Administrators renew commitments to anti-racism and anti-bias initiatives, update community on progress

In June, Duke’s administration committed to taking action against racism in the Duke community. On Tuesday, the community learned more about the steps they’ve taken.

On June 1, Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education committed to four distinct steps to begin addressing the impacts of racism on the Duke community. In a Tuesday afternoon message to the Duke community, Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, and Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, described the administration’s progress toward meeting those objectives and outlined further action items. 

The first commitment outlined in the June message was a thorough review of the undergraduate hate and bias policy, as outlined in the Duke Community Standard, with the intention of creating “more concrete response protocols that address incidents of hate and bias” by fall 2020. 

According to the Tuesday afternoon email, a Hate and Bias Working Group including faculty, staff and students met throughout the summer to work towards creating these new policies. 

One of the key recommendations of the working group—which met June through August—was to establish an Student Ombuds office to facilitate student reporting of hate and bias incidents. According to the message, Provost Sally Kornbluth has already sanctioned the establishment of the new office, which will begin operations in the spring 2021 semester. 

The working group also suggested revamping the Undergraduate Bias Response Advisory Committee, since many students have been unaware of the committee’s existence and role on campus. The committee will be replaced by a new Community Incident Response team beginning in October 2021, which will, among other actions, “recommend avenues to foster greater awareness of administrative actions whenever possible,” according to the Tuesday email. 

The Community Incident Response Team, in partnership with the Office for Institutional Equality, will also be charged with “establish[ing] and widely distribut[ing] clear definitions, reporting options, investigation processes and resolution procedures for incidents of hate and bias,” according to the email.

Based on another working group recommendation, administrators have chartered the Undergraduate Campus Climate Committee, which will have the role of actively promoting diversity and inclusion at Duke. This group will be led by Annie Kao, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, and Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life at Duke. 

The second item outlined in June by Duke Student Affairs and the Duke Office of Undergraduate Education was a promise to create and compile anti-racism and anti-bias resources for faculty.

Progress on this commitment  by the Office for Faculty Advancement and the Office of Institutional Equity on this commitment includes the June Living While Black symposium and upcoming workshops like one on Oct. 22 titled “Your Role as Faculty in Confronting Racism and Fostering an Equitable Climate,” according to the Tuesday email.

The June message also pledged to deliver anti-racism and anti-bias programming to all new Duke students, beginning with the Class of 2024. 

During orientation this year, new students were required to attend “Foundations of Equity,” which “took participants through the structural and institutional legacy of race-based discrimination in the United States,” according to the Tuesday afternoon email.

Furthermore, this year’s version of the YOU at Duke program focused on Duke’s history and “the role we all play in better understanding each other's stories.”

Administrators promised this summer to partner with various offices on campus to review existing hate and bias-related programming for quality and accessibility. Identity and cultural centers at Duke now offer small-group conversations to expand on orientation programming. 

The Tuesday message noted that efforts to review and and assess existing programming for staff are still underway and remain “a goal for fall 2020, continuing into winter 2021.”

Anna Zolotor profile
Anna Zolotor

Anna Zolotor is a Trinity senior and recruitment chair for The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously news editor for Volume 117.


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