Duke discrimination, harassment and misconduct policy changed to include Islamophobia definition

Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity recently updated its Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct to include a definition of Islamophobia, among other changes.

The changes were implemented March 12, but were referenced in a Friday email sent to Duke community members from Kimberly Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity and chief diversity officer.

“Duke remains firmly committed to its values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery, and excellence, which are essential to our ability to maintain an environment where all students, faculty and staff can thrive, innovate, and seek their full potential,” Hewitt wrote in the email. “We recognize that many members of our community are experiencing feelings of stress and uncertainty against the backdrop of a war in the Middle East, a pending presidential election, and challenges to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.”

The policy now contains a definition of Islamophobia listed under “Prohibited Conduct,” describing it as “a form of discrimination or harassment that is based on one’s religion (Islam) and/or national origin (e.g. an individual from a Muslim majority country).” 

It also lists four examples of Islamophobic conduct that would implicate the policy: “repeatedly referring to a Muslim individual or someone perceived to be a Muslim as a ‘terrorist,’” “removing a student from a Duke program or activity based on the perception that the student is Muslim or perceived to be Muslim or is associated with a Muslim organization,” “refusing professional or learning opportunities because an individual wears a hijab to work or in the classroom” and “physically threatening an individual for wearing a religious symbol associated with Islam or a national symbol like a keffiyeh.”

Other changes included the addition of military status to the list of protected statuses, and the inclusion of pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions in the definition of retaliation.

The changes were implemented the week after a simultaneous protest between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students took place on Abele Quad March 4. When asked if the changes were in response to the protests, Hewitt wrote in a statement to The Chronicle that “these changes have been in the works for some time.”

In January, Duke updated sections of its Community Standard in response to changes in campus events and discourse following the start of the war between Israel and Hamas last October.

In response to a question on whether these changes actually expand on the type of behavior that is covered by the policy, Hewitt noted that the changes were “meant to clarify the kind of conduct that was already prohibited under the policy.”

“As we navigate our individual and collective responsibility to address these challenges, we take this time to remind you that Duke strictly prohibits discrimination and harassment based upon age, color, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and military status,” Hewitt wrote in the Friday email. “These prohibitions include conduct that is antisemitic, Islamophobic, anti-Arab or based upon any other religion, race, or national origin. Whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or a member of any of the many other faiths cherished in our community, OIE encourages you to report harassment or discrimination if you experience it or become aware of it.”

Students who have experienced discrimination or harassment can report it to the OIE by filing a public incident report on their website. Further details on the reporting process can be found here.

The Friday email also included a reminder that responsible employees must consult and share details with the OIE when they “learn about potential discrimination or harassment.” Responsible employees include faculty members, employees with teaching or supervisory authority and graduate students with teaching or supervisory authority, among others.  

Jazper Lu profile
Jazper Lu | Managing Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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