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Price announces Duke's next steps for confronting systemic racism

Duke President Vincent Price has suspended all Duke athletics.
Duke President Vincent Price has suspended all Duke athletics.

Ahead of Friday’s Juneteenth commemoration, President Vincent Price has committed Duke to new plans to fight racism and inequality. 

In a Wednesday statement, also sent as an email to the Duke community, Price described new plans for an “anti-racist mission.” He laid out the new goals according to Duke’s strategic framework, which outlines broad intentions for Duke’s future. 

“We must take transformative action now toward eliminating the systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community,” Price wrote. He wrote that this must begin with “a personal transformation” and end with “institutional transformation.”

Price promised to expand the diversity of Duke’s faculty, staff and students as well as faculty support for current Black, Indigenous and people of color in the Duke community. Need-based financial aid will also be increased across the board.

As part of the new anti-racism initiatives, Duke will also require that all students—including those in graduate programs—learn about structural racism, including racism specific to Duke and the surrounding region. That initiative will also try to root out “systemic biases” in the University’s curriculum and dedicate more resources to anti-racism research. 

Price acknowledged Duke’s “share of painful moments” in the message, though he did not elaborate on that history.

All faculty, students and staff will also undergo anti-racism and anti-bias training. Alumni are not included in the training, but they will have the opportunity to engage in educational programs on racial inequality. 

Duke will also try to work to build ties with Durham, as well as Durham-based North Carolina Central University and Durham Technical Community College. Those two schools will be joined by Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, which—like Duke—receives grants from the Duke Endowment, a private foundation headquartered in Charlotte. The University will also expand opportunities for students to transfer to Duke from community colleges and historically Black colleges and universities, according to the statement. 

The statement did not include specific targets or financial commitments, and the timeline for the new plans is not yet clear. Senior Duke administrators, including Provost Sally Kornbluth, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington will develop a more specific structure for “assessment, accountability and reporting” on progress, according to the statement. 

Duke’s senior leadership will provide a preliminary plan for implementation by Sept. 1, and Price will give an update on Duke’s progress by Oct. 15. 

Along with announcing the set of plans, Price also acknowledged Friday’s celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the 1865 reading in Galveston, Texas, of an order freeing enslaved persons in Texas. Price called on managers at Duke to grant employees time to reflect and “take part in programs and observances for this day of memory and contemplation,” which Price intends to engage in himself, according to the statement. 

“I cannot as a white person begin to fully understand the daily fear and pain and oppression that is endemic to the Black experience,” Price wrote. 

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