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Proceeding with cautious optimism

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After a hard-fought basketball loss last Saturday between Duke and Louisville, Chronicle reporter Jake Piazza had a question for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  “I’m just curious as to what the next step forward here is for the team as you guys move into another week of basketball,” Piazza asked. 

Krzyzewski’s response has since gone viral. “Say you just had the toughest Econ test in the world and when you walked out, someone asked you what’s your next step… just give us time to evaluate this game and then we will figure [it] out.” Krzyzewski has since apologized to Piazza. There is wisdom, however, to be gained from this encounter: After periods of chaos and turmoil, it is best to take time and reflect before figuring out the best way forward. 

A lot has happened within our Duke community since the end of fall semester. In November, Duke announced plans to develop a new housing system  to increase community on campus, something that has long been demanded. On the national scale, the siege of the Capitol building on January 6th once again revealed the fractures embedded within  America’s political climate. But perhaps the largest change over the last two months has been the commencement of vaccination for COVID-19. 

There is hope on the horizon. We would like to think that these housing reforms will create stronger student communities than ever before, and that Biden’s administration will usher in an age of stability for American politics. It seems imminent that through vaccination, we will finally achieve a state of herd immunity against COVID-19. But we must remind ourselves that despite these well-deserved advances, we still have a responsibility as individuals for perpetuating and supporting the change that we wish to see. 

Let’s first look at our own community. Duke’s updated plans for redesigning the student housing experience come with a number of long-awaited changes. Besides deferring rush for Selected Living Groups and Greek Life, The Next Generation Living and Learning 2.0 Committee is setting up a new residential system where East Campus residence halls will be linked to quads on West Campus. In many ways, this seems to be Duke’s answer to student assertions that Greek Life and SLGs dominate the student social scene and perpetuate white supremacy, patriarchal hierarchies, and the unraveling of the valuable relationships and communities built during Freshman year. Duke’s effort is commendable, but we must recognize that the University’s social culture comprises both administrative policy and community members’ behavior. This means that we must focus first on our own actions as we work to create an inclusive and accepting social atmosphere. 

In a time when misinformation provokes outbreaks of violence against our democracy, the actions of those who stormed the Capitol building on January 6th are deeply unsettling for most of us. Although the subsequent impeachment of President Trump and inauguration of President Biden attempt to remedy rioters’ efforts to interfere with the democratic process of free and fair elections, the siege of the Capitol building will remain a symbol of the political tension in America during this transfer of power. Many of us are optimistic that President Biden’s administration will mend the fractured state of American politics. However, we must remain cautious in this optimism. In order to build a stronger country, we must continue to work for change by holding lawmakers and the Biden administration accountable to governing with the country’s best interest in mind. 

On the topic of health, it seems that the end is in sight for the country-wide battle against COVID-19. However, vaccination rollouts have been slower than projected, and it appears that achieving herd immunity through vaccination will not be an easy task. Furthermore, ethical questions have been raised by wealthy, predominantly white countries using their purchasing power to accumulate vaccine doses, effectively leaving poorer countries unable to vaccinate their citizens. This is just one issue in a list of many that we must be cognizant of as we continue to practice social distancing measures. Acknowledging our privileged situation is paramount as we pivot toward a global solution to this pandemic.  

As many of us return to the Duke bubble for the semester, these are just a few steps you can take to remain cautiously optimistic and realistic about the challenges that our community faces in this unique moment. Stay up to date on current events and think critically about how you can use your privilege as a Duke student to effect positive change. Look beyond your course load, college extracurriculars, and social circles and be aware of the semi-normalcy that Duke provides. Be cognizant of the privilege that Duke has given all of us and think deeply about what it means to be united as a community, and what we should be united against. 

This semester, when you find yourself standing at a crossroads (as a Duke student, you should know that this is inevitable), take Coach K’s lesson to heart and stop to think about how best to proceed going forward. And remember, just seeing change on the horizon is not enough. We must work to create the future that we want. 

The Community Editorial Board is independent from the editorial staff of the Chronicle. Their column usually runs on alternate Mondays.

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