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President Price discusses Duke’s centennial, legacy admissions, DKU in annual address to Academic Council

<p>Duke President Vincent Price.</p>

Duke President Vincent Price.

President Vincent Price gave his annual address to Duke faculty at the March meeting of the Academic Council.

Price began his address by addressing the “deeply troubling situation in the Ukraine.” 

“Duke is committed to supporting Ukraine by providing care to students, faculty and staff who are members of the Ukrainian community by seeking opportunities to support Ukrainian scholars and students,” Price said, “and by marshaling our expertise and research toward a better understanding of—and hopefully some sort of a peaceful solution to—this terrible, terrible war.”

In answer to questions about investments in Russia, Price said that Duke is close to divestment from the country. “I can't speak to the exact percentage, but it is a small fraction of the single percent of our portfolio,” he told the Council.

Price’s speech largely focused on the idea of transition: from Duke’s first century to its second, from pre- to post-pandemic times and from a “closed campus for the few to an open community for all.” Such a transition, Price said, involves initiatives such as those presented by Strategy Team 2030 and commitments to racial equity.

“Our hiring over these past two years through the pandemic has been successful in bringing both excellence and diversity to our ranks in unprecedented ways, with 15% of our regular rank hires onto our faculty being Black and 10% Hispanic over the last two years,” Price said.

He also presented his vision for moving Duke along on its path from a “small, southern liberal arts college into an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center” during its next century.

“I think many of us know the story well, and we're rightly very proud of all the progress that we've made,” Price said. “The question before us, as we turn together toward the future, is ‘What do we want the story of the next century [to be]?’”

Other key areas of focus for Price include strengthening relations between Duke and Durham and investing in the University’s alumni population, as well as its scientific enterprise.

“Our city was forever transformed when Duke was established and founded and we will use this moment to chart a course toward more engaged civic citizenship,” Price said.

Price added that the centennial in 2024 “must be a celebration that accelerates our work toward fostering a more inclusive environment and one that opens our arms to now close to 180,000 alumni around the world.” 

Question and answer session

Professor of Music Scott Lindroth asked about the changing landscape of undergraduate admissions and how the University would respond to criticisms about legacy-based and Early Decision admissions. 

Price responded by saying that recent challenges to affirmative action have also brought up legacy admissions. He added that he believes that undergraduate admissions is aimed at finding those students that would thrive given a Duke education and not necessarily their standing at the time of admission. 

“We're trying to look at the life trajectories of those students and trying to predict when given a Duke education, which of those students will thrive,” Price said. “All of the factors that [Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag] and his team bring to play, I think deserve to be a part of that equation.”

“We're an institution that was made in a family—the Duke family. We bear the name of that family. We represent family, we talk about family, so how does that translate into the way we behave?” Price said. “The idea that you would ban legacy admissions, or ban any particular factor as a consideration, is troublesome.”

Robin Kirk, professor of the practice of cultural anthropology, asked Price about what the future of Duke Kunshan University would look like “given the pandemic as well as some increasingly authoritarian turn in China.” 

Price acknowledged that the pandemic has caused some difficulties in terms of DKU’s operations, saying that Duke has been “a bit of a lifeboat for DKU throughout the years.”

“There are some very significant challenges we have to navigate that will lead to academic freedom [and] the ability to deliver a Duke quality education to students who are at DKU,” he added.

He noted the successes that students in DKU’s first-ever graduating class have had, citing that the class contains a Rhodes Scholar

“​​I think of this project at DKU … there are no guarantees of the future course of that enterprise, but we did it to produce students like those students who will be graduating,” Price said.

Shai Ginsburg, associate professor in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, asked about the role of the humanities in Price’s research vision for Duke, referring to the largely scientific vision of his speech.

“The humanities and interpretive social sciences are central,” Price said, adding that Duke’s national reputation was elevated largely because of additions to the faculty in those disciplines. “I'll say that as we move forward in science and technology, I think that absolutely entails investments in the sciences … we have to be taking a long view and make significant investments there.”

“But when we think of science and technology as the rapidity with which we're making advances, we need humanities and interpretive social sciences to be a part of that conversation,” he said.

Ginsburg also asked Price about his vision for a Duke-Durham relationship, noting that “positive success” for Duke has translated negatively for Durham, particularly with respect to rising housing costs.

Price said that this was a “[Research Triangle]-wide phenomenon.”

 “As the Research Triangle becomes that vibrant innovation hub that it has long sought to be, with the arrival of Apple and Google, we have to get out in front of these issues,” Price said. “Duke has to be a partner in resolving all the things with respect to affordable housing.”

In other business

The Council also heard a presentation from Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Edward Balleisen about the implementation of the 2020-2021 Ad Hoc Interdisciplinary Priorities Committee recommendations.

Kerry Haynie, professor and chair of political science and African and African American studies, voiced concerns about expanding interdisciplinary programs at the expense of losing faculty from particular departments. Professor of Cultural Anthropology Lee Baker wondered whether there could be a scenario where an interdisciplinary program could be housed within a disciplinary department even if that department is uncomfortable running the program. 

In response, Balleisen said that they would never force a school to take such a program, and that there would “always be a dialogue.”


Adway S. Wadekar | University News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.

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