heels were a common theme of the year, with the Blue Devils taking two out of three from their rivals in men’s basketball and also topping them in men’s lacrosse, field hockey and twice in women’s basketball.
After finishing both 2015 and 2016 without any ACC championships, Duke finally broke out of its slump in the spring, winning the conference in men’s and women’s golf and men’s basketball. The Blue Devils’ triumph in Brooklyn was the highlight of the year with four wins in four days, but the preseason No. 1 team could not keep its momentum going in the NCAA tournament and bowed out against South Carolina in the second round.