President Price reflects on past year, discusses QuadEx, tuition in annual address to Academic Council

President Vincent Price gave his annual address to Duke faculty at Academic Council’s March meeting, speaking about successes the University has seen over the past year and his vision for its future. 

“It has been, I think, really a remarkable year,” Price said. “We have launched QuadEx, which is a very thorough revision of our residential life program here at Duke. We've launched a new Climate Commitment. These are initiatives that are transforming the student experience and our campus sustainability efforts together.”

Price said that Duke currently sits at “a position of real leadership,” but also at “the confluence of very strong social and economic currents.” He added that the University’s current state is “a moment of transition,” similar to the transition that Duke went through in the 1960s — moving from a small, Southern, liberal arts college to a large, national university.

“We are, I think, rightfully asking ourselves again some challenging questions,” Price said. “... What's our shared vision for the future? How do we arrive at that shared vision? How can we position ourselves not only to lead but to thrive in the century to come?”

Leadership changes

Price pointed to the University’s leadership as the most “visible manifestation of this moment of transition.” He said the University is nearing the conclusion of two national searches — one for a new provost and the other for a new vice president for communications

“It's a great thing, truly a wonderful thing, when the world looks to Duke for great leaders,” he said of many of Duke’s leadership figures taking administrative positions at other institutions. Former Provost Sally Kornbluth started her term as the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in January and Valerie Ashby, former dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, left to become the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County last August.

Price also discussed various initiatives that the University is undertaking as part of its strategic framework

“Our goal is to empower the boldest thinkers here at Duke, to transform the way we teach and learn, to strengthen our campus community in every way we can, to partner with purpose in our region and to engage our global network of alumni and friends,” Price said, citing the framework’s five pillars.

Mental health, tuition and racial equity 

As part of strengthening the campus community at Duke, Price referred to QuadEx as an initiative to bring undergraduates “the kinds of skills [and] the opportunities they need to navigate complex issues in the world.”

He said that the goal of QuadEx is to “wrap our students in an intellectual community to help them fuse their experience in the classroom and the residential more effectively,” and has already been successful. Price referred to a survey of the Class of 2026 in which 94% of students reported that they felt they belonged, whereas only about 1.5% of rising sophomores requested quad reassignments.

Kathryn Andolsek, professor in family medicine and community health, asked Price about whether Duke is “matching our support” of mental health resources with what other universities have done.

Price responded, saying that the University “monitors this very carefully” and that the strongest thing that it can do is take “preventive and prophylactic kinds of maneuvers.” As an example, Price again referred to QuadEx, calling it a mental health intervention because it aims to marshal strength of a community to support the health of every community member.

He added that post-COVID-19 utilization of mental health services has been “lower or roughly comparable” to the level of utilization during the pandemic.

With regards to graduate students, Price said that the University has been moving forward with its plans to “reimagine doctoral education,” which has been “transforming the experience for Ph.D. students on campus.”

Andolsek also asked about the recent rise in the cost of attendance for undergraduates. 

“How do we make sure that we're not pricing ourselves out of the market of truly exceptional students, particularly those who are first generation, have some disadvantage … the types of students who really enrich our experiences from their lived experience here,” she asked.

Price responded by saying that the cost of educating a Duke student is 30% more expensive than the cost of tuition, and that a student who pays full tuition is “already receiving a pretty large institutional subsidy.” However, Price said that there is a lot of pressure on families who are just under or just over the threshold for qualifying for financial aid. 

“We have to look very carefully at those students because they are probably feeling more pain … for those students who are unaided and just above that line, that's where you feel that pinch,” Price said, referring to raises in tuition.

While the cost of undergraduate education is of concern to Price, he is “far more concerned” about the cost of graduate and professional education, particularly for students seeking their first professional degrees.

“We need graduate aid. Seriously, right away,” Price said.

Price gave an update on the University’s work in improving racial equity. In the past two years, Duke has funded 35 research projects to understand and address systemic racism. From 2017 to 2022, the University has hired over two dozen faculty members whose work focuses on racial and social equity. 

The demographic makeup of the faculty has also changed, Price said. There has been a 51% increase in the number of Black-identifying faculty members, 30% increase in the number of Hispanic-identifying faculty, and a 17% increase in the number of Asian American-identifying faculty. 

Research initiatives and the Climate Commitment

Price said that Duke Science and Technology has raised “well over $300 million” and has hired over 20 faculty members. He added that Duke Science and Technology has placed a “renewed emphasis” on research translation and commercialization, and that the University has helped launch 14 new companies in the last year.

Polly Ha, associate professor of the history of Christianity, asked Price about Duke’s investment into the humanities, particularly as it relates to interdisciplinary work and whether Price sees the humanities as part of the University’s research vision.

“I have been deeply impressed by the really interesting partnerships across the campus that hold humanists and social scientists and scientists together,” Price said. “That being said, there's no world in which I want to think of the humanities as valuable [just] because they help us get other things done.”

For Price, that means ensuring that the University’s library system remains strong so that the humanities have a strong research apparatus. He added that he was concerned about enrollments in the humanities and wants to make sure Duke delivers “humanistic programs” to students studying all disciplines. 

Efforts part of the Duke Climate Commitment are also now “well underway,” Price said. 

“We're defining the concept of climate literacy, working with faculty to help sort out what this means and how it can be delivered effectively,” Price said. “As part of our educational mission, that is perhaps best demonstrated by the new university course on climate which has proved to be immensely popular.”

The University has also piloted efforts to expand campus sustainability efforts, which have already resulted in a 43% reduction in greenhouse gasses, according to Price. 

Adway S. Wadekar profile
Adway S. Wadekar | News Editor

Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity junior and former news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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